The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot


(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

This is a post I wrote the first year I had started blogging.
It was actually written the day after Christmas but I think the sentiment
is still very much worth sharing and most timely…as I think such thoughts might
be best remembered now instead of in a few days when things are being packed
up and put away…remembered as we stand on the cusp of a most joyous
and sacred time.

I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in these few short years since
this post…
changed for both sad and joyous…
There have been deaths, loss, gains, marriage, babies…
the very visible continuum of just one family.

It is my wish for all of us that we may each remember how precious our
lives are and of how important it is to spend the allotted time given to each
of us wisely and lovingly…
Please enjoy….
And I wish for each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of
it all is now but a mere blur.
People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—-
then they departed.
Now more people are coming today. . .
where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving,
eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing some time next week.
Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going,
I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas.
My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year
so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away
all before New Year’s Eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–-boxing up, packing away, hauling up and
down steps, carrying out to the trash…yet another Christmas.

As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down,
I become a one-woman demolition team.
It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down
with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating
for a holiday.
I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree),
I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–-
even as I lugged all of the ornament boxes, once again, out of the attic–
spreading them out all over the floor. No wonder they call it boxing day…not really
but it works for me.

I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree.
Our tree is a hodgepodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a Sunday school class
in 1963 when I was a little girl—-
the ornaments create a bit of a timeline, moving forward through college,
on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby
then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament.
There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries.
There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the
cherished ornaments from friends…

It seems each ornament has a story.

There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died.
I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a
beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas–-
Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament,
gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place
in the ornament box—-
thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”—
unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my
stepmother recounted through tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys
this past week—-thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–-
but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use…

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood.
They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees
and of my life today.
There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads
I have to glue back on year after year.
There are even the little glass Santa snowmen with the googly eyes that were actually
my grandmothers–then there are the painted Easter eggs that belonged to my
other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years.
As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being
transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the
gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented.
It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts which in turn
makes each received present truly special and one of a kind.
I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in
high school.
I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me.
He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a
remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me
following the death of my brother.
There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand-carved birds from Vermont…
And there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite
cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who,
at the time, I did not know.
She had decided to call it quits mid-year in 1982.
She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the
history teachers.
She had decided to leave mid-year in order to go back to school at the
University of Georgia to further her degree.
I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as
the replacement.
Eventually, I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys
should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7.
One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some Lego kits.
In order to make some spending money, she had him make Christmas ornaments.
After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his
tongue depressor snowmen.
I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy,
whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”—
I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much.
She departed this life leaving behind her then-teenaged sons and their dad,
a very distraught husband and father.
A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague,
her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor
his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree.
With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me.
That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree,
I am constantly reminded of what was—-for happy or sad.
I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story.
There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a
constant continuum–-with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas,
there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended
for a future tree.
These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of
drawers and cabinets gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets,
doodads, figures, and balls—–all adding to the continued story of a single family who
travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad,
inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to
be continued by those who follow suit.
The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .

transitional nesting

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain,
or help one fainting Robin unto his nest again…
I shall not live in vain

Emily Dickinson


(a quickly snapped photo while mom was out worming / Julie Cook / 2017)

We live in a continuum of both space and time.

As in….
according to Wikipedia for those of us dummies in anything having to do with physics…
as well as in keeping things in a nice simple nutshell:
Space-time is a mathematical model that joins space and time into a single idea
called a continuum.
This four-dimensional continuum is known as Minkowski space.

Combining these two ideas helped cosmology to understand how the universe
works on the big level (e.g. galaxies) and small level (e.g. atoms).

However in my little corner of the world….
this continuum business simply means that there is a constant forward motion of
ever quickening momentum moving hurdling toward some yet unforeseen future…

Take for example the above image of bug eyed baby robins.

On April 14th, I shared a photograph of a nest with 4 beautiful blue robin eggs
looking ever so hopeful as one had the makings of what looked to be a bit of cracking.

Next on April 23rd I shared the shot of a mom robin’s head peering out over the top of
the same nest as she sat intently vigilant.

Today on April 29th I’m sharing an image of the same nest,
the same blue eggs which are now buggy eyed,
downy tufted little robins to be.

My husband and I were a bit fearful that this particular Mrs. Robin may have had a
bum batch of eggs as she has been sitting for quite sometime…
longer then the bluebirds sat.

He had surmised that she looked to be young robin whose time
of motherhood was maybe a bit overstretched, with this being her first clutch of eggs…
but she fooled us, proving she did know what she was doing…as we now have 4
alienesque little heads bobbing up and down in anticipation of a juicy worm.

And as my thoughts are now focused on nests and the comings and goings from such…
I am thinking of my own family’s current revolving door of a nest.

There has been a frantic frenzy taking place at Dad’s this past week.
There have been nurses, caregivers, security system guys, Xfinity guys, phone guys,
me, my son, Gloria’s two children and two grandchildren, her daughter-n-law,
with boxes, bubble wrap, moving blankets, newspaper…
as Gloria, and her time in the house, is currently being purged.

She moves today to North Carolina to be with her daughter.
However…all of that being said, they are known to butt heads…
so we shall see how long NC lasts.

My son already has gallons of paint at the ready.
One of the caregivers is coming next week for the refrigerator and couch.
The Kidney foundation will be coming for some remaining things.
My cousin is coming tomorrow to look over my brother’s old train set down
in the basement.
As Dad had told me, just before he died, to look in the attic for some things that were Mom’s.
All the while as I bundle up books, videos, DVDs, glasses, clothes, sheets, towels….
all for the Goodwill….

For 55 years Dad called this house home.
As the time has now come to pass occupancy over to a new generation…
As we soon look for a different set of movers to be bringing in
my son and his wife’s possessions…

And so with everyone coming and going, I thought it appropriate to add a link to a
previous post written in 2013…
a post which was the harbinger for the transition that has lead us to today…

That being…if a door could talk…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/if-a-door-could-talk/

revolving

“A man who overindulges lives in a dream. He becomes conceited.
He thinks the whole world revolves around him; and it usually does.”

W. C. Fields

“There are ultimately only two possible adjustments to life;
one is to suit our lives to principles; the other is to suit principles to our lives.
If we do not live as we think, we soon begin to think as we live.
The method of adjusting moral principles to the way men live is
just a perversion of the order of things.”

Fulton J. Sheen

sun_planets
(image courtesy the web)

The gravitational pull is strong.
Yet science purports that it is not actually a force…

“Gravity is most accurately described by the general theory of relativity
(proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915) which describes gravity not as a force,
but as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime caused by
the uneven distribution of mass/energy.
The most extreme example of this curvature of spacetime is a black hole,
from which nothing can escape once past its event horizon, not even light.[1]

Wikipedia

Yet it is by this most assumed force, or consequence,
that we are grounded and anchored to our planet.
For without such a force, or consequence as it were,
there would be nothing to keep us in place….
As we and everything else would be floating around willy nilly,
with nothing solid underneath our feet.

And even our very planet, which holds us each in place,
is locked in its own gravitational orbit…
continually circling around and around a central orb.
Held in the same track and pattern day in and day out, year in and year out…
for nary the slightest deviation would spell complete and utter devastation.

And thus within this solar continuum, man finds himself orbiting…
yet not as a part of the obvious, as atop his own planet…
but orbiting rather, on his very own.
Orbiting and revolving around not so much a sun,
but rather his own sense of self.

Yet what man, in his endless self revolving orbit, has failed to grasp
is that the unevenness of self absorption will lead to an extreme curvature
of awareness,
a deeply flawed and skewed awareness,
thus leading to the formation of a gaping black hole…
A relentless and all consuming blackness resulting in the unequal distribution of
man’s self orbit filled by both ego and pride.
A black hole that will consume man, obliterating his very life’s orbit,
A black hole that will eventually not even permit man’s light of hope to escape…
because by that time, it will be all too late…

the resulting hell of the egocentric…

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable,
slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless,
swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Avoid such people

2 Timothy 3:1-5

it’s high time we all suck it up

“Life is not a problem to be solved,
but a reality to be experienced.”

― Søren Kierkegaard

DSCN1211
(medival painting of St Christopher and the Christ Child / artist unknown but it looks like a Bosch contemporary if you ask me / Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The painting above, along with it’s beautiful ornate frame,
is really quite lovely is it not?

It is a piece that belongs to a private country manor estate in Ireland…
an estate that has been turned into an exquisite hotel and golf resort.

I, the average guest, would not have been able to enjoy seeing the piece had the hotel
thought to place the painting in storage,
hide it in some backroom office…
or carte it off to the attic as it depicts the image of
St Christopher carrying the Christ Child.

There is debate as to whether or not St Christopher ever existed.
There are even some circles that have decided to “un” saint this said Christopher…
Add to that, that here is a display of an image of the Christ child–
would we want non-believing guests to be offended by its presence?

So perhaps St Christopher’s painting should be altogether removed……

But before you begin to cry foul,
we will return to that thought in a minute…
However… let’s first chat about a little current event article shall we….

The following article, which I read yesterday on Fox News, got this art teacher’s knickers in a huge twist.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/08/11/historic-paintings-moved-to-controlled-campus-rooms-after-university-finds-them-harmful.html

In a nutshell, the article tells the tale about a college in Wisconsin that has been home to several paintings, 80 years old or older, that depict white fur traders / trappers (most likely French Canadian trappers) alongside a group of Native American Indians.

These paintings are indicative of a time in which the northern regions of this country, all along the Canadian border, were rife with white European fur traders, trapping, buying and selling furs as they encountered both hostile and hospitable Indian tribes who happened to call that area home.

It seems that a student diversity group has taken offense to the paintings…
paintings that have hung rather ambiguously on display at this college for many decades.
The issue being…
that the paintings show the Native American Indians in a subservient role to the white trappers.

“The controversy over the artwork began when the school’s Diversity Leadership Team complained the paintings were offensive to Native American students and promoted acts of “domination and oppression.”

They have demanded that the paintings be removed.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??????!!!!!!

The College President, doing the dance of all things politically correct thinks he’s struck
a win / win by removing the pictures from public view, moving them to a private office
while noting that anyone wishing to see the paintings, may make an appointment.

Again, Are You Freaking Kidding Me????!!!!

How would one know to make an appointment if one did not know the paintings existed in the first place?

Hence why we hang art….
to share with the public.

I would think a public institution can and should hang its art publicly for the tax paying public to enjoy…..

Sigh…

This is about the most asinine thing I thing I think I’ve finally read, heard and seen in this on-going madness of our overtly PC now loving world.

We have birthed a nation of now the thinnest skinned people on the planet.

Our Millennials and Generation X kids need to learn to suck it up.

Just as we, the older generations, need to do the same by putting our collective feet down to say—
“hold up there…
You wait just one minute now before you have a temper tantrum over things you consider
to be poor taste…
as that’s not poor taste…
that is simply put, history…

As in…
that was then,
that’s how it was…

Like it or not.

You need to get over it…
Take it for what it was…
Learn from it…
And see it for what it was…
NOT for what it is through your current lenses of today…

As in…
That’s what and how it was in that particular time and place…
Let’s look rather at how far we’ve come!…
How far we’ve come to today,
THIS time and place….
Rejoice that we have come this far…
So far that we now have the descendants of those “subservient Native American’s”
currently enrolled in school, right alongside you!…”

History, our history as a people, is as fabulous as it is sinister.
There is both good and bad.
And that is that.

And just because we have what some wish to consider to be a most open minded society…
one that is all about all things tolerant…
on the flip side of that overt tolerance is the fact that we can’t seem to tolerate our less then stellar moments of the past.

How’s that for your 21st century ying and yang?

If you want to get mad about how Native American Indians have been treated as a whole by this great Nation of ours, you may just want to read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.
That 1970 published tale that explores the systematic decline of Native Americans at the hands of a growing nation comprised of white European settlers alongside their black African slaves…

As it actually starts with the germ warfare introduced by Christopher Columbus and company…

But oh, forgive me, let me be correct…. Christopher Columbus is his anglicized name,
since he was Italian we should us his Italian name, Cristoforo Colombo…
but since he sailed under the Spanish flag, then maybe we should use his Spanish pronunciation
as we do wish to be oh so correct….Cristóbal Colón

See how stupid this can all become….???

And we just keep letting it get more and more stupid by the minute.

Rather than turn from our history, those parts that can make our modern learned skin crawl,
or turn our history into some watered down bland and benign mush,
we need to see it for what it is, what it was—a time of then..
not a time of now.

I’ve said this before, our 21st century lenses cannot wipe away those events,
those times and moments that would not and could not happen today
because we now consider ourselves too smart,
too educated,
too tolerant to have ever allowed such to take place….

We cannot ignore what happened,
what was wrong,
what should not have been…
For we cannot strike it from our past by ignoring it,
hiding it,
removing it,
pretending that it has nothing to do with us…
because that’s exactly what it was…
It was us!

That was us then…
it is not us now….

We cannot hide what we were.
Because what we were, has made us who were are today..
And we have learned to be better by our grievous mistakes and injustices.

We learn by our past.
If you sterilize your past,
white wash it,
sugar coat it,
distance yourself so far from it—
you are opening a vacuum for repetition.
Mark my words…

So, back to the painting of St Christopher ….
Or should we say, Ágios Christóforos which is the Greek wording…
as debates rage at to where St Christopher, or Christ Bearer as Christopher means in Latin,
was born–some say it was Canaan, but he is first mentioned as being in Greece and assumed Grecian…
but some say he was originally known as Reprobus…
He was martyred by either one of the Roman Emperors Decius or Maximus II Dacian…
And he may actually be the martyred Egyptian Saint Menas…
…confused yet?

The story of whoever Christopher may or may not have been is not the important issue…
The important component is that he had an encounter with Christ and from that moment,
he was never the same…
just as others who encounter Christ are never the same…
It was from that encounter that he then traveled to minister those who were being martyred
for their faith—bringing encouragement and comfort…
as he too would be eventually martyred…

And so we have history–
martyrs of faith then
and
martyrs of faith now…
History we can’t seem to easily erase away

History on a continum…
both good and bad…
and the question is, are we learning…

The Continuum

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

“Life is not a continuum of pleasant choices, but of inevitable problems that call for strength, determination, and hard work”
Indian Proverb

DSCN8775
(Victorian Plant stand / Julie Cook / 2014)

A circle.
360º
No beginning.
No end.
Never stopping.
Never starting.
A continuum.

Very much like a cycle.
A repetition.
A loop.
A rhythm.
Over and over.
Constant.
Consistant.
Again and again and again.

Very much like the seasons.
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall
One following always after the other.
Again and again.
Over and over.
A sequence.
Year after year.
Very much like life.

Yet. . .

In life, there is always a beginning,
as in birth.
And following, there is always an end,
as in death.
A beginning.
And eventually an end.
Birth
Life
Death
End of sentence.

Yet,

We know that God is more like the circle. . .
for God is a continuum.
as in. . .
He was.
He is.
He shall ever be.
As in forever.
As in forever was.
As in forever is.
As in forever will be.
The Alpha
The Omega

Not so however for our earth.
For the earth, and all that is in it,
shall pass away.
Because for the Earth,
there indeed was a beginning.
And therefore there will certainly be an end.
As in. . .
Decay
Demise
Destruction
Death

Yet

We know that with God there is no end.
Because with God there was never a beginning–
because He always was.
And therefore if there was no beginning,
there can be no end.
As in the perfect continuum.

He, in turn, offers us a place in the continuum.
A place with Him.
As in, the adopted children of Grace.
Who may join their Heavenly Father.
But as a loving Father,
He offers a free choice . . .

Beginning
Life
Death
as in it’s over and simply no more

Or

Beginning
Life
Earthly death
Heavenly Life. . .
as in eternity
as in forever and ever and ever

As in a perfect continuum

What he knew and others chose to ignore. Déjà vu or simply a continuum?

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
Winston Churchill

DSCN4262
Casablanca, 1943

On March 21, 2014, with the sweeping act of a single pen, Valdimir Putin signed away Crimea, transforming a portion of Ukraine back to what was Soviet Russia. Changing the world map.

In 1938 Adolph Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia, with a similar sweeping act of a pen, known as the Munich Pact.
Changing the face of Europe forever.

This week, Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite, who is attending a European Council meeting of the heads of state discussing the EU’s response to the situation in Ukraine, told a BBC reporter that we, the world, are sitting on the edge of a new Cold War.

In 1946, Winston Churchill, addressing Westminster College in Missouri, introduced the world to the phrase “iron curtain” just as the Cold War was rearing its ugly head.

DSCN4264
Churchill surveys the ruins of chamber of The House of Commons after a German assault of the Blitzkrieg.

DSCN4265
The smiles of Uncle Joe deceive, while a wise Winston is all too keen to true motives.

DSCN4267
1943 Churchill addresses a joint session of Congress urging the American allies to remain steadfast, staying the course, in their “duty to mankind”

Within the blink of an eye and the sweeping act of a pen, the world changed this week. The world map shifted as a piece of the free world was unimaginably sucked back in time.
If we, the world, choose to simply remain as mere spectators, change will continue–history teaches us such.

Winston Churchill was the lone voice of foreboding warning alerting the World to the true motives of first, Adolph Hitler, then those of Joseph Stalin.
Each time, the free world chose to ignore his words.
Words which were alarming, scary, troubling.
Who wanted to think of such?
Why should anyone worry, it’s not like this was happening in the backyard of the US or that the island nation of Great Britain would be affected.
That was all over there, not here—these being our thoughts as we lulled ourselves into looking the other way.
Maybe it’s all just bravado and bluff.
We just want to live our lives.
We don’t want to dwell on bad things. . .

But then the bad things happened. . .

Each time, Churchill was correct.
And each time, the world was too slow to react.

I wonder what Churchill would say after this week’s blatant act of “what’s yours is now mine” by Valdimir Putin?
I somehow think there’s an “I told you so” out there somewhere.

May we be mindful of our continuing duty.