high roads

“The high road is something very, very long, of which one cannot see
the end – like human life, like human dreams.
There is an idea in the open road,
but what sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets?
Posting tickets mean an end to ideas.
Vive la grande route and then as God wills.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

(on the road to Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because it is becoming more and more a road less traveled.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers once told us to.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because taking the high road never means that we’re better than anyone else,
it just means that we’re working that much harder at bettering ourselves.

The high road is a more difficult climb.
The high road is much harder to traverse.
The high road will push us to our limits.
The high road is what we want our children to take.

Yet the high road takers are most often scoffed at by those on the lower roads.
The high road takers are most often forgotten by those on the lower roads.
Because the high road is often very lonely…

Yet the examples of those low road moments are far too numerous these days…

A most recent example was just the other day when a senator from New York was
addressing a crowd at New York University and opted to use her time with a
captive young audience by offering a profanity laced speech about the current
The F word was front and center throughout her speech…
as she flippantly told the crowd that
“it’s okay, because this is a younger audience.”

No, Madame Senator that doesn’t make it ok for you to be lazy with your
choice of words in order to simply make an impact, to shock or garner generational points.
It does not make it okay for you to be trite, foul, offensive,
or seemingly one with your more impressionable audience.
For by taking this lower road, this easier road, you insult the intelligence
of your audience by opting to lower yourself and your standards by dumbing down your

It is never okay to season a delivery with profanity because by doing so
cheapens ones words and ones true meaning.
It is a delivery of less than rather than of real substance

It is to those sound adults who these youthful ones must look as they seek examples
of what they should aspire to emulate.
Examples of grace, dignity, restraint, humility are much more preferable to anger,
crudeness, bitterness as well as a lack of decorum and respect.

Because it takes very little effort and is exceedingly easy to simply drop one’s
self lower rather than exerting the necessary energy to raise everyone else up.
And in so doing a disservice is done to everyone.
Because opting to take the lower road is in actuality a thinly veiled self serving act.

As that is exactly what we are witnessing—a society that prefers to go lower rather
than higher…because it’s the easiest path of the perceived least resistance.

So why should we opt to that higher road?
For it is the high road that helps us to reach our fullest potential as a human being.
And in so doing by taking that higher road,
we do so while following Christ as he carries his cross up the hill of Golgotha.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15


“Gentlemen, why in heaven’s name this haste?
You have time enough.
Ages and ages lie before you.
Why sacrifice the present to the future,
fancying that you will be happier when your fields teem with wealth and your cities with people?
In Europe we have cities wealthier and more populous than yours, and we are not happy.
You dream of your posterity;
but your posterity will look back to yours as the golden age, and envy those who first burst into this silent, splendid nature, who first lifted up their axes upon these tall trees,
and lined these waters with busy wharves.
Why, then, seek to complete in a few decades what the other nations of the world took thousands of years over in the older continents?
Why, in your hurry to subdue and utilize nature, squander her splendid gifts?
Why hasten the advent of that threatening day when the vacant spaces of the continent shall all have been filled, and the poverty or discontent of the older States shall find no outlet?
You have opportunities such as mankind has never had before,
and may never have again.
Your work is great and noble;
it is done for a future longer and vaster than our conceptions can embrace.
Why not make its outlines and beginnings worthy of these destinies,
the thought of which gilds your hopes and elevates your purposes?”

Lord James Bryce

(Autumn in Cade Cove / Julie Cook / 2015)

Lord Bryce was the British Ambassador to the United States from 1907-1913.
He witnessed first hand the advent of the American Industrial Revolution.
A time of almost unchecked growth and development by an overtly zealous people.
The seemingly vast natural resources, which for a time appeared to be almost limitless, were in actuality, being gobbled up at an alarming rate.

Timber, land, crops and even animals were not to be spared during the boom of American growth and development.This was the time when the passenger pigeon, a bird that once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, was hunted to extinction. Buffalo were well on their way to the same fate as were thousands of ornately feathered birds of the Everglades which provided the plumage for the day’s high fashion of ladies hats.

If it was there, we felt it was ours for the taking.
Our appetites were ravenous as it became impossible to satiate our hunger.

Thankfully wise men such as John Muir, Stephen Mather and Theodore Roosevelt, to name but a few, saw the dangers of the Nation’s maddeningly rapid growth and appetite for all that it saw.
Lands which were directly in harm’s way began being designated as National Parks.
Animals that were on the verge of eradication were granted protection.
Laws were enacted to put the brakes on our quest of all that was in sight.

Yet it seems as if Lord Bryce’s observation is as telling today as it was over one hundred years ago.
As we are continuing to sacrifice the present for the future.

The photo above is an image of Cades Cove taken last fall.
Cades Cove is one of my most favorite places…yet I am not alone in my love of the Park.

The Cove, as it is so lovingly referred to, is an area of great historical as well as environmental significance within The Great Smokey National Park. Located just outside of Townsend, Tennessee, it boasts being on the “quiet side of the Smokies” as it rests in the shadow of the mega busy and ultra touristy Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Yet it is said that the 11 mile one way loop within Cades Cove is one of the most heavily visited sections of the National Park—more so than that of any of the other great parks.

An estimated 2 million people visit the Cove annually (with an estimated 9 million visiting The Great Smokey Mountains Park as a whole) with the heaviest onslaught being late Spring through mid Fall.
With 2 million annual visitors, how many cars do you imagine drive that 11 mile loop?
If you have ever been caught in the often 3 to 4 hour traffic jam nightmare of too many cars trying to make an 11 mile loop at once, then you know it is far too many.

But the question of what to do with all those cars and all those tourists has plagued Park officials and Government leaders for years. The Park, the Cove in particular, is one of the heaviest air polluted parks in the country…

What to do will all those cars and all those people is indeed vexing.

It should be noted that this sort of problem is not indicative only to the Great Smokey Mountains alone…

Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, the Everglades… these parks know all too well the repercussions from the growing onslaught of tourism—the true love / hate relationship of our national parks.
Yet these areas, these lands, these parks with their vistas, wildflowers, snowcapped peaks, their crystal blue lakes, their truly wild animals and their wide open spaces are our legacies to ourselves…they are our reminders of what this country was in its rawest form. They are our gifts to ourselves…yet it appears, for better or for worse, we very much enjoy these gifts…maybe if not a bit too much…

So yes, we are indeed a hungry people as we continue living our lives in great haste…
With this being the 100th year of the National Park Service, we are aptly reminded that we have a handful of precious gifts scattered throughout this great land of ours which are in desperate need or our thoughtful care and consideration.
In our often zealous nature, we sometimes have a tendency to love a good thing to death…

In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world –
the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
The galling harness of civilization drops off,
and wounds heal ere we are aware.

John Muir

Day and Night, how wondrous….

The day is Yours,


and Yours also the night;


You established the sun


and moon.


It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth;
You made both summer


and winter.

Psalm 74:14 NIV

I thank you and praise you oh Lord.
I am humbled and awed by the majesty of your hand.
For you are the Creator and I am the created–I am a part of your hand, your thoughts, your desires…..for in you I have my breath, my hope, my life, my all….

Images from: Assisi, Italy / Piazza del Comune / 2007
Crater Lake / Oregon/ 2013
Santa Rosa, Florida / 2011
St Francis in the snow / 2011

Morning dew….

Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.”

DSCN0992 2
(Photograph: wild flowers along Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Morning light, morning joy

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

(photograph: Sunrise at Crater Lake Rim Trail/ Oregon/ Julie Cook/ 2013)

Probably one of the most strikingly beautiful places I have ever been privileged to see, to experience, to be a part of—-this most picturesque area known as Crater Lake. The morning sun was rising up over the lake, rising upward within a crystal blue sky, appearing as a torch of fire at the tip of the tree.

This particular moment, on this particular morning, walking up this particular trail, was a time of pure thankfulness and joy.
A touch of Heaven on Earth is how I like to think of such beautiful earthly places.
Power and peace colliding at this single moment—as earth and time stand still. Nothing bad, no tragedies, no wars, no crime, no hate, no sorrow, no illness, no sadness—just here, this ski, this body of water, these mountains, this wind, this chill, me and a magnificent Creator.

On my way to Dad’s today—wishing I was at Crater Lake……Thankfully Dad is better right now and this is a “happy visit, not a get your act in gear” visit, thankfully…I still wish I was at Crater Lake—or somewhere equally as beautiful—but I must still give thanks and joy for this day, this morning, this opportunity to spend some time with Dad.

Holding my breath as I walk in the back door to “home”, wondering what today’s visit will hold…joy and thankfulness to be sure….

Indian Paintbrush

(photograph: Julie Cook/ Crater Lake, Oregon, 2013)

The following story is taken form the Wildflowers of Texas/ Legends and Folklore Part I
Ladybird Wildflower Center/ Austin Texas/ 2006/ Docent supplement

An Indian legend tells the story of how paintbrushes came
to bloom. There once was a young boy. He wanted more
than anything to be a warrior. But, he was very small and
couldn’t keep up with the bigger boys as they learned the skills necessary to become great fighters.
One day, as he sat outside the family’s tent feeling sorry for himself, his grandfather sat down beside him. “You know,” he said, “Not everyone is meant to be a warrior. You have other skills that make you special. You can draw and paint anything you see. That is your great gift.”
The little boy thought about that for a while and decided that his grandfather was right. From that day forward, he began to draw and paint all that he saw around him.
As a young man, the boy became obsessed with capturing the colors and beauty of the sunset. Although he tried very hard, the colors kept eluding him. One night, as he lay sleeping, an old man and beautiful young woman came to him in a dream. The woman was carrying a pure white deerskin. “This,” she said, “will be the canvas upon which you capture the beauty of the sunset.” And she laid it next to him. The old man leaned in close and whispered, “Go to the hill tomorrow evening and you will find all you need to capture the sunset.”
The next morning the young man awoke and waited all day for evening to come. As the sun began to set, he gathered up the deerskin, his paint, and brushes and made his way up to the top of the hill. When he arrived, he saw brushes of every color of the sunset. He sat down, spread his canvas out, and, as the sun began to set, and using the brushes he found, began to paint the sunset. As he worked, he tossed each brush aside. By the time the sun had set, he had his picture. Proudly, he carried it down to the camp and presented it as a gift to the tribe.
The next morning he awoke. As he walked about the camp, he looked to the hill where he had painted his masterpiece. There, everywhere he had tossed aside a brush, were flowers in every hue of the sunset. And, every Spring, the Great Spirit sends the colors of the sunset to remind us of the little boy who captured the sunset.

There are several legends connected to the Indian Paintbrush, but coming from a retired art teacher—I simply couldn’t resist this one………….



Look closely….


“Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.”
Soren Kierkegaard

My husband and I had gone on a hike early one morning while visiting Crater Lake in southern Oregon. Camera in tow, I was busy snapping images left and right. The scenery beautiful and breathtaking. I don’t think I’ve been in a more beautiful place (more about this visit later). Our adventure took us along a trail skirting the southern rim of the lake. As we climbed higher and higher, I noticed that so many of the trees, which had seen better days, giving up the ghost so to speak as a direct result, no doubt, to a life lived in an extreme weather local, were withered and gnarled–twisted and misshapen in violent contortions.

Later in the evening, once we were settled in from an exhausting day, I began looking over the pictures taken during the day’s journey. I stopped on the above image of the weathered tree, marveling in the ancient twisted shape, when I suddenly noticed a small little fellow who, unbeknownst to me, had been looking down on me obviously while I had been taking the picture. What a delightful surprise seeing this little guy.

This picture was a pretty potent lesson reminding me that even though I think I’m always aware of what’s going on around me at all times, I suppose this picture may prove otherwise………….
Maybe I get too caught up, being hyper-focused on the task at hand, that I tend to miss the extra little wonders. Maybe I think I’m too busy to slow down long enough to “soak it all in”–always being in a blasted hurry. Perhaps it takes a sly little squirrel to remind me that there is always more to life than meets the eye……

On this new day to a new week, may we all learn to keep our eyes and ears open at all times, may we take time to slow down, to really look, to really listen…who knows what we may be missing…………..

oh, and if you still don’t see what I’m talking about, check out the top left corner branch on the tree