To all those who won’t be making it home this Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick —
even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Charles Dickens


(an odd site here at home / Julie Cook / 2018

Driving home yesterday after visiting the dentist, I was cutting through an area of town
full of some of our communities older homes, when I found myself driving behind a
vintage WWII Army ambulance.

An odd sight but suddenly I felt strangely transported to a different time and era.

The vehicle, the homes, the time of year.

If you didn’t happen to notice the small security company sign out front of this house,
you might just think it was 1943.

My thoughts drifted across time and space to places that were far away from
my own current little corner here in Georgia.

Despite there being such a heightened sense of urgency wafting through the air
this time of year…
What with the odd increase in mid-day traffic and the massive number of folks hustling
here and there…along with that unseen force that was moving the masses of folks
to go out and buy, buy, buy with a frantic frenzy…

And despite the current pull I was personally feeling to race from the dentist to some
local den of commercialism, seeking out those last minute items to fill in the blanks…
I felt a tinge of warming nostalgia instead.

I heard Bing Crosby’s crooning…his rich melodious voice echoing deep in my head.

A small smile spread across my face for no one in particular to see.

A simpler time, yet a precarious time.
A warmer time of humanity, yet a violent time for our world.

No matter that it was an ominous time,
we knew what our collective civilization was fighting for.
We were a united civilization standing against a giant monster of tyranny and an invasive evil.

There was a decisive and determined collective willingness to sacrifice.
Rations, victory gardens, sharing and giving when there wasn’t ever much to give nor share.

There was a joint desire for unity.
A shared experience of apprehension blanketed by a blessed sense of thankfulness.

I found myself gently humming a familiar yet comforting tune.

My gift to you today…

“In 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” joined “White Christmas” to become one of
America’s most popular homegrown holiday songs.
Recorded in a rich baritone by Bing Crosby,
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shot to the top ten of the record charts
(as “White Christmas” had for Crosby the previous year)
and became a holiday musical tradition in the United States.”
Library of Congress

ode to a fig

“To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning,
when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite
pleasures of the Mediterranean.”

Elizabeth David


(this past summer’s plucking–a fig resting on a bed of fresh herbs / Julie Cook / 2017)

There’s eating figs, figs stuffed with blue cheese, fig preserves
and then there’s “giving the fig”….
I liken the latter to our shooting of birds….but this is not about that

But according to Wikipedia, to give someone the fig means:
The fig sign is a mildly obscene gesture used in Turkish and Slavic cultures
and some other cultures that uses two fingers and a thumb.
This gesture is most commonly used to deny a request.

In Brazil, use of this gesture wards off evil eye, jealousy, etc.
Often worn as a good luck charm.

In ancient Rome, the fig sign, or mano fico, was made by the pater familias
to ward off the evil spirits of the dead as a part of the Lemuria ritual.

The hand gesture may have originated in ancient Hindu culture to depict
the lingam and yoni.

Among early Christians, it was known as the manus obscena, or “obscene hand”.

Recently, a Ukrainian word for this gesture “дуля” (dulya) has also become
a jargon to refer to Control-Alt-Delete. (“…you need three fingers to
press the buttons. So it’s like telling somebody (a computer in this case)
to get lost.”)

So you should know that this little tale is not exactly a story about
offending gestures—
yet the notion of a fig, even cursing a fig, does play a dominate role…..

This morning when I left the house at 9AM, headed back to my dentist—
I had a full set of teeth.
Well actually I am minus one back upper right molar that was pulled
years ago due to it causing chronic sinus problems—-and as I was born without
wisdom teeth, other than that, I’ve had a nice head full of teeth.

About 4 weeks ago one morning, I had grabbed a couple of fig newtons to act
as my breakfast of champions.
Whereas I’m not keen on eating fresh figs, I do did enjoy Fig Newtons—-you know,
that whole debate of is it a cookie or a cake—-
potato, potaaato sort of thing.

When I took a bite of one of the Newtons, I bit down on something chunky and
hard—it wasn’t one of those pesky tiny seeds but rather a piece of stem.
And when I did, I immediately felt as if I’d broken my tooth.
I raced to the bathroom grabbing a mirror for a closer inspection.

Nope, the tooth was intact and looked ok.
Even the filling was still intact.
Whew…..

Yet there remained a nagging pain.
I figured I’d probably just bruised the area around the tooth.

I have had several teeth with root canals and crowns but this was still an active
tooth that happened to have a filling.

And as you may remember I am adopted.
I learned a few years back that my biological mother,
despite being a nurse, hid the pregnancy as long as possible.
No prenatal care there.

Of course this was the 1950’s and she was not married and that is a long story
for another day…but I was born premature.

Years later our family dentist explained to both me and my (adopted) mom
that in utero, my teeth had not properly fused—-leaving them prone to cavities,
and even cracking, etc.
Thus I have have treasured my teeth, working hard and being fastidious
in their care—-yet…..

The next day following the stem incident, there was a good deal of pain
when I drank anything hot or cold….as in sensitivity.

“Crap” I groused cause I knew what that would entail.
I called the dentist.
I went in and she did an X-ray.
“Nope Julie, I don’t see any cracks…it’s probably just really bruised.”

Whew—a dodged bullet!

Another week passed and still the sensitivity persisted.

Another anomaly fact about me is that many of the roots of my teeth run up into
my sinus cavity. Hence may age old conundrum—-
is it the sinuses infected or is it the teeth being aggravating??
I’ve had two sinus surgeries, with one having done wonders, the other not so much…
so my doctors and dentists pretty much roll their eyes when they see me coming…
as in here comes the oddity—-they would deny that but I know better…

So a week later I went back to the dentist who did another X-ray.
This dentist didn’t see a crack but wanted me to go see an endodontist.
This particular endodontist has seen me before, having done a couple of root canals.

He x-rayed as well but didn’t see much within the tooth, but the sinus cavity
on the other hand showed a cloudiness, indicating infection or swelling.
He did the cold test which definitely caused pain.
He removed the old filling and found the interior of the tooth to be what
he called inflamed.
How the inside of a tooth is inflamed I’m not sure, but I believed him.

This was Thursday before Christmas.
He did a root canal right then and there and sent me off with an antibiotic
and pain pills with an appointment to come back in January to have the
tooth permanently sealed.

Well I still felt terrible.

So the day following Christmas, I was in the ENT’s office.
He x-rayed my head, saw inflammation and changed the antibiotic to something
stronger plus gave me a shot.

The following day I was feeling better and found I could actually chew
without pain.

Ahhhh…..

Fast forward to this Thursday night— I had roasted a nice turkey breast.
I lay bacon over the breast to help keep it moist and self basting as it cooks.
Once the turkey was done, I took it out to allow it to “rest”
Roasted things need time to rest so their juice fill back up keeping the meat
nice and moist.

And as I happen to adore bacon, I grabbed one of the pieces and took a bite.
I tend to chew on my left side where the culprit tooth is located.
Not a wise choice.
Biting into the bacon, I immediately felt as if something had pieced my gum,
then all of a sudden out came a part of my tooth….

AGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Again I race to the bathroom for a mirror….what to my wandering eyes did appear—
the culprit tooth spilt totally in half…

AGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

The interior split half was piecing into the gum in the roof of my mouth.

I called the endodontist.
He calls my dentist.
The plan, be ready by 7AM to be seen by the one or the other.

I get a text the following morning at 6:30AM—be at dentist at 9AM

The dentist is here in town.
The endodontist is in a neighboring town about 20 minutes away.

The dentist takes one look at the split tooth and tells me that since it is Friday
and their office closes early, as well as the local oral surgeon’s office—he opts
to send me to another town, about 30 minutes away, to a different oral surgeon
who he knows works all day on Fridays.

Post haste I drive.

Long story short….3 shots in the roof of the mouth, one on the other side….
a lot of pulling, twisting, and odd noises emanating from my head,
while someone is holding my head and another is suctioning
tooth bits, all the while my eyes are tightly shut as I keep saying the
Jesus Prayer over and over and over…
then just as quickly, #13, what they call a pre molar, is gone.

Replaced by a wad of gauze….and later a tea bag whose tannin helps
to control bleeding, or so they say.

My husband was a bit taken aback when he walked in the door this evening only
to be greeted by a wife with a wet tea bag stuffed in her mouth complete with
both tag and string blowing in the wind.
Tetley tea anyone…..

And you should know that if I was telling you this tale in person–
the word tooth would sound like ‘poof’ as in the novocaine and cheek full of
gauze are doing a number on my speech….
did I mention the uncontrollable drool???

Following the pulling of the tooth, the oral surgeon did a bone graft as we will be
going the route of an implant…much as I hope that it will work but just
as much to my chagrin.
My husband has had an implant—it was a year long process and a small fortune.

So the moral of this long and wending tale,
besides the fact that I now have a hole in my head, copious amounts of drool,
and tea bags stuffed in my face….

Always be careful when opting to give any one the fig and be even more careful
when biting down on a Fig Newton!!!
You never know what might bite back..

And oh…be good to your teeth!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,
whom you have received from God?
You are not your own;
you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The siren who beckons, Mt Hood

DSCN0691

“Are not the mountains, waves and skies, a part
Of me and of my soul, as I of them?”

Lord Byron

I’ve spoken before concerning my love for the mountains, pretty much any and all moutnians–their towering majesty and stately beauty. Rocky or green, I feel both awe and fear in their presence. I’m no climber—just a mere hiker. I’ve hiked small portions of the Appalachians, vowing that one day, as a bucket list entry, I would make the trek from Georgia to Maine….but the older I’ve become, the less I see that actually coming about—and I’m okay with that because I can still relish in their glory.

Last week my husband and I had the opportunity of visiting Oregon with our first destination being Mt. Hood—or rather the lodge, Timberline, perched at about 7,000 ft up the nearly 12,000 foot tall mountain whose claim to fame was taking part in Stanley Kubrick”s movie The Shinning….not that I am a fan of Stephen King’s twisted spook tales, I’m just stating a fact.

We had flown in from Georgia, where the temperatures had been hovering around 90 degrees, so I was dressed as a wilting Georgia flower would dress…sandals, sleeveless top, shorts. Landing in Portland I immediately note the zero humidity—or at least that’s how it felt to me… It seemed like zero humidity—however as it was drizzling, equating to some humidity in the air, it was nothing compared to being back home—hit you in the face like a brick can’t breathe humidity.

We grabbed our luggage, picked up the rental car and headed immediately out of town making our way toward the beautiful Cascade Mountain range, ominously laying in wait in the distant landscape. Mt. Hood lies about an hour and a half slightly southeast from Portland. One minute you’re in the urban hub of a major metropolitan city, then poof, you’re in the wilds of nature. Oregon is great that way!! And mind you this area is nothing but a once very active volcanic sea of activity… now dormant, or so they say– how long till things “wake up” is anybody’s guess……I try not thinking about that—just like I tried not thinking about all of those tsunami and earthquake warning’s when we were in Ucluelet, British Columbia two summers ago……….

The weather begins taking a turn for the worse the closer we get to our destination. Fog, drizzle and now I suddenly find the car’s outside temperature gauge…Atlanta was 88 degrees when our plane departed, Portland was 67 when we arrived..this car is telling me it’s 54…a couple of more miles, it’s 48…climbing up the wending road toward Timberline it’s now 42, 38, 36, (holy crap, let’s remember this southern belle is wearing sandals, shorts and no sleeves), 34…..

After what was a definite accent heavenwards, sans any view due to the fog–which may have been all for the best, we pull into the parking lot at the top of the snaking upward, wending, fog encased road, the gauge reads 33 degrees!!! My husband blankly asks “is that snow?” “Yes, yes I believe it is” is the only response I can muster as we both stare at a snow shower in progress accompanied by howling, yes howling winds. It is June 19th, I’m from Georgia and it’s now blowing snow—what is wrong with this picture???? “Suitcases, we’ve got to get the suitcases—I have clothes, jackets….yes the suitcases”….

But first I’ve got to exit the car. Humm, sandals = bare feet—barefeet treading through frozen slush..hummm… Oh did I fail to mention that the ground is covered in snow? Like this is the middle of January somewhere up north kind of snow. Like this ain’t ever melting 9 feet deep snow kind of snow…….and yes I know Oregon is up north but it’s June for heavens sake—I’ve been to Alaska in June where there was no snow….who knew??? But I’m secretly liking this—it’s so foreign and a bit dicy…living a bit on the edge….yes, I know, sad but true, snow in June is living on the edge for me—I can’t help it, I’m getting old 🙂

We make our way inside to the check-in desk. Stepping suddenly in to what seems like a different era—dark heavy wooden beams and large stones make up the walls…it is dark with a welcoming fire roaring in the massive stone fireplace. The check in lobby is on the first floor with the main “gathering lobby, one floor up. As I check-in the girl behind the desk asks if we plan on skiing—“are you kidding me??” ruminates in my head… Who the heck skies in June? Oregonians that’s who!! I politely tell her no as I’m practically apologetic for the way I’m dressed—-everyone has on jackets, sweatshirts, toboggans and I’m looking as if I’m off to the beach. She laughs.

We make our way to our room—a full fledged wood burning fire place is in the room–complete with a fresh cord of wood. Now that’s hard core preparation for cold—remember I’m from Georgia…a good to go fireplace in December, yes…June, not so much…..our window faces “the mountain”—what mountain, I can’t see a mountain it’s too foggy and now it’s snowing too hard. “what”–it’s snowing too hard?” “dear Lord”………..

DSCN0677

DSCN0690

The view out our window actually would allow us a view of the mountain’s massive summit and the ski slope runs past, allowing for us to catch a glimpse of the brave souls who have come to Timberline to take advantage of the in-coming fresh snow. They snow year round at Timberline except for two weeks following Labor day when everything shuts down for required maintenance. Folks back home are water skiing and folks here are snow skiing—wow!

I am suddenly aware that I’m hearing a constant groan of engines…”what in the heck is that?” as I peer out the window into a fog and snow shrouded landscape. I suddenly see some headlights whipping aroung and around….snow plows working on the “slopes”….hardcore in June…

DSCN0728

As ours was but a whirlwind visit to Oregon, cramming in as much as possible in a week’s time, the following morning we were off, headed south…ooo south, sunny and warm..but that wasn’t happening as we were headed to Crater Lake and they had snow, and what I surmised later looked like even more snow, but more about that later. It was just as well to depart Mt. Hood as the weather was not in our favor—hanging out at the fire was pretty much on tap for us. Of course we could have ridden the ski lifts to the top of the slopes but lacking any view, we opted against that little jaunt.

As we departed the skiers and snowboarders were arriving in droves…June 20th, two days until the official day of summer and I’m in the middle of winter….so very odd….

But as happens in life, two days following our departure from Mt. Hood, a family tragedy began to play out with the sad confirmation coming yesterday. A dentist, from Salem, Oregon, an avid climber and outdoor enthusiast, Kinley Adams, was prepping for a climb in Nepal. He has climbed Mt. Hood many times, being very familiar with the mountain. I didn’t realize this but at this time of year, as the snows are melting somewhat due to warmer temps (who says it’s warming but I digress), the snow is wet and has the potential for whole sheets to shift and slide, running the risk of avalanche. It is not uncommon for climbers to begin a trek in the middle of the night when the temperatures help the snow to firm up, not being so wet—which is what Dr. Adams had done on June 22nd.

His was to be an assent up and then back down, returning to the Lodge by late afternoon. However Dr. Adams did not return by the designated time. The weather played against a search and rescue, halting efforts on and off for the following days. This past Sunday, an army helicopter spotted a body at almost 9000 feet which was presumed to be Dr. Adams.

It took rescuers over 15 hours to recover the body, tenuously and slowly making the sad journey down to the lodge and Dr. Adams’ waiting family. As of this morning, news reports do not know the cause of death, as to what went wrong. Was he caught up in the sudden snow storms, did he lose his bearings, did he slip, have a heart attack…??? We may never know. He was experienced, having climbed Denali, Rainer, El Capitan—-he was no stranger to the mountains….he had been up and down Mt. Hood….but…..

And that seems to be the way with the mountains—they sweetly whisper your name, calling you to come, higher and higher…just one more turn, one more step upward—rewards are massive…but risks are ever greater….The one thing that has stuck with me from all of this is the comment that Dr. Adams’ brother-n-law made to the media Sunday before the body had been spotted—Kinley Adams was a strong Christian believer whose faith was such that it was indeed just that– faith…”Faith is not about knowing your future, it’s about knowing who is in charge of your future.”……

and that is all any of us has—we don’t know the future, but Someone greater does…………