somewhere past Orion’s Belt

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

Job 38:31-33


(Orin’s belt constelation)

Stepping out into a mild early April night…
Knowing that the world has gone mad,
I look up, wondering where you are.

Craziness awaits inside and out while I search the night sky.

Orion’s belt.

I quickly search through the vast darkness.
Are you there…somewhere beyond those stars?

Orion’s belt…
those three aligned stars that have always guided those who
have journeyed through the night.

Desperately and viscerally filled with pain, I long to see your face…just one more time.
to hear your voice…
to relish in your wisdom…
to rest in your embrace.

Can you look down, seeing me, looking up?

Oh for the comfort found in the cadence of your melodious voice…
Your soothing words as I wade my way through this mindfield that is now our world.

A strange new world that I do not care for.
I did not ask for this…but I know you did not ask for your own path.

We share a common bond…adoption.
Lost before we felt found.

Each struggling to make our own way.
You painfully watched my own struggle, knowing that I had to go on my own.

I still struggle and somehow there is comfort in that struggle because
I know you know.

Your had your own battles.
You fought through a world war.
Your heart broke watching your own children fall…
and you unselfishly added me to that fold.

You helped to guide a major southern city through her Civil Rights angst.
You met dignitaries along with the homeless, treating each one as the same.

And despite all the power players and demands, you remained my polestar…my guiding light.
Always pointing me toward which direction I should go.

And yet oddly now, I too have become a Polestar…
A signpost pointing others to their own direction.

Yet in all of this, I wonder… how am I to know which way is right?
How did you know?

You trusted in something, in someone, so much greater than yourself.

You always knew.

You listened and you fought your way through the brambles and vines
that vied to entangle you.

You knew I would and could do the same.

The world is now so odd.
So strange.

Not like anything we’ve ever known.

And yet there remains the signpost…pointing the way.
I hear your confidence and clarity.

Just as I see it when glancing in the night sky..
It’s somewhere just past Orion’s belt…


(Julie and her Godpoppa August 1983)

“He was there alone with himself, collected, tranquil, adoring,
comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies,
moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations,
and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown.
In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night inhale their perfume,
lighted like a lamp in the center of the starry night,
expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of creation,
he could not himself perhaps have told what was passing in his own mind;
he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him,
mysterious interchanges of the depths of the soul with the depths of the universe.”

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

traipsing in the woods amongst the fungi

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Traipse:
intransitive verb
transitive verb
traipsed, traips′ing
to walk, wander, tramp, or gad

When out in the woods my husband, more often then not, walks with a sense
of focused purpose and direction..

Me on the other hand, well I tend to lag behind…
traipsing about, camera in tow….

(all pics taken in the mid west Georgia woods last Sunday–Julie Cook / 2017)

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

decisions of life and death, as witnessed by the squirrel

“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams

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(gray squirrel / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

If you’ve ever driven down a road, suddenly spotting a grey mass sitting in the middle of the road…
as you approach said mass, at a nice clip of speed…you quickly, and a bit sickeningly,
realize that the gray mass quickly coming into focus…is a frantic squirrel…
who now sits directly in your immediate field of vision and in the direct path
of your 50 mph plus some odd ton vehicle…
closing in for an immediate and deadly impact.

The squirrel seems stuck in time, shifting left then shifting right…
with this surreal dance of death going on a million times,
within what seems to be an eternity but in actuality is…
a mere few seconds…

If life is good–the squirrel makes the right 11th hour decision by darting
miraculously out of your path by the very hair of his tail.

If life is not good–it is a bad day for the squirrel as you feel badly for that slight bump you feel under your wheels….

I am that squirrel.

The car barreling down on me is dad with cancer…
add to that my on-going searing back and hip pain coupled by the myriad of tests
I’m squeezing in in-between trips to Dads.

The Radiologist oncologist told us today that radiation would be every day for 7 consecutive weeks—everyday I’d commute to and from Atlanta as dad would be zapped.

Not to cure him mind you…just to hopefully keep the tumor at bay….
but for how long, no one can say.

His primary care doctor says he is simply too weak and frail to endure such.
The side effects of radiation in the elderly is weakness, diarrhea and burning…
that is in the best of cases…

He’s already weak, already battles colitis and is not very well overall mentally or physically…
yet that did not seem to deter the doctor today who seemed
more concerned with his ever ringing phone…
as he would step out of the room for 20 minutes here and 10 more minutes there…

He told Dad that if he did nothing it wouldn’t be pretty with pain and misery…
which scared dad into wanting to begin zapping right then and there.
I explained to the doctor that we, as a family, would need to talk about all of this
and discuss this with Dad’s primary care doctor—
at which he seemed a bit incensed that I too didn’t agree to begin immediately.

To be honest, I felt overtly pressured.
He didn’t seem to consider that dad is weak and frail or that he is struggling with his cognizant abilities…
It was more like checking off a list…then wham bam you’re good to go, lets sign you up now…

I called a dear friend who had been one of dad’s nurses over the past year for her input.
I called back to dad’s primary care doctor for his opinion.
I called my husband
I called my cousin.
I called my aunt…
and I cried the entire rush hour traffic ride home…

Everyone who knows dad knows treatment is not the correct route.
But dad is scared.
And dad is very much like a little child.
And the cancer doctors are chomping at the bit…

So this squirrel is at a loss.

I may dip in and out of blogland here and there.
The first time in 3 years.
But I’m feeling my energy, creativity, my very life, ebbing away….
Depression is closing in fast…
it’s wicked hot breath has been on the back of my neck now for months.

Decisions have to be made…
and sickeningly, like the squashed squirrel, the buck stops here.
For I am now the parent of the parent who can no longer make those calls himself.
What is the right decision???
What is the right call???
Quality of life…
length of life…
yet at what state??
How much longer either way?
Aggressive cancer…
Fast growing…

I danced this dance with Mother 30 years ago…
I never would have envisioned walking down this road again…

I pray for a revelation or a Divine intervention—
One that directs our path without regrets, without second guessing…
That the road we go, is to be the right road…the only road…

I’ll be in and out as my strength and mindset allows…

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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

a thousand stars

O Father may that Holy Star Grow every year more bright,
And send its glorious beams afar to fill the world with light.

-William Cullen Bryant

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(star sunflowers / Sleive League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Each evening during the season of Advent, as the sun sinks just beyond the horizon, watchful eyes lift skyward scanning the heavens eastward for a single star which shines brighter than the rest.

A sign
A signal
A symbol

As the Christian faithful gather together,
anxiously watching and waiting for direction.

A command
A compass
A course

Open questions now beg to be answered…
Where shall we go?
What are we to find?
What are we to do?

And as those questions skip across the nighttime breeze,
an unseen Hand scatters a thousand stars across a dark December sky…

To seek
To search
To share

To find
To forgive
To free

To hope
To help
To heal

To defend
To define
To declare

To pray
To please
To praise

To worship
To wonder
To wander

To restore
To reach
To reform

To laud
To live
To love


“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”

Martin Luther

Change of plans

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Allen Saunders

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(marker in the Methodist Cemetery, The Great Smokey Mts Natl. Park, Cades Cove, TN / quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson / Julie Cook / 2015)

Over this past weekend, while I was busying myself with my slight, albeit brief, change in directions, Life thought better of it all and decided a change of plans was more appropriately in order.

There is a small crisis of Life taking place…involving my dad and stepmother.
Such that my time here may be somewhat limited and or greatly impeded.

So forgive my dipping in and out as it were, demonstrating a true lack of consistency in blogland, while I try to deal with Life in Atlanta. Working on getting one out of the hospital while keeping the other one from going to pieces—

Greatly appreciating all good thoughts and prayers!!!

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(seeking the unknown path / The Great Smokey Mts Natl. Park, Cades Cove, TN/ Julie Cook / 2015)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Psalm 32:8

Need a change in direction?

“Fortunately Jesus didn’t leave [the disciples]-or any of us-without hope or direction. Where we fail, Jesus succeeded. The only One who as able to recognize and follow His purpose from the beginning was Jesus. He alone was able to obey consistently and please God completely. And His divine mission was to make a way for each of us to do the same.”
Charles R. Swindoll

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( a female mallard slides across the mirror-like pond / Adare Manor, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Feeling out of sorts, irritable, unsatisfied and unfulfilled, we wander about, head down, hands shoved deep into the murky abyss of pockets, as the permanent scowl begins to feel more like a widow’s netting hanging down over our once bright eyes.

Musing and muttering, self within self, we shrug as if to a companion…yet the only companion is an unhappy self.

We don’t much care for the big picture…
All that worldly mess…the global mess that seems so out of control and so beyond our grasp…it has left us drained, depleted and depressed.
We don’t really care for much of anything we see…that of the world, our country, our city, our town, or dare we voice it?.. even our own home and family…

Ours is but a single small voice…no change there coming from the insignificant…this as we grouse, once again, as if to a companion.
What’s so bad about a life lived by the status quo, no boat rocking that’s for sure
thoughts trailing off as eyes begin to burn from invisible mounting tears.

This solitary conversation of self with self has taken on the volley of table tennis–back and forth with the whys and the why nots…the hows and the how comes…the whens and the not whens…

Feeling crushed under the ever growing blackening clouds of despair and empty acceptance
a few ducks, gliding effortlessly across the pond, draw our attention…creating a thankful diversion, just enough to pull us away from the woeful self within self discourse.

The small flock of ducks are all drifting peacefully along in the same direction, across the mirror-like water, except for one lone duck. This single mallard duck has taken his course in the opposite direction.

Humm, what does this duck know that the others don’t…?…you muse silently to yourself.

And that’s when it hits you…

It’s about time you changed directions….

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(a mallard serenely swims by / Adare Manor, Adare, County Limerick, Irleand / Julie Cook / 2015)

“We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. The flesh whimpers against the rigor of God’s inexorable sentence and begs like Agag for a little mercy, a little indulgence of its carnal ways. It is no use. We can get a right start only by accepting God as He is and learning to love Him for what He is…

…The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all we step out of the world’s parade.”

(excerpt by A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God)

(***and speaking of directional change…I’m on to a slight diversion—I’ll be back here hopefully Tuesday—until then…God’s grace to you…)

Once in a blue moon. . .there is clarity

“The moon in her chariot of pearl”
― Oscar Wilde

“What really matters is:—
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

― C.S. Lewis

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(The blue moon of July / Julie Cook / 2015)

This is a tale about dementia, directions, hair and unbelievable clarity.

My dad has never had, in my opinion, a full head of hair.
It was receding and thinning from the day they brought me home from the adoption agency.

I remember when I was young when he’d proudly ask if I liked his hair cut. I’d respond with a big grin that that’s exactly what it was— a, as in single, hair cut.
Somehow he didn’t find the humor in my observation. . .

The past couple of weeks I’ve noted that dad has desperately needed a hair cut.
What hair he has, which mind you isn’t a gracious plenty, has become almost transparent, wispy and strand-like—a bit of an unkept look–as in derelict. It wasn’t helping his appearance that he’d not shaved.

Time and time again Dad has refused to allow me to take him for a hair cut as he simply refuses to leave the house.
Today, that was going to change. . .

The minute I walked in the house yesterday, I told him that we were going for a hair cut, no ifs, ands or buts. . . as in now.
I asked Gloria where the barber was located, thinking I had a vague idea.

As Dad, my aunt and I headed out in search of the barber, I made a left at the red light thinking I knew where were going. . .my first mistake.

“NO,DON’T GO THIS WAY, Dad shouts as if I was driving off a cliff scaring me to death.
“It’s the other way.”
“Really?”
UGH
“Dad, where exactly is this barber. . . I thought it was in the shopping center with the Fresh Market.”
“You go up at the light and turn left and then drive up that parallel road.”

HUH?

First of all, we’re on Roswell Rd–one of the busiest main thoroughfares in Atlanta running north and south through the city, there are millions of lights and intersections and what in the world is running parallel—
“Do you mean Long Island?”
“I don’t know.
Don’t ask me.
I don’t know anything.”

Hummmmm

“Turn at that light.”
Oooookay
“Just go up this road.”
“How far?”
“Far.”
Ugh. . .

Now you need to know that it’s been 30 years or longer since I’ve traversed most of these back roads.
Progress, which I believe is what they call all of this drastic growth and change to the city, all of which now has me painfully scanning for any sort of remembered landmark.
Alarmingly it dawns on me that all my landmarks have been bulldozed.
It is now officially a blind leading the blind sort of quest for the barber.

“Keep going straight, then turn right at the light.”
“Really?”
“Yes”
“Oh I remember that park, that’s where mom played tennis.”
“Yes”
“Go down this road then turn into that shopping center on the right.”
“No, the NEXT entrance”
“Now turn left”
“I SAID LEFT!”
“Okay dad, my God, you’re scared me to death. It’s just the parking lot.”
“It’s up in the little building on the left. . .”

About 20 minutes later we’re back at the house with my very thin, frail, wispy, 87 year old dad looking rather dapper with his fresh cut hair. . .now if only he’d shave. . .

The mind is an amazing thing.
A deeply cavernous 3 pound mass.
The synapsis fire or they don’t.
Memories mix with current events, confusing past with present.
Sequences flow or jumble, starting and stopping.
Faces are recognized or more often than not–there is frustratingly no recognition.
There may be silence or a profession of irrelevant chatter. . .
With what happened 5 minutes prior suddenly forgotten and gone forever
and yet. . .
a backroad path to an obscure little old fashioned barber shop is clear as a bell. . .
Go figure. . .

Past and Future

“. . .It’s got me hoping for the future
And worrying about the past
‘Cause I’ve seen some hot hot blazes
Come down to smoke and ash. . .”

a few lines from Joni Mitchell – Help Me

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Giovanni Bellini / Le Christ Bénissant 1465-1470 / The Louvre / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Has the past left you worrying about the future?
Will the future find you wistful for the past?
Does the present find you hopeful about much of anything?

Have you turned on the news, read the paper, seen the stories. . .

Terror attacks on the beach
Heads chopped off like weeds.
Migrants are flooding across the seas
Legislation turns topsy turvy
Killings where we worship
Good guys set bad guys free
Sharks are hungry in the surf
Flags flap in the wind

That which is seen now as bad must be stricken from sight, from history, from acknowledgment—
Seek and destroy quickly lest anyone notice.
Hysteria is crying foul as the masses must now acquiesce.
Simply wipe it clean with the sweep of a pen and that’ll make it all better.
Don’t pause to consider the bigger picture.
Just erase it from view and that’ll be the end of it.
Rewrite what was and that’ll keep them happy, quiet, confused.
Out of sight, out of mind.

Is straddling that fence getting uncomfortable?
Is the grey any more clear?
Upside down for one is now right side up for many.
Thought you knew which way to go. . .

When rainbows once came after the storm
Hope grew out of the past
History directed the future
and everything made more sense. . .

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4: 12-19

Twilight

Twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star.
Lucy Maud Montgomery

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(a lone evening star caught in a southern sky / Julie Cook / 2014)

Stillness magically, thankfully, blessedly now covers the land.
Gone is the endless din of noise from the day’s chaos known simply as Life
With November’s chill slowly wrapping her arms around everything she sees, our pace gently slows.
Shadows have grown long as day’s light is now limited.
The time of reflection is at hand.

Timid and oh so slowly, one by one, the tiny late season jewels of the evening sky make their debut.
At first it is but a single star in the deep azure and magenta swarth of sky, which silently commands rather than begs the curious to gaze skyward.
Guiding, luring, beckoning as if by some primordial drive, we are drawn to this single brilliant light.

2000 years ago, God put His finger to the sky, and in so doing, He pierced the night with a tiny ray of light. A pinpoint of celestial brilliance shone down upon humanity’s darkness. A single directional beam called humankind to its side.

The season of expectation is at hand, as our thoughts return skyward.
We continue to cast our gaze heavenly.
We continue looking, waiting and watching.
Will Hope call for us again?
Will we recognize it for what it is?
Will we feel its pull, its draw, its offer of redemption?

Twilight, when silence descends and Hope appears
When the light of a single star dares to shine
and humankind is once again made whole

Principles and Direction

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

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It is good to have ambition and drive. Goals, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. are all good and even essential components to one’s life but it’s what directs these goals, hopes, aspirations, etc– what motivates these dreams and ambitions—that is the truly important key behind the impetus to and eventually success of one’s life’s quests.

We can look at someone like Napoleon, whose quote is the basis of today’s post, as an example of someone who possessed great ambition. There is no denying that he was a great general and leader—that is, up to a certain point. His is the story we in America love—the small-town boy who comes from obscurity, the difficult, somewhat dysfunctional upbringing–a young boy who comes from very humble, and what many at the time considered very poor beginnings, certainly no silver spoon in his mouth. He is laughed at and scorned for his rough around the edges roots, even his accent is ridiculed….and yet he achieves a momentous level of greatness–all because he is driven to do so by an intense desire to succeed.

He does possess one very important attribute which proves to be a decisive factor in his life’s journey, the key to whether he rises to the top in life or remains a part of his very humble surroundings—and that attribute is ambition sprinkled with a strong dose of determination. The only caveat is that the principles and drive behind this ambition, this determination is a tad skewed. Napoleon wants so desperately to rise up and be someone of great importance, not so much as to lead people in the right direction, but rather to prove to others that he is capable of greatness—it is a very selfish and self-centered drive to the top—a sort of “I’ll show them mentality.”

When one’s goals are based solely in the “I’ll show them” category, the rise to greatness may be fast and glorious but the impending fall is blindingly disastrous.

It is my hope that you do have dreams and goals—that we all do. It is also my hope that those dreams and goals are backed by humility, purity, honesty—a desire to not necessarily prove anything to anyone, no aims to “show them” but rather a wish and a hope to make the world a better place. Sincerity of heart is easily recognized—or not. You must decide what is your driving force in life—if it is of a selfish nature, it will never come to positive fruition—history teaches us that.

Take time today to examine your own goals and desires of life looking closely at the driving forces behind them—are they pure and genuine, built upon sharing, kindness, being steeped in the betterment of others or are they laced with self-centeredness, revenge, selfishness, or even subject to the rationalized eventual harming of others? If they are of the former, they are bound for success, but if they are of the latter, then failure is inevitable–and most likely at a terrific cost

Take time today to examine the question “what are your principles and what directs them?” Doing so can make all the difference in not only your world, but in the world of those you inhabit.