senses put in order

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order.”

John Burroughs


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)

That quote by John Burroughs is so true is it not?
After any walk outside, out in nature…be it in the woods, through a meadow,
a ragged shoreline or a challenging mountain top…I always find myself at peace…
All worry and fret subsides…as that which is so much bigger, so much grander
than my mere self, has an enormous way of healing that which currently ailes my soul.

God is good like that.
Offering me the vast glory of His creation…

So it is no surprise that I love wandering in the woods especially this time of year…
It’s a time when I am not bothered by such things as spiders, snakes, or ticks.

No fears, no immediate worry as I can walk unimpeded—not fretting about where
I put my foot, as long as I avoid any and all stump holes—
those rotted out places in the ground, holes left gaping which are the remains of a dead tree…
such holes can be readily covered by the freshly fallen leaves and not immediately detected
by a mere glance downward.

Many a sprained ankle or even a break can happen when falling into such a hole.
I should know…thankful nothing ever broken…just usually sore and bruised.

And so I can hunt for those small wonders that still wait to be uncovered…
wonders that are not hibernating or buried deep within the ground waiting for Spring.

Shelf fungus and mushrooms are always a favorite to find as their shape, size, and colors
are usually most eye-catching.

Here are just a few from the other day…


(mildewed shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(mushrooms, mushrooming out from under the crevis of a wooden bridge/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully,
he can learn more than what is in books,
for they speak with the voice of God.

George Washington Carver

reflecting on love and beauty

Love does not make unnecessary the fulfillment of God’s commandments,
but is their deepest form of fulfillment.
The commandments are not external prescriptions,
which promise reward to those who fulfill them and threaten punishment to those who
fail to observe them.
Instead, they are the revelation of God’s salvific design,
indicating to us the way of his love.

Gerhard Cardinal Müller
from The Power of Truth


(a late November reflection offered by a creek—doesn’t it look as if the trees are
upsdie down reflected by the deep blue sky? / Julie Cook/ 2019)

Only a few colorful leaves remain dangling in the trees,
the majority of the multitudes have turned brown, or more aptly turned
loose, providing a freshly muted carpet covering the forest floor.

There is a vast quietness once the leaves fall and are damp underfoot.
No rustling of the wind through the trees and no crinkling underfoot.

But that doesn’t mean that beauty is now hidden…quite the contrary…
her reflection waits for the lucky ones who pass by…


(a late November reflection offerd by a creek/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(a late November reflection found in a creek / Julie Cook / 2019)

Who has not heard Dostoyevsky’s oft-quoted remark: ‘Beauty will save us’?
Usually people forget to mention, however, that by redeeming beauty Dostoyevsky
means Christ. He it is whom we must learn to see.
If we cease to know him only through words but are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty,
then we will truly come to know him and will no longer merely know about him secondhand.
Then we will have encountered the beauty of truth, of redeeming truth.
Nothing can bring us into contact with the beauty of Christ himself more than
the world of beauty created by faith and the light that shines upon
the faces of the saints, through which his own light becomes visible.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
from On the Way to Jesus Christ

in pursuit

“Among the strange things of this world,
nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right
and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer.”

John Jay


(some of norht Georgia’s finest…Arkansas Blacks and Winesaps / Julie Cook / 2019)

The rains had departed, the clouds were racing off, chasing the latest weather front,
and now the air was actually, delightfully, a bit chilled.

This was to be a short-lived moment as the weather folks were telling us that the
temperatures would be rising this week while the rains would be returning by Tuesday with a vengeance.
Bad weather in the South, no matter what the time of year, is something to be wary of…

So if we wanted to seek out a single colored leaf, now was our moment.

And thus we got into our vehicle Sunday morning and decided to point the truck following
the compass arrow pointing north…or so said the dashboard readings…north.

It’s just about a 2-hour drive from the house to reach North Georgia’s apple capital–
Elijay and her fellow communities of Blue Ridge, Cherry Log, etc…

We almost thought we’d move up this way about a year ago…
but that’s another story for another day.

As the truck’s compass continued pointing north, north-east, we drove on, passing
various polestars pointing towards various destinations…

I must confess, I’ve never been to, let alone seen, Rock City.
Have you?

It was always my understanding, since I was a little girl back in the day,
that farmers were paid to paint the famous “See Rock City” on the sides or roofs
of their barns but I can’t say for certain…
However I always did want a Rock City birdhouse…but I digress

Finally, just before noon, we found the ‘apple barns’ selling the fruits of their labors and harvest.

There were fried apple pies, preserves of every shape and description along with pumpkins for sale.
However, we had come for apples and apples it would be.

There were Grannysmiths, Jonagolds, Pink ladies, Honey crips, Winesaps, Arkansas Blacks, Ozark Gold, Romes,
Fujis…any variety you’d like to purchase is most likely found by the bag or bushel.

I opted for the tried and true Winesaps and a bag of Arkansas Blacks—
an apple variety that I’m told does best if it is stored chilled in a root cellar for a few months—
Since I don’t have a root cellar, I’ll opt for the fridge in the basement.

After gathering our apples, we continued northward toward a stop in the quaint mountain
town of Blue Ridge…the home of the North Georgia Railway offering train rides up through
the north Georgia mountains.

Blue Ridge is such a dog-friendly little town.
Some of the public parking lot’s proceeds go toward the local animal shelters.
We saw every kind of dog on holiday with “their people.”

We stopped for lunch at a lovely spot on the crowded downtown strip, Harvest on Main,
a place we’ve enjoyed on previous visits.
I had the tastiest drink sporting some local bee pollen…go figure!


(The Harvest / Julie Cook / 2019)

As the afternoon was beginning to wane, we opted to head back toward the more flatlands of home
rather than continuing eastward over the northern part of the state towards Blairsville, Helen
and Georgia’s gold capital of Dalonagha…

Sadly, however, we were more than aware that we had yet to really see any colorful foliage,
as our Fall is struggling from our having had one more extreme record hot and dry Summer.

We retraced our steps back towards Elijay, opting to take Hwy 52 / 2, a road that would carry us over
Fort Mountain back towards Chatsworth, Ga. and Hwy 411 South.

I’ve lived in Georgia all of my life, less than two hours away from Fort Mountian,
and yet I had never heard of this “mountain” nor of the state park of the same name.

“Mystery shrouds the ancient stone wall of Fort Mountain State Park,
located near the Cohutta Wilderness, offering you a look back in time to the previous inhabitants,
as you discover 60 miles of recreational trails and majestic overlooks.”
A scenic drive on Highway 52 near the Cohutta Wilderness leads visitors
to this mountain getaway.
Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders will find some of the most beautiful trails in Georgia,
winding through hardwood forest and blueberry thickets,
crossing streams and circling a pretty lake.
Hikers can also explore a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
and an ancient rock wall that stands on the highest point of the mountain.
The mysterious 855-foot-long wall is thought to have been built by early Indians
as fortification against more hostile Indians or for ancient ceremonies.

During summer, visitors can cool off on a lakeside beach.
Park guests may stay overnight in fully equipped cottages, a campground or backpacking campsites.

Fort Mountain State Park History

Fort Mountain State Park sits at the southwestern end of the Cohutta Mountains
near the Cohutta Wilderness. Sitting at 2,850 ft above sea level, Fort Mountain
is a great destination for hiking and history lessons alike.
The area in and around the park was home to the Cherokee Indians for hundreds of years,
and their legacy is still felt throughout North Georgia today.

We stopped at an overlook, just before reaching the state park, that was actually the pinnacle of this
“mountain”— hoping to catch a touch of color.
The vistas pointed toward both Tennessee and North Carolina.

There was a couple with their dog who had also climbed up to the outlook.
They asked where we were from… we told them and they told us that they were from
Jacksonville, Fl. They had driven up last year and had opted to come back this year.
They were just so impressed to know that Georgia had such splendor.
I inwardly smiled with a touch of pride as we all like hearing folks from other states
saying nice things about your own state.

But as you can see, there was little if any color for viewing.
A few yellows, a few reds but green is still reigning supreme.

Maybe in a few more weeks things will be turning more colorful…

Despite the lack of fall color—the deviation of a pursuit that was other than
the typical was most welcomed and most refreshing…plus I learned a thing or two
about my state that I didn’t know before…

How’s that little verse, or is it a poem, go??
‘The world is wide and wonderful, wherever we may roam…
but our thoughts return to precious things such as friends and love and home…

It’s not always the pursuit now, is it???…
It is, more or less, the journey itself that is what matters most…

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
(as seen on a small country chruch’s sign during our drive northward)

Hummmm…..

Yesterday’s infusion becomes today’s coagulation, which in turn,
becomes tomorrow’s clarified nectar…or so I’m hoping.

cookie

Now let’s retrace our steps.

Yesterday we peeled 11 lemons and added the peels (minus the white pith) to 3 cups
cognac and 3 cups brandy…and let it steep for 24 hours.

And thus we’ve gone from this on Monday…

To this on Tuesday…

A curdled heady aromatic pot of who knows what.

Waiting for about 2 hours, I next poured the coagulated mess through some cheesecloth
and a fine-mesh strainer.

After staining, the remaining liquid will be moved to the fridge where it will sit for
another 24 hours, allowing any remaining “curds” to settle.
After sitting and settling, I’ll strain the liquid through a coffee filter.

Benjamin Franklin used a jelly bag…or so said the recipe he’d
handwritten and shared with a friend.
Aren’t handwritten recipes great?
They just keep getting passed around…albeit it spotted, yellowed and torn.

I don’t know what a jelly bag is and thus, doubt I own one…
hence the coffee filter and cheesecloth.

I did previously add to this putrid looking mess some cardamon pods, a single star anise,
a broken cinnamon stick, a fully grated nutmeg along with 2 cups of lemon juice,
1 1/2 cups of sugar, 4 cups of water and 4 cups of boiling milk…

All resulting in the curdled mess now staring up at us from the pot.

I dared to taste it, stealing a small spoonful this morning.

It’s pretty boozy as well as heavy on the lemon.
Maybe too lemony—

I was hit with a taste of bitterness but of course,
that was before I added the sugar, water, and milk.

I’m beginning to think that 11 lemon peels and 2 cups of juice may have been all of
a bit of an overkill.

But Ben said to do it and so I did.
How can I argue with the man who wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac?!

The sampling I had tasted down at the beach had been made with pineapple.
Since I’m not a huge pina colada, tropical drink kind of fan, I stuck to Ben’s original recipe
and opted not to introduce any pineapple.

I did deviate slightly however and threw in a few cardamon pods.
I like cardamon as it reminds me of a warm Fall cozy evening.
I also sprinkled in some cinnamon along with the broken stick as I like a heavy dose of
cinnamon in my Fall goodies.

I’m now wondering if adding a vanilla pod might have been a nice touch.

As you can see in the picture below, the curds were caught in the cheesecloth…

The strained liquid, which is still rather cloudy and reminds me of apple cider, will sit
for a day or so before it goes through more filtration.

The taste is spicy, warm, and again, very boozy…but in a soft sort of way.

We’re off to see the Mayor and Sheriff tomorrow so the final presentation will have to wait
a day or so longer— but trust me…
we’ve come this far and by gosh, we will have an official presentation if it kills me…

And let’s hope that drinking this stuff won’t…kill me!

I’ll also pass on Mr. Franklin’s recipe.

And I suppose that there might be some of you wondering why in the heck I would go
to such trouble just to make a simple drink…or more aptly, a most complicated drink?!

Maybe it’s because the mountain was there and I wanted to climb it…
Maybe it’s because I’ve been missing that creative spark in my life.

Or maybe it’s in part because it’s something that harkens back to a
different day and time.

It takes us back to a time when taking one’s time was appreciated.
It was a time when taking the time to do something that was somewhat painstaking
and was in turn, shared with others,
was equally appreciated as both a product and a preparation.
There is a deep sense of satisfaction in that.

It harkens to a time when we didn’t take everything for granted…
knowing that we could simply run out to a store and buy what our tastes might
be yearning for…
As in there were no grub hubs or uber eats back then.
The work from our hands filled our needs and wants and thus that was where our satisfaction
was found.

It was a time when things like lemons and spices were not readily available.
So when you could find them, afford them, they were savored and relished.

And thus savoring and relishing while feeling a sense of accomplishment and gratitude
is certainly reason enough…or at least it is for me.
And since it is indeed Fall…there’s no better time for slowing down,
savoring and reflecting upon some past simple pleasures.

Cheers!

deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…

The noblest of acts

“Cheerfulness prepares a glorious mind for all the noblest acts.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton


(the only sign of color this fall / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The true reason for which God bestows so many graces upon the humble is this,
that the humble are faithful to these graces and make good use of them.
They receive them from God and use them in a manner pleasing to God,
giving all the glory to Him, without reserving any for themselves…
It is certainly true that he who is humble is also faithful to God,
because the humble man is also just in giving to all their due, and above all,
in rendering to God the things that are God’s; that is,
in giving Him the glory for all the good that he is,
all the good that he has and for all the good that he does;
as the Venerable Bede says: ‘Whatever good we see in ourselves,
let us ascribe it to God and not to ourselves.’
To give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received and are
continually receiving is an excellent means of exercising humility,
because by thanksgiving we learn to acknowledge the Supreme Giver of
every good.
And for this reason it is necessary for us always to be humble before God.
St. Paul exhorts us to render thanks for all things and at all times:
‘In all things give thanks.’ (1 Thess. 5:18).
‘Giving thanks always for all things.’ (Eph. 5:20).
But that our thanksgiving may be an act of humility it must not only come
from the lips but from the heart, with a firm conviction that all good comes
to us through the infinite mercy of God.”

Rev. Cajetan da Bergamo, p. 87-8
An Excerpt From
Humility Of Heart

Deus absconditus

“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man:
to know what he ought to believe;
to know what he ought to desire;
and to know what he ought to do.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(a fallen leaf hangs in the balance by the thread of a spider / Julie Cook / 2019)

“One of the most formidable obstacles to the conversion of a soul is the fact that
God is a hidden God: Deus absconditus.
But God, in His goodness, reveals Himself, in a certain manner, through His saints,
and even through fervent souls.
In this way, the supernatural filters through and becomes visible to the faithful,
who are thus able to apprehend something of the mystery of God…
make no mistake, there is a sort of instinct by which souls,
without clearly defining what it is they sense,
are aware of this radiation of the supernatural.”

Dom Jean-Baptist Chautard, p. 124-5
An Excerpt From
Soul of the Apostolate