berries, cherries and bears, oh my

“Haven’t you ever thought of living
unconsciously like bears, sniffing the earth,
close to pears and the mossy dark,
far from human voices and fire?

Nâzım Hikmet Ran


(a mama bear and her cub perch high in the wild cherry trees / Julie Cook / Cades Cove, TN / 2018)

Some folks would say it’s the sign of an impending cold winter…
What with the numbers of bears we’ve seen in just a two-day span, gorging themselves
on berries and apparently the prolific wild cherries that grow plentiful in the
Smokey Mountains.

Twelve bears and counting.

An amazing feat really given that we’ve been coming to this area on and off now for 35
years and have seen maybe a total of 5 bears over the course of that time—
and those were just at a glance here or there.

Today we ran into 5 more bears with one almost literally running into me.
We were actually walking through a field along the woodline, walking away from one of
the few remaining original cabins in Cades Cove when my husband turned to say something to me
yet he could only muster that single word again, BEAR!!

I turned just in time to see a small black bear right behind me before he kindly bolted
into the woods.

Next, as we were exiting out of the cove we saw a mom and cub perched high in the wild
cherry trees enjoying a late brunch.

Then later in the evening, on one final drive through the cove,
we came upon another young bear eating fast and furiously…


(all bears seen in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

Not knowing when I’ll make it back this way, as it’s been about 5 years since our last trip,
I savor these moments.
Breathing in deeply, holding it as long as possible before slowly exhaling.

These snippets, these glimpses of things that are truly greater than our hurly-burly
hectic ant-like lives…
lives spent hurrying here and there as we always seem oh so preoccupied and
tremendously busy…I consider these moments, these gifts of time, one of the
greatest privileges offered.

Being able to see animals in their natural habitat, in a place that is stopped in time,
doing what they do best…simply living and being the wild animals that they are…
is a gift…a gift offered by the Creator to one of the created…

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him
and for him.

Colossians 1:16

Changing in the constant state of flux

To improve is to change;
to be perfect is to change often.

Winston Churchill

When we are no longer able to change a situation–
we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor E. Frankl

“So do flux and reflux–the rhythm of change–
alternate and persist in everything under the sky.”

Thomas Hardy

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(chrysalis for a tiger swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

The parsley is almost all gone…
Decimated nearly overnight by the ravenous feeding frenzy
of the caterpillars.

I wondered about 22 caterpillars and where they might all go
once they finished gorging themselves…

and so now I see…

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All rather amazing really.

See how it’s tied itself to the stem…
All wrapped up nice and neat…
and ready for a quick change sort of performance…

Butterflies, caterpillars, cocoons, or rather chrysalis, are perhaps the most
magically odd developments to transpire within the world of living creatures…

Yet this cycle of change is in a state of constant flux.

A butterfly spends it’s very short life feeding…
A caterpillar spends it’s very short life feeding…
A chrysalis spends it’s very short life in a constant state of change…
albeit it hidden from observation.

We don’t know exactly what or how things go on in that sack of theirs…
all we know is that a long worm-like thing goes in…
and then a brightly colored, light and fragile winged thing comes out…

Something so tiny, so minuscule, so fragile so odd and even oh so mysterious
can give me such great comfort and even needed solace…

That no matter the change that comes about in my life, in all our lives…
for we are ourselves also in a constant state of flux…
that in this most tiny creature and it’s miraculous cycles
lies the full mystery and depth of
a loving Father,
an Omnipotent Creator
and an overwhelming God…

that despite all that changes in my life…
for good and for bad
He is the One true Constant that I can hold onto with all great certainty…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 3:16

the diversion of a feeding frenzy

“If our condition were truly happy,
we would not seek diversion from it in order to make ourselves happy”

Blaise Pascal

“The news media is in a feeding frenzy”
George Bush

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(the butterfly bushes are rife with those feeding / Julie Cook / 2016)

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Ok, so you thought you were going to see some images of ravenous sharks, wildly thrashing about,
tearing apart some poor fish…

Sorry, it’s not shark week.

However…
rest assured…
A feeding frenzy is indeed under way…
With both you and me front and center on the main menu.

For it is now open season on the average citizen.

We are currently under assault, you and me, by all the news media outlets, as well as all things political.
I hate to say it, but the season is open and in full swing until November.
And unfortunately it looks as if it won’t truly be over until most likely sometime after the
first of the new year…or so.
And depending on the results, it may never be over…

The thing is….
we are all currently dealing with our individual lives….

We don’t have time to spare for things other than our manic lives….
It is simply to the everyday nitty gritty of living that has us consummed.
Time is not ours to give away to those who are now chomping at the bit for pieces of it.

For me…it’s dad who has developed a gravely concerning malady…
that is proving troublesome to pinpoint, let alone resolve…
as a few grim scenarios are waiting in the wings.

I’m driving back and forth to this doctor and that, to this test and that, all the while reassuring Dad that he is a okay…despite the alarming physical symptoms.

Do I have the time or energy to be bothered every time I just want some quiet down time…???
Flipping on the telly, seeking some mindless light diversion, yearning for a little football,
yet instead I am met by the likes of every TV personality and new anchor bashing Trump, touting Hillary, telling me only one kind of life matters, yada yada yada…????!!!!

Do I want to see ad after ad about why I should vote this way or that—???
Ads both dark and ominous of what will happen if I vote this way or that????
Do I want to see ads filled with a whole lot of malarky and bull crap????
All the while finding myself sadly yearning for the days of those cheeky little toilet paper ads…

And it seems that I am not the only one needing a diversion from the feeding frenzy of this season.

The odd phenomena of the Pokemon craze has become a global obsession.
Even as poor dad frets and waits to see the latest doctor in a string of doctors,
look what my son spies sitting by his grandfather…sigh…

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And whereas I am actually gravely concerned over this current trend and need
by this ailing world of ours…
This ravenous desire of seeking such an obsessive diversion…
Wondering why we don’t or can’t actually see what our true need actually is…
What it is that we yearn for…
What it is that we ache for…

That being satiated by the balm of the Resurrected Christ…

Yet reluctantly I can understand the need of escape from all this misery,
mayhem and feeding frenzy that is currently besieging us…

For it is in this desperation that the masses now seek the diversion of a virtual game…
sigh….

So…
With that being said…
and that being that,
it’s time to put down the remote,
close the laptop,
turn off the freaking phone…
and head outside for a real life diversion…

One that is actually Heaven sent….

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Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Psalm 119:23-24

Ripe yet?

Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.
Soren Kierkegaard

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.
Frederick Buechner

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(unripened blueberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

By the looks of these blueberries, they still have a ways to go before they’re ripe enough for picking. More time is needed for basking in the warmth of the sun’s rays before they’ll be a deep purplish blue bursting with juicy sweetness. And I must admit, the thought of soon to be syrupy fresh blueberries is a comforting thought.

Life with Dad these days has precipitated any sort of garden this summer, which makes me sad—
yet at the same time life is as it should be—with me being able to travel back and forth, helping to care for him during this particular stage of his life’s journey. . .It makes for long hectic days, with some days being good and some days being not so good. We made a minor crisis run to the doctor’s today, and are waiting on more test results- – but for now, just this minute, it’s “steady as she goes”. . .

So being able to come home with a chance to wander a bit in the yard, checking out the progress of the blueberries, watching the birds dart in and out of their bird boxes, and just relishing in the muffled sounds of a late rural afternoon is a welcomed respite from the worries of a stress filled day.

And as I check on the ripeness of my pale green berries, my thoughts wander to my own sense of ripeness.

Most folks might think that at 55 I’m probably pretty good and ripe, with hints of pruneiness here and there. I’ve had life experiences both good and bad that have worked to shape and mould me into the person I am today.
Painful as well as pleasant, sweet coupled with sorrowful.
Yet one look at my 87 year old dad, pale and feeble, I think to myself “now here is someone who must be ripe–” And yet there are days I think he’s often just rotting on the vine as it were, wasting away with little effort to stop the decay.

I know my dad, I know he’s not where he needs to be, yet–and I doubt, knowing Dad, that he’ll get there in time. Which might mean that none of us are ever fully ripe as perhaps our lives are just one long ripening process. God works throughout our lives deep within our hearts and souls. He lovingly takes us, shifting and shaping, pushing and pulling. He allows the sun of his love to warm us while the rains of our sorrows water us. We are given ample opportunity to fertilize ourselves by His word, yet we don’t always take advantage of His available resources.

Some of us choose, sadly, to wither on the vine, preferring to never allow the Master Gardener the chance to prune, train, trim or nurture–we’ve even been known to actually rebuff His attempts.
A terrible waste of good fruit really.

So many of us spend our lives seeking God with hopes of establishing a deep rooted relationship with Him. Yet such relationships, as well as us each of us individually, are ever changing, growing, shifting and deepening. We scratch the surface finding some sense of satisfaction that only leads us to wanting more. We hunger and thirst for a deep feeding and watering as we long for sustenance that only He can offer. . .just like a tender plant yearns for and needs nourishment to survive. We find ourselves not only needing but wanting more of His time, His attentions, His care, His concern.
This becomes an unquenchable desire which spans the course of a lifetime.

So as I wander aimlessly surveying my tiny green orbs which dot my blueberry bushes like the decorations on a Christmas tree, all with a sense of great anticipation of things to come, I marvel at the fact that I myself am far from ripe—I’m just as green as my berries yet equally hungry for the warmth of His tender nourishment. . .

Prayers are now offered up for a deep feeding. . .
Here’s to His nurturing and our growing. . .