a cry of recognition…

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart;
it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love,
embracing both trial and joy.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(seasonal offerings at the Asheville Farmers Market / Julie Cook / 2022)

When pulling up to any seasonal farm or farmers market, as I first climb out of the car..
I find myself transfixed at it were…. standing in awe over that very first sight…
that sudden initial glimpse of the bounty of a season’s harvest.

It’s that first immediate exhilarating imagery…
imagery which is often accompanied by a variety of smells, coupled with the notion
of eventual inviting tastes, that is simply overwhelmingly mesmerizing,
and dare I say– intoxicating as all senses come to a heightened alert.

One is suddenly struck by the kaleidoscope of color…
colors that seem to be innately followed by the desire to touch…
there is a vast array of textures that call to be felt, caressed and held.

Next, be it the sheer magnitude of the numbers of trees or be it the boxes,
bushels and barrels that stretch out as far as the eye can see, there comes
an engulfing longing to offer some semblance of thanks or gratitude.

And so my thoughts turn to St. Therese’s words…
words reflected upon at the start of this post…
words that St. Therese shares with us today….
the thought that prayer is a surge of the heart…and oh how often do our hearts feel
those most powerful surges??!!

“a look toward heaven…a cry of recognition and of love…”

So maybe, just maybe, such a ‘cry’—such a deep and profound longing,
can readily be found in the abundance of a new season’s harvest…


(seasonal offerings at the Asheville Farmers Market / Julie Cook / 2022)


(seasonal offerings at the Asheville Farmers Market / Julie Cook / 2022)


(SkyTop Orchard, NC / Julie Cook / 2022)

Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

‘sour wood’ does bear goodness

“I knew I should be grateful to Mrs Guinea, only I couldn’t feel a thing.
If Mrs Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise,
it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me,
because wherever I sat –
on the deck of a ship or a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok –
I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar,
stewing in my own sour air.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped.
But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself.
If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


(a sourwood tree in my wooded home/ Julie Cook / 2022)

Sourwood…
any southerner worth their salts knows sourwood…

However you might be asking yourself, what is it about this sourwood
that southerners seem to know….

Well, the simple answer is that sourwood is synonymous with honey.

A seemingly oxymoron of sorts—
that being…how can something known as “sour”wood produce
something as delectably sweet as honey??

Well maybe the real question might need to start with…
where exactly does this said sourwood honey actually come from?

The source would be the sourwood tree.

The sourwood tree, Oxydendrum arboreum, is also known as
The Lilly of the Valley Tree or the Sorrel tree and according
to NC State’s extension gardener website:
the Sourwood tree is a deciduous small tree that may grow 20 to 30 feet
tall and a trunk 8 to 12 inches in diameter.
It is native to North Carolina and can be found throughout the state,
although more rarely in the low, alluvial plain.
The tree has laurel-like alternate leaves that are finely toothed
and sour to the taste.
The bark is red-brown with deep vertical furrows that separate flat,
pointed ridges.
In mid-summer, small, white, urn-shaped flowers mature on panicles.
The tree produces 5-valved capsules borne on panicles that mature
in the fall and release the very tiny, 2-winged seeds.
Fall foliage is red to reddish-purple.
Terminal inflorescences resemble the elongated, bony fingers of a witch.
This plant blooms in early summer, and blooms up the axis.
Blooms are effective for 3 to 4 weeks. Flowers are fragrant and bloom poorly in the shade.


(sourwood tree blooms in a clear blue sky/ Julie Cook / 2022)


(sourwood tree blooms in a clear blue sky/ Julie Cook / 2022)

So we have a tree known for being sour, adorned with frilly whispy flowers,
that produces a very unique tasting honey…

Enter the humble honey bee.

According to The Asheville Beecharmer Company:
Sourwood honey is consistently one of the most sought after honeys around the world,
and for good reason. Sourwood honey has a beautiful amber color and bold,
yet balanced, flavor: buttery sweet with rounded caramel notes on the back end.

Sourwood honey is specific to the United States since sourwood trees
only grow within our eastern mountain corridors.
The top sourwood honey producers, however, come from the southern Appalachian
mountain regions of western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and northern Georgia.

Sourwood honey is created when honey bees collect pollen and nectar
from sourwood tree flowers.
Due to the density of sourwood trees in the southern mountains,
honey bees can feed almost exclusively from their flowers during peak season,
which results in pure monofloral honey

(https://ashevillebeecharmer.com)

So ‘sour’wood seems to magically transform into a sweet dark smokey honey—
an amazing mix that only a honey bee seems to innately understand….
And that of the one Great Creator.

Sounds a lot like my life as of late.
Lots of sour, laced with a little sweet and yet specific to a particular place.

Sometimes life is simply too sour isn’t it?
Often bitter…leaving a near caustic taste upon one’s tongue.

And yet magically, or perhaps more miraculously, there comes along a small
something that takes that sour, turning it into something new,
something different and yes, even something even sweet.

Ode to the lessons from a sour tree and a humble bee.

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:14

Busy as a….

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love,
for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Jesus

We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly
to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make
them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults.

Father Jaques Philippe


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

“I realize as never before that the Lord is gentle and merciful;
He did not send me this heavy cross until I could bear it.
If He had sent it before, I am certain that it would have discouraged me..
I desire nothing at all now except to love until I die of love.
I am free, I am not afraid of anything, not even of what I used to dread most of all…
a long illness which would make me a burden to the community.
I am perfectly content to go on suffering in body and soul for years,
if that would please God.
I am not in the least afraid of living for a long time;
I am ready to go on fighting.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 122
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

still out here…wandering… but blessedly not lost

“What is a vocation?
It is a gift from God, so it comes from God.
If it is a gift from God, our concern must be to know God’s will.
We must enter that path: if God wants, when God wants, how God wants.
Never force the door.”

St. Gianna Molla


(a little pearl crescent visits the black eyed susans/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.”

St. John of the Cross

Life has been busy…which is a good thing…
And yes, I’m still out and about wandering.
But what we do know is that all who wander, are not lost…
or so says Gandolf in his letter to Frodo from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit…

Blessedly, I’m slowly finding my way and feel lost no more.

So while I was out happily wandering… I wanted to share a few shots from around my new area.

I’ll be back here in Blogland on a more regular basis shortly,
but until then…here are a few images of God’s goodness—
please enjoy…

“Let us beware of complaints, resentments,
and evil-speaking against those who are ill-disposed to us,
discontented with us, or hostile to our plans and arrangements,
or who even persecute us with injuries, insults, and calumnies.
Rather let us go on treating them as cordially as at first,
or more so, as far as possible showing them esteem,
always speaking well of them, doing them good, serving them on occasion,
even to the point of taking shame and disgrace upon ourselves,
if necessary to save their honor.
All this ought to be done, first, to overcome evil with good,
according to the teaching of the Apostles; and secondly,
because they are our allies rather than our adversaries,
as they aid us to destroy self-love, which is our greatest foe;
and since it is they who give us an opportunity to gain merit,
they ought to be considered our dearest friends.”

St. Vincent de Paul, p.413


(a hungry bumble bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)

neither abstract nor random

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much
at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty,
but at the love with which we do them.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a rogue dahlia / Julie Cook / 2022)

Reading the following quote by Cardinal, now saint, Newman I must admit that I
was pieced by his words.
My heart was pricked as my thoughts now raced.

The quote took on more than just mere words once uttered by a now deceased man.
These words were suddenly very pointed and direct—not abstract nor random.

I found myself overwhelmed…
however, I must admit, I find myself rather overwhelmed as of late most days…
both in positive and negative ways…
yet this time the sense of being overwhelmed was different.

For these particular words, on this particular day, left me overwhelmed in a
most welcomed way.

I found myself amazed, awed and greatly humbled by the fact that everything
within my life—
every big and every minute thing…
those intentional and unintentional movements of all my comings and goings…
that of the time being ticked off of my day’s ins and outs,
those of all my years in and years out…
That of my birth, my in between and that of my death…
all seen and long known by One and only One…

Yet “sin excepted”

The sin is mine, not His.

And yet His is still the knowledge…knowledge of even the sin…
Those known and unknown sins, those seen and those unseen sins…
those past, those present and those sins yet to be.

Even our very sins are known.

The actions and reactions…all known.
All seen by the one Omnipotent Creator.

Yet whereas everything is precisely ordained…the sin is not.

However He knows even of our poorer choices…the good and yes, even the bad
long before we choose. Long before we even have the choice.
He knows of those reactions…be they good or be they bad…long before
we even think to act or react.

And even in that most difficult notion of our fallen nature, I find peace.

Peace that He sees what was and that which is just as He knows what will be…
even when we ourselves have neither knowledge nor clue of what we will do
in the next 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 years…

We think we know.
We think we have an inkling of our own comings and goings..
and yet truly, we do not.

But what I do know, and I know with all certainty, is that God will continue
to bring good from bad….inspite of me and that of which I know and do not know.
And it is in that one fact that I find much rest and assurance.

“O my God, you and you alone are all wise and all knowing!
You know, you have determined everything that will happen to us from first to last.
You have ordered things in the wisest way,
and you know what will be my lot year by year until I die.
You know how long I have to live.
You know how I shall die.
You have precisely ordained everything, sin excepted.
Every event of my life is the best for me that it could be,
for it comes from you.
You bring me on year by year, by your wonderful Providence,
from youth to age, with the most perfect wisdom,
and with the most perfect love.”

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 103

“these three Persons determine my life…”

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

St. Basil the Great


(wild crabapples blossoms / Julie Cook / 2013)

“Now surely I do see what an immense effect such a doctrine
[of the Holy Trinity] must have upon life.
It is no mere question for theologians, but one that concerns every living soul.
Whatever is allowed by God’s power must be guided by His wisdom and
urged on by His love.
All that happens to me in life, the little worries and the great anxieties,
the crises and the daily annoyances, the sorrows and the joys,
the harms that reach me through the sins of others,
the great crimes of history, the huge and devastating wars,
the partings and loves and the whole cycle of human experience
are permitted by Power, which is itself wise and loving.
These three Persons determine my life, and, since I walk by faith,
I must surely grow very patient in my attitude toward life.
For how can I complain or criticize God’s Providence,
since it all comes under that triple influence of Power, Wisdom, and Love?
Under the guidance, then, of this mystery,
I can walk through the valley of death or the more perilous borders
of sin without loss of courage or hopefulness.
Nothing can make me afraid. How these are separate, yet one,
I do not know, nor can I reconcile in my concrete experience
the claims of each.
It is always a mystery, but a mystery in which I believe.
Whatever Power allows on earth is designed in Wisdom
and attuned by Love.”

Fr. Bede Jarrett, p. 10
An Excerpt From
Classic Catholic Meditations, p 10

what lessons…sure intentions

What lessons God gives us in nature if we take the time to reflect on them…
If we take the time to reflect on the meaning and
purpose revealed to us in the ordinary experiences of our lives,
the world lights up, even in the darkness.

Fr. Joseph Kelly
from On Second Thoughts: A Book of Stories


(flowers in the snow / Julie Cook/ 2017)

“It is necessary to have an absolutely sure intention in all our actions,
so that the generous fulfillment of our daily duties may be
directed toward the highest supernatural ideal.
Thus, our life, apart from moments of prayer, will be a prayerful life.
It is clear that the habit of giving an upward glance to God
at the moment of action is a great assistance in aiding us to behave
always with a pure intention and in freeing us from our
natural impulses and fancies, so, that, retaining our self-mastery,
or rather, God becoming the sole Master,
all our movements become dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
We see in the Gospel that whenever our Lord was about to
undertake some important step,
He always paused for a moment to raise His eyes to Heaven,
and only after this moment of recollection did He take up the work
He had to do.
‘He lifted up His eyes to Heaven’ is a phrase that
recurs with significant frequency.
And doubtless, when there was no outward sign of this prayer,
there was the inward offering.
The ideal is the same for us.
The constant subjection of self to the guidance of the Holy Spirit
is made easier from the fact of His presence in the soul,
where He is asked explicitly to preside over all our doings…
We shall not submit wholeheartedly to the
invisible Guest unless He is kept in close proximity to us.”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 37-8

the journey, the uncomfortable of the unfamiliar

My entire conversion was less of a journey to a foreign place,
and more of a discovery of my long-lost home.

Jennifer Fulwiler
from her book Something other than God

Change is uncomfortable.
Kirby Smart


(unseasonably warm weather has the gardenias in bloom / Julie Cook / 2022)

Perhaps it’s because it’s the start of another new year.

Perhaps it’s because so much of this said new year remains unknown.

Perhaps it’s because we long to forget the year that was..along
with the year before that…

Perhaps it’s because we are actually standing on the periphery of that
which is simply spilling out before us…

Spilling and spreading outward both far and wide…
much like a randomly tossed gallon of paint working
itself outward…spreading and covering everything in its path.

And yet frustratingly, we cannot see what that spilling and
spreading-out entails.

Nothing seems to be in focus…
All we can clearly see is that we are standing at the edge something
that reaches outward from where we currently stand…
beckoning us to follow suit.

It’s similar to standing on the edge of the sea.
We stand at the surf’s edge peering outward to a distant horizon line…
a horizon that seems to be endlessly far away yet calls us to come.

And thus we are reminded that have we have a choice.

We can either remain standing at the edge of all that is…
or…
we can set out on a journey that is calling us, nay beckoning
that we come.

Merriam Webster tells us that a journey is:
something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another

Meaning…that if we choose to move, hopefully forward
versus God forbid backward or irritatingly merely remaining in place—
we are obviously to be moving from one place to another.
As in…forward motion…with blessed great momentum.

The notion of such is not always comforting to we the creatures of habit.

We don’t like the unknown.

We don’t like the uncomfortable.

We don’t trust the unfamiliar.

Yet if there is to be growth, there must come the uncomfortable
of the unfamiliar.

And so the journey begins.

For better or worse.
For either good or bad.
The journey beckons.

The question we must ask ourselves, on the forefront of this new year..
are we ready to trust?

Are we ready to put one foot in front of the other?

The year is calling…

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the
calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

bloom more beautifully

“Be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in
this world by God for the salvation of the soul.
So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(Julie Cook / 2019)

“Strong passions are the precious raw material of sanctity.
Individuals who have carried their sinning to extremes should not despair or say,
‘I am too great a sinner to change,’or
‘God would not want me.’ God will take anyone who is willing to love,
not with an occasional gesture, but with a ‘passionless passion,
‘a ‘wild tranquility’.
A sinner, unrepentant, cannot love God,
any more than someone on dry land can swim;
but as soon as a person takes his errant energies to God and asks
for their redirection, he will become happy, as he was never happy before.
It is not the wrong things one has already done that keep one from God;
it is present persistence in that wrong.
Someone who turns back to God, as the Magdalene and Paul,
welcomes the discipline that will enable him to change his former tendencies.
Mortification is good, but only when it is done out of love of God….
Mortifications of the right sort perfect our human nature;
the gardener cuts the green shoots from the root of the bush,
not to kill the rose, but to make it bloom more beautifully.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen, p. 185

Sense of scent or the simple act of breathing

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be
inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth;
in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea,
bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where
you feel it touching the first sounds.
Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words,
appearances, emotions, or will.
The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off,
it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up,
imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Patrick Süskind


(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

(I found this little nugget from 2014 and thought it worth repeating…)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome.
When I first opened the jar, in order to use it,
I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany.

Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume,
hair permanents, and medicine, but rather the smell of sudden nearness.
It is a palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom.
I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are
readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party–
a grandmother and both of her granddaughters.
It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory
was so strong.
Not only did I smell the smells,
I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind.
The white cabinets, the double sinks…

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle.
Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff,
I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent.
Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic,
to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s.
I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a
new store that sells candles.
On a round brown table in the center of the store,
I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top.
At the time, my dad had a blue bug.
I loved the smell, sweet and light,
being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug–
I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to
the growing eclectic treasures of a teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs,
not even knowing if they still made those things.
I had brought home a box of old papers and what-nots from Dad’s.
I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling
of the minuscule critters that were already doing damage
to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin,
a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing
in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in my grandmother Mimi’s closet,
my mom’s mom.
Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s.
It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom.
I was playing hide and seek.
Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes,
shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner,
I’m now consumed with a smell, that to this day, reminds me of my grandmother.
Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting,
are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s.
To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s,
but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of
our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory.
The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents,
smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus,
the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing
of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose,
which are caught by the olfactory receptors,
allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with
those initials smells from childhood,
the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells.
Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed
to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting,
processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching,
that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume,
specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly”
just prior to the time of death or immediately following.
It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various
saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt,
followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish
customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead.
There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint
the dead body of Jesus.
There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene,
who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus.
It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body
yet some believe it symbolized his bringing the grace of forgiveness
into an unforgiving world.
This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day,
that there is indeed a change in the air.
Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm
of crackling fires…
I can smell its presence in the air.
As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind,
those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift,
sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life,
waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing…

But thanks be to God,
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being
saved and those who are perishing.
To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other,
an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.

2 Corinthians 2: 14-16