in or out… or both

“There are three kinds of men.
The one that learns by reading.
The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

Will Rogers

DSCN3673
(my cat Percy who wants the best of both worlds / Julie Cook / 2016)

You and I want it both ways.
The best of both worlds.
You know, the whole having our cake and eating it too scenario.

Sadly, I just think it’s in our nature.

Take my cat for example.

Percy is a rescue.
Percy, short for Perseverance.
Long story…
I’ve written about him and his story on a previous post entitled “my best friend”…

Percy has no bottom teeth…due to a horrific injury he endured at the hands of some bad humans…
Bad humans who had an encounter with him when he was just a few weeks old.

As a tiny kitten he came to us in a near death condition…
And because he has had to have several repairs (aka surgeries to deal with smashed teeth)
he is strictly an indoor cat.
Sometimes much to his chagrin.

We live in a rural part of our county where more things than bad humans prowl about.
Coyotes and fox are keen to set their sights on family pets.
Having no teeth for defense can be problematic—so indoor he is.

Percy has access to our back deck.
A deck that is basically two stories off the ground and would spell the breaking of limbs
should anyone, cat or human, decide to jump.
So everyone seems content just to sit and relax.

The deck is covered and protected from the elements…with the exception being the heat.
The black awning seems to only intensify the summer sun’s heat.
It is therefore for that very dangerous hot reason that I keep Percy inside during the heat of the day.

Percy enjoys his early mornings and late afternoons lounging on “his” deck.
He watches the hummingbirds and will occasionally “hunt” a wandering wasp…
which results in a usually painful hunting experience…

I leave the kitchen door to the deck slightly ajar when he’s out on the deck.
Loud noises, from both passing trucks and motorcycles, terrify him.
Upon hearing any loud vehicle noise, Percy will frantically push the door open, flying into the house.
I think it goes back to his traumatic childhood experience with the cruel humans.

As the morning wears on and the heat sets in, Percy likes to push open the door and lazily lumber into the kitchen where he will immediately plop down on the cool wood floor enjoying cool while keeping “his” door to his kingdom open for easy viewing and easy access.

This is problematic.

It is neither wise nor cost effective in the South, in the dead heat of summer, to leave a door open allowing for the hot heat from the outside to enter into the comfortable AC cooled inside..nor is it wise having the cool AC from the inside…escaping to the hot heat outside…
either way, you get the point.

This is a real sticking point with my husband.
He tends to get very angry whenever he spies the door just sitting wide open while no one is near…
as he sees money exiting the door.
He has that gift…
The gift of seeing invisible money flying out both doors and windows when no one is looking.

So I have two choices…
Stop leaving the door ajar, therefore causing Percy to have apoplexy while being stuck outside near loud noises…
Or,
I don’t let him out, period.

Or…there is a third choice…I could teach Percy to close the door.
Which would be perfect…
yet sadly I don’t think I would live long enough for him to master such a feat.
He’s a slow learner.

So a conundrum has arisen.

Percy wants the best of both worlds.
He wants in and out…both at the same time.
He doesn’t understand why that is not a good idea.

I think we are a lot like Percy…
We, as in me and you, want the best of all our worlds.

We want to have our cake and eat it too.
We don’t want to be told what we can and cannot do.
We don’t want God, the Church, or anyone for that matter, telling us what we can and cannot do.
We like our world, our things, our gizmos and our gadgets…
We like our vices, our often poor choices and the things that we know are actually bad for us.
We like our possessions, our shiny baubles, our stuff…
We don’t want to “sacrifice” or give up our wants…
We have mastered the fine art of convincing and justifying every aspect of our lives.

If we must give up “this,” then we’ll make do with “that.”
We’re ok with trading, just not sacrificing.

We prefer sitting on the fence with the world on one side and God on the other.
Sitting in the middle makes perfect sense….
We think if we can keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven, it’s all good.
We think that’s all zen-like as we have the perfect harmony of balance…
hence, the best of both worlds….

But what we don’t get, what we fail to understand and comprehend,
is that we’re balancing between Heaven and Hell…

and that is problematic.

God is not an either or sort of Creator.
He’s never been big on us having our cake and eating it too…as that just doesn’t work.
He never said that we could keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven.
He’s always been an all our nothing sort of Creator…

He did not say that He would share us with Satan.
He said we are His and His alone…

Yet…
and here’s the rub…
He then turned around and gave us the final choice to decide.

We can either be His and His alone….
or…
not…
Our choice.

The only thing is, we can’t be both…
end of sentence…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go close a door…

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

Beauty in the details

“The beauty of the natural world lies in the details.”
— Natalie Angier

Once the vibrant colorful leaves of Autumn give way to the dismal browns and grays of winter’s decay. . .as the leaves gently fall, or are more aptly blown away, from the trees and bushes by the great winds of the north— Mother Nature begins to reveal a few of her little secrets.

DSCN2574

Just when we begin settling into thinking the visual wonders and colorful overloads of the previous seasons have come and gone, leaving us visually empty and hungry as we prepare to live in a world of muted tones, we are kindly offered a tasty little morsel or two of her visual surprises.

It may be when we dash outside in order to gather a couple of sticks of wood for the fire that we delightfully discover who, or better yet what, has lived within the cover of the leaves– tucked deep within and protected behind the multiple layers of branches surprisingly under our very noses without so much as the first inkling of existence—be it a bird, a fox, a rabbit. . .

DSCN2568

There is a thorny mound of a bush just off to the side of the driveway. Originally the mound started out as three little crimson leaved barberry bushes. Given the very nature of a barberry bush, the concept of pruning and maintaining becomes quite a tricky sticky business—-which in turn makes a barberry an ideal “home” for an adept little creature—in this case, a small wren.

DSCN2573

Whenever I have to tend to or with the barberry “bush”, I always fondly recall the children’s classic story by the southern author Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus. Say what you wish about the book, the stories, the author— I have always found the book a classic tale intertwined to and with a time long ago as it possesses a delightful innocence of folklore and imagination—a post Civil War Aesop’s fable of the American South…nothing more, nothing less.

Brer Rabbit, finding himself in the company of his nemesis Brer Fox, avoids an untimely demise, once again, by begging not to be flung into the briar patch–“do anything but throw me into the briar patch” Brer Rabbit begs—upon which Brer Fox flings Brer Rabbit into the briars. It wasn’t until I was an adult, tangling with my own “briar patch” that I understood the sage logic of Brer Rabbit.

And it appears that the wrens, as well as the mockingbirds and the blue jays also understand the logic of Brer Rabbit. . .

DSCN2569

DSCN2575
(images of a wren’s nest in the barberry bush in Julie’s yard / 2013)

Nothing is hidden

DSC00834

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Luke 8:17

We have a large pasture behind our house, about 6 acres. At one point our neighbor thought it a good idea to have a few cows. She is more or less a “gentleman farmer”, or in her case, gentlewoman. When she realized the cows had no profit margin, there went the cows. The pasture is now grown up in tall grass, not having been bush-hogged (also known as cutting/mowing it), in a couple of years.

It is not unsightly as it is really quite pretty in a rugged way. There are crabapple trees, which smell heavenly when blooming, along with a smattering of dogwoods that dot the pasture with popcorn white blossoms–but there is always the tall grass. Depending on the season, the grass captures the sun’s light, rewarding anyone who notices a dazzling palette of color.

One thing I’ve noticed is that this is an area of secrets. The overgrowth provides excellent cover for prey and predator alike. Each evening, at the same time, a group, of usually no less than 5 deer, seem to emerge out of this blanket of cover, crossing into our yard to nibble on our nice green grass. We’ve started putting out some corn in order to supplement their grazing– especially in the summer months when most of the vegetation dries up due to our recurring droughts.

Our kitchen window overlooks our backyard and the pasture, providing a wonderful viewing platform to watch the deer, various birds, the occasional wild turkey, the rabbits and fox. One of our cats enjoys meandering down to the edge of our yard and the pasture, imagining herself, I suppose, as a lioness surveying the savannah. She can sit for hours mesmerized watching the swaying grass and no doubt any small creature that stirs about. Mind you, the only thing she chases are butterflies, so all small animals and birds know they are perfectly safe.

It was, however, the other evening that I became quite alarmed. My husband and I were about to sit down to dinner when he noticed something ominous appearing almost magically out of the brush. It was a lone coyote. A troublesome predator in our region.

The coyote has all but decimated the wild quail population in Georgia as well as proving devastating to the wild turkey as they are opportunistic feeders, taking the eggs or young chicks of these birds. They are also becoming quite good at taking baby fawns and the pets of local residence. Not to mention the troubling rabies issue that can accompany wild animals.

We ran out on to the deck hollering at the uninvited visitor, scaring it away– for now. Needless to say that I now watch my cat, not letting her out without me following. Often I can hear the spine tingling sound of a pack of coyotes wailing off in the surrounding woods.

This all reminds me that what is good for some animals, providing cover and protection,– also provides the top tier food chain predators with the necessary element of stealthy surprise. I don’t much like that, but unfortunately that is nature’s way. It’s just that I will do my part helping those more helpless animals to stay “safe”–as long as they are in or near my yard.

A daunting task no doubt and not the most practical, but I feel I must do my part to help the ones who are struggling to survive in numbers, hang on a bit longer, as the drama of life and death unfolds in my backyard all within a beautiful overgrown pasture. Hidden secrets indeed.