the sharing season is here…

“Wisdom cannot be imparted.
Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else…
Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom.
One can find it, live it, do wonders through it,
but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha


(black swallowtail caterpillar / Julie Cook / 2020)

Well, I knew it was just a matter of time.

The caterpillars have found the parsley.

There must be at least 15 caterpillars now making the most of my nice pot of parsley.

And so you should know that this lowly creature will…

Become this lovely creature:

And this one…

And this one…

And this one…

Will all become one of these…


(Black swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2020)

These guys, well, I moved one of their caterpillars out from the garage yesterday,
so there are no before images…only the after shots


(Eastern tiger swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2020)


(Eastern tiger swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2020)

And so now, I share…my parsley.

Yet I must confess that sometimes I’m not too keen to share certain things.
I think we all have a bit of the selfish child that remains buried within.

As adults, we know that sharing is a good thing.
And so we can bend our will in order to do what is kind, considerate and decent.
We strive to teach children to do the same.

We must teach them to share as they/we seem to come into this world
hardwired with a distinct “mine” mentality.

When I first started to keep a garden…I would get so mad at the rabbits, the crows,
the other birds, the squirrels, the deer, and yes the caterpillars, who would
all invade, dig up or purge my labors by eating seeds, the tender new shoots
or the actual fruits of said labor, my fruits and vegetables.

And then I figured out that if I planted a little extra or a few distractors, things
that would appease my thieves, I could then strike a delicate balance between
what I knew would be stolen versus what I wanted to be harvested.

And sometimes, despite my best-laid plans, it just came down to who was the fastest
on the scene.

Now granted this was not always the perfect relationship as the deer would seem to
poke their feet in the melons simply to be spiteful…or the birds would jab
each blueberry, leaving the berry on the bush, full of holes.
But if I was going to be successful with a garden…there had to be give,
take and yes, share.

And so speaking of sharing, last week when I had to go to Atlanta to keep the Mayor,
who had contracted the Sheriff’s viral infection from the previous week, the
very notion of sharing took place in the form of “rain.”

And no, I do not refer to the sort of rain that falls from the sky.

If you’ve ever been around a young child who coughs or sneezes or
God forbid, suddenly needs to throw up…well, you know that kids
don’t cover their mouths, turn away, cough into the crook of an arm, or
race to the bathroom when an emergency calls.

To a child, if it comes, whatever it might be, it comes for good or bad…
matters not who might be in its path.

So there was a puny Mayor, who was sitting on my lap last week while we were watching cartoons.
Suddenly she started sneezing…and a spray of mist subsequently blanketed my lap and legs.
Gleeful the Mayor happily announces “RAIN”!!!!

“Yes”, I sardonically noted, “it has rained…”
…as I grabbed a sacred Clorox wipe in order to wipe down my legs and arms.

So should I be surprised that I now have felt like crap for the past two days and find
myself unable to breathe due to such a cloggy nose?

No.
No, I am not surprised.

For a sick child shared her “rain” with me.

And well, despite the shelves being long bare of Clorox wipes…
the sacred canister we had on hand was simply no match for the Mayor.

And so why do we seem so mystified when folks continue getting that
Wuhan flu??? That COVID mess?
Why do we ponder as to how it keeps making the rounds?

Sharing just seems to happen…even when we try being selfish.
No matter the best precautions, the best-laid plans…sharing is going to happen
whether we want it to or not.

Oh and for the record…that poison ivy…well, it keeps sharing too.

Everything seems to want to share…all the wrong sort of things!!!

So regarding the following verse, just know that God did not mean that we should share
our germs…but other more treasured items and deeds….
the germ part is just part and parcel of being alive.

The good and bad.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16

can’t go back…lessons from the road

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slips away
Cause your baby is so far away.
Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
Don’t sit cryin’ over good things you’ve had
,
Lyrics, The Isley Brothers


(the main stairwell in the Biltmore House / Ashville, NC / Julie Cook / 2020)

About a week or so ago,
I wrote a post bemoaning the fact that I had cared for sick grandkids who in turn,
unintentionally, gave me their sickness.

It seems that germs just love to travel and share themselves.
Just like the song by the Isley Brothers, you gotta love the ones you’re with…
germs will love any and all… whoever they are with or even near.

But this is NOT another post chattering on about coronavirus or the flu or any other bug.

This post is rather about adventure…
Or better yet…this is a post about lessons.

In that previous post, I had made mention that we had had a little impromptu adventure
while trying to escape all this unrelenting rain…

About two weeks ago, we were sitting in the house… sick and tired of sitting in the house.
It had rained for almost the entire month of February.
It was our wettest February on record.

Let’s get away” I proclaimed
My husband agreed.

We threw some things in a bag and headed north.
About a 4-hour drive north.

It had been years since we’d visited the Biltmore House
and thus that would be our destination.

We opted to stay at the Inn on the property,
spending the following day visiting the house,
then we would drive around the mountains before heading home.
Short and sweet.

And most importantly, it was minus the rain.

But then there was the snow.

However, let’s back up 40 years.

Back in 1980, I was a college student who had no real feel for what I wanted to do with my life.
I thought I knew.
I thought I had known.
I wanted to work with kids.
I wanted to write.
I wanted to work in advertising.
I wanted to meet a nice boy.
I wanted to get married and I wanted to be a mom.

I bounced back and forth between each different course and college major that were
more or less, a flavor of the day regime.

I have written about this journey when I first started blogging.
It was about how I finally made my way into teaching.

It was the summer of 1980 when my angst and turmoil finally came into focus in the
middle of the mountains of North Carolina.
Specifically, Black Mt., NC.

I had taken a job at a Christian summer camp for girls as a camp counselor—
Riflery Director oddly enough.

I spent my summers working at the camp until I graduated and made my
way to my first teaching post.
It was a position that would last 31 years.

So before we set out on this little adventure,
I asked my husband if we could drive over to Black Mt,
find a little inn for a night and spend an afternoon
wandering the little town before going to see the camp.

Knowing how important this place once was to me,
he knew he was now simply along for the ride.

When we started out from home on this northward drive,
we took an off-the-beaten-path route.
Many two and four-lane roads avoiding much of the interstate.
Crossing over into NC from Georgia, just before entering the Nantahala forest,
I caught sight of a homemade sign perched along the side of the road…
sitting boldly in plain sight.

It was a conversation bubble sign.
One conversation bubble read: “God, why won’t you send us someone who will help us?
The response bubble read: “I did, but you aborted them”

A powerful thought to chew on and get lost in while driving.

Our visit to the Biltmore was brief but enjoyable.
It had been meant to be our diversion,
a brief respite from our temperate rainy winter.

But then…it snowed.

The snow was pretty as it gently covered the mountains.
It was a gift from the relentless rain we had left back home.
Soft and silent.
White and muting.
A fitting and tender offering.

The small town of Black Mt. is about a 15-minute drive east from Ashville on I-40 or about
20 minutes via Hwy 70.

It was my home for several summers…a place that had left
and indelible mark upon my heart, soul and on the person who I would grow to be.

My former boss and dear friend, the camp’s director, had passed away several years away,
leaving the camp to now be run by two of his sons.

I had been very close to the older of the two boys.

At the time, he was instrumental in the growth of my Christian faith.

He was one of those individuals who you knew had a relationship with
Christ that transcended both time and space.
There was a depth not normally seen in “normal” Christians.
There was a mysticism.
There was a sense that He was privy to something that was not experienced by many others.
It was so much greater than…

There was a diligence to his faith.
A detachment from the world, yet done so graciously and most willingly.
It was a relationship that had been tried in a furnace…
a furnace so hot that it had burned away all the dross.

It was a relationship that I marveled over from afar.
A relationship that I wanted yet always felt as if it was just beyond my reach.

During that time, I had also become close friends with another counselor.
She and I both were attending the same college,
however, we had not met until our summers working at camp.

She was a hungry and joyous Christian..strong and uncompromising in her faith.

The three of us became quite the trio.
I earned the name slugly…the questioning one who always seemed to be
lagging a step behind.
The one who still had the one foot in the world.

Despite my now almost manic positive spin on life,
I carried a heavy black cloud.

Most often my friend and I both felt like students sitting at
the feet of a master teacher as we learned so very much from our older and wiser friend.

His had once been a hard and rough life.
We were fortunate to have met him long after the darkness.
We were the grateful recipients of the light now shining through him.

Yet as life would have it, we remained as close as we could,
as our lives simply took us each on different journeys.
I married first, followed by our friend then finally my fellow counselor friend,
found her true love.

Three different states, jobs, children, and life, made the years race past with less and less contact.

What might I find after 40 years?

I felt a sense of heaviness and nervousness…a journey of trepidation.
The excitement of what might be was shadowed by both what was and what
had passed.

I knew that the camp had grown and even changed.
A boys camp and also a climbing adventure camp has become spin-offs of the
original girls camp. Things were much larger and not as intimate.

Billy Graham was the camp’s neighbor, living on the neighboring mountain top
and Montreat College was less than a mile up the road.

Graham was now gone but the college was still there having, like everything else,
grown and expanded.

We drove up from the what was once a sleepy mountain town that has since boomed
into a buzzing home to artists, breweries and eclectic eateries–
a top NC mountain must-see travel destination crowned by all things southern
and travel, Southern Living…crowned as one of America’s most charming small towns.

I pulled into the familiar hemlock lined gravel drive leading up to the main house…
and that’s when I stopped the car for the briefest of moments before quickly deciding to turn around…
simply driving back to town.

Just like that.

With all that growing anticipation and wonderment I felt during our drive from home…
in the end, I knew that the girl who had spent her summers in this small part of the world
had, in the end, moved on.

I decided to drive back leaving what was.. simply to be.

Later that evening, once back in town,
we started walking the couple of blocks from our Inn to the trendy new restaurant
that had been recommended to us.

While walking rather briskly, shielding ourselves against the bitter cold,
a group of college-age young folks fell in line behind us on the sidewalk.

All we could hear was ‘F’ this and ‘F’ that as they weren’t but
a few steps behind.
There were no filters, no restraints, no consideration for our obvious older ears,
that was for sure

They were loud and raucous, cursing as if uttering simple words in conversation.
I turned and smiled while giving that knowing look of
“hey, consider the other folks in your surroundings
as your language just might not be suitable let alone appreciated
by those in such close earshot.”

The loudest gal in the group just looked at me, not missing a beat
with her profanity-laced chatter.

Thankfully they veered off to head into one of the local watering holes
while we kept walking.

Aggravated by the thought that the one place I had always held somewhat sacred
and somewhat protected,
as it had been just that for me all these years ago, was now just like any other place invaded by
a youthful, progressive left-leaning, mindset as I saw many a Bernie, pro-choice, coexist, and all
things feminist stickers stuck on the cars parked along the sidewalks.

With the crisp mountain air now laced with cigarette smoke, the sweet scent of weed and stale beer,
I could feel my shoulders slump just a tad.

There was now a heavy dose of melancholy and irony found in being just the other side of
Ashville…the home to the great writer, Thomas Wolfe…

Wolfe was right you know…we can’t go home again.
Home is never the same.
The then is no longer as it is simply the now.

I was clearly reminded that our home is truly not of this earth.
Our peace will not ever be found here despite our constant searching.

For we are indeed strangers in a strange land…
We seek a home where we know our hearts will finally be at rest…
it is our life’s innate quest really.
Seeking a home that is beyond that which we have known…a home
that is eternal and somewhere just beyond those mountains I once
considered my haven of peace.

I think that’s what my friend had known all those years ago…it just took
me forty years to figure it out.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,
which wage war against your soul.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,
so that when they speak against you as evildoers,
they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

The world is flat…is that really a good thing?

“This sort of thing reduces my mind to a pulp.
I can faintly resist when a man says that if the earth were a globe, cats would not have four legs;
but when he says that if the earth were a globe, cats would not have five legs I am crushed.”

G.K. Chesterton


(Live Science / Image: © Shutterstock)

Not sure where Chesterton was going with the 4 legged vs 5 legged cat thing but
no, this isn’t a post about flat earthers vs round sphere folks.

As far as I’m concerned, the earth is a lovely white and blue-green orb diligently orbiting
around its sun.
Orbiting happily along with it’s fellow 7 or 8 planets,
depending on where you are regarding camp Pluto.
Throw in several moons along with the occasional asteroid…
and it’s a pretty merry little solar system.

So 4 and 5 legged cats aside, what I’m talking about today is something
rather odd..it’s from a conversation I once endured…
and yes, it is odder than the notion 4 vs 5 legged cats.

It was a comment that came from a man who considered himself some sort
of a global authority.
He was a doctor at Emory University and was a most arrogant individual who
I had the distinct displeasure of dining with.

There I sat in a small restaurant, in a small north Georgia town,
back in 2007 for more than over an hour munching on a poor excuse for pasta.
I was listening to a loud pompous man extolling the virtues of how our children
(our two sons who were supposed to be college roommates at the time) who were, in his mind
at the time, a part of the generation who were to be living in this brave new flat world.

If he said flat earth once, he said it a thousand times.

At the time, I had to jiggle my head in order to get my eyes from sticking
to the top of my head.

It was that same sense of brain irritation experienced when our school system jumped
on the paradigm shift thinking bandwagon…the word paradigm was the “it” word
for about two years…I felt as if we shifted so much that we actually tied ourselves in knots.
New thinking knots, but knots none the less.

So during this ‘get to know one another’ dinner, this doctor expert went on and on
as he extolled how exciting it was that our sons were to now be a part of this great exciting
global flatness.

It was, however, the underlining of what his grandiose grandstanding actually meant…
it meant that the world was now a place of quick and readily available communication and travel.
Instant communication, instant availability, instant information…
all readily available at the touch of a button or from the hoping on a plane.

Skyping, video conferencing, texting, red-eye flights whisking us from one side of the
world to the next.
In the blink of an eye, we could all be readily and rapidly connected.
We could live in one city while working in another while connecting with a partner
on a global scale all within a matter of moments.

We were now moving about our very round world as easily as we could within our own home.
How grand.
How exciting.
How empowering.

And that revelation, which was issued 13 years ago, came racing back to my thoughts today
as I pondered this latest illness that is making the global rounds.

Coronavirus.

I am currently nursing my “jamesitis” —my current 31 flavors of illnesses named for my grandson…
all because I kept him last week while he was sick and in turn, I am now sick with what he had.

A small microcosm of the matter of how what one person has is readily passed to another person.

Our flat world makes it all so quick and easy to pass and to share…
sharing a great deal more than simple information.

We readily share our germs just as we readily share our thoughts, words, hopes, and dreams.

So why do we act so surprised?
Why do we seem so aghast over the fact that this virus is jumping from nation to nation,
all within the blink of an eye, when we readily hopscotch from nation to nation.

Germs spread just as quickly as our fastest speedily mode of transportation.

Our foods, our products, our wants, our desires all crisscross our globe
in the blink of an eye.
FedEx, UPS, the Postal service, DHL…we click, we ship and in turn we receive
within hours.

So why do we act as if this latest illness is a plague sent by Moses to shake
Pharaoh’s resolve?

We have allowed a cousin of the common cold to take our economy to its knees.
Our news media has cast the death knell.
We must don masks, bath in hand sanitizer and put bells around the necks of the infected.

It is certainly not my intention to make light of the seriousness of an illness…
When one is sick, there is nothing worse and it as if nothing exists outside of
that illness.

However, I do worry about the hype, the misconceptions and the malicious use of an illness
by those who do not have the best interest of the ill at heart.

It would not be the first time that an illness or misfortune was used by some
of the more insidious among us in order to produce some sort of twisted gain
or step up.

A flat world means a more traversed world.
And with a greater means to traverse…we must, therefore, take both the good
and the bad with such desired traversing.

There should be no surprise.
No mystery.

The germs come along, hand in hand with the business deals, the travel dreams
and the long-sought goods of commerce.

Now it’s up to us to cull the panic and equip our moving world with the
means to keep moving.

We must be smart.
We must execute educated caution but we must not give in to the
news lead mania of demise.

Could demise be political gain or ruin?
Could demise be economic gain or ruin?
Could demise be humankind’s gain or ruin?

Despite our desire for flatness, we are still round.
We have our vulnerabilities…for we are just human you know, not gods as we so
wish within our excitement for flatness.

This is not the plague…
But yet is it not exposing an Achilles heel?
Does it not expose our weaknesses or perhaps our strengths?
Does it not reinforce our wants versus our needs?

We are round yet our desire is for flatness…

We must always understand the costs that come with our wants.
We never worry about such until it is nearly too late.
How many more chances will be afforded before we either get it right…or not?

The Spirit and the Bride say,
“Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.”
And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them,
God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,
God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city,
which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says,
“Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22:17-20