She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

ignorance is bliss…

“Whatever the cost of our liberties, the price is cheap
compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

Walter Cronkite

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(a sandpiper busy looking for breakfast / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

There’s something afoot…
I can feel it…

Something perhaps in the air…

And no,
it’s not a change in season…
It’s not an approaching weather front…

It’s simply more of a feeling…
An odd unsettling feeling…

You know…
it’s like that feeling or sense that animals seem to get just before some
impending natural disaster…such as an earthquake or some other epic trauma.

An out of sorts sort of uncomfortable feeling…

It’s like taking your hand and running it along the grain of a plank of raw wood.
Although the wood is not sanded nor smoothed, along the grain one’s hand
may run the course of the plank without fear of cuts or splinters.
But the minute you decide to run your hand back in the opposite direction,
you are stopped immediately with the bristling of the wood repelling your touch.

That’s how things feel…
as if I’m running my hand against the grain..
there is oddly no smoothness to the flow…
rather a herky jerky uncomfortableness.

Of course you will tell me that life has been doling out its fair share
of uncomfortableness in my little corner of the world…
between dad, changes, legal matters, deaths, moves, discs and nerves…
that’s got to be it… right?

To which I say no to all of that…

I will confess that I’ve stopped watching any national news….
with local news now on a very limited basis…

Sick of it all quite frankly.

Pretty much sick of watching anything about us as a nation these days…
For a weary pall has been cast.

It’s now hard to even watch any sporting events
as they too have taken to marching in the latest political fracas…

We’ve made it hard, you and I and this nation of ours…

Not just because of anthems,
or debates,
or the raging news,
or the media firestorms,
or the never ending three ring circuses,
nor even an impending election…

and I’m thinking that I won’t even bother to vote..
the first time I’ve ever considered such…
but there’s not much point now is there?

But the signs…
they’ve been all about us.
They’ve been there for quite some time…
Yet we’ve refused to pay them any mind.

We’ve all heard and seen the warnings…
but yet we’ve refused to acknowledge any of it…
any of it for what it is…
Because to acknowledge is to admit that we’ve been wrong…
and we don’t like to do that…
we don’t like being wrong.

We are a cake and eat it too type of nation.
Land of opportunity…
because doesn’t opportunity mean having cake and getting to eat it?

We accept every and any sort of choice and lifestyle and decision
because that’s what we’re all about…freedom
for the land of opportunity and freedom means it’s all good because we’re all free…
free to choose and free to decide….

Forget that there are grave responsibilities that come with freedom,
as well as with…
choice,
and opportunity,
and cake,
and even eating…

We’ve even made it pretty darn clear that we don’t like having a God who is just that,
God.
We’ve decided we want our God to be a feel good god…
one who is all accepting, all tolerable and certainly for all choices…
and don’t forget about loving,
because of course he, she or even it must be loving…

Because we’ve decided that that’s what a God should be,
someone who is all about loving and acceptance and only good things…
Because we like good things…always happy, always bliss…

We want nothing to do with the business of
warnings,
harbingers,
rules (aka commandments)
covenants,
death,
dying,
pain,
suffering,
responsibility,
obedience…

So yes…
I keep sensing something unsettling,
something uncomfortable,
maybe even something foreboding…

“Ignore it” you say …
because remember,
ignorance is indeed bliss…
and we all want bliss….

When the Lord God decides to do something,
he will first tell his servants, the prophets.
When a lion roars, people are frightened.
When the Lord God speaks, a prophet must prophesy.

Go to the high towers in Ashdod and in Egypt and announce this message from the Lord:
“Come together on the mountains of Samaria.
See the great confusion there because the people don’t know how to live right.
See how cruel they are to others. They take things from people to hide
in their high towers.
Their treasuries are filled with the things they have taken in war.”

So the Lord God says, “An enemy will surround your land.
They will break down your strong walls and take the things
you have hidden in your high towers.”

The Lord says,
“A lion might attack a lamb,
and a shepherd might try to save the lamb.
But the shepherd will save
only a part of that lamb.
He might pull two legs
or a part of an ear from the lion’s mouth.
In the same way, most of the people of Israel will not be saved.
Those who live in Samaria will save only a corner from a bed,
or a piece of cloth from a couch.”

This is what the Lord God All-Powerful says:
“Warn the family of Jacob about these things.
Israel sinned, and I will punish them for their sins.
And when I do, I will also destroy the altars at Bethel.
The horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground.
I will destroy the winter house with the summer house.
The houses of ivory will be destroyed.
Many houses will be destroyed.”
This is what the Lord said.

Amos 3: 7-15

Signs

“When you know that something’s going to happen, you’ll start trying to see signs of its approach in just about everything. Always try to remember that most of the things that happen in this world aren’t signs. They happen because they happen, and their only real significance lies in normal cause and effect. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you start trying to pry the meaning out of every gust of wind or rain squall. I’m not denying that there might actually be a few signs that you won’t want to miss. Knowing the difference is the tricky part.”
― David Eddings

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak! Bury a sheep, and nothing happens but decay.”
George Bernard Shaw

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(the signs of things to come in this black oak tree, a myriad of forming acorns / Julie Cook / 2014)

Sitting out on the back deck yesterday evening, something up in the nearby oak tree caught my eye.
“What in the world?!” I hear myself asking out loud to the cat.
Ok, so my asking the cat ‘what’s up in the tree’ is for an entirely different sort of post–let’s just stick to the current question at hand—and that happens to be what’s up in the oak tree.

Thinking I know the answer to my own question, I dash inside searching for the camera—remember, it’s never where one needs it, when one wants it.
Finally locating and immediately grabbing said camera, I zoom back out to the deck in order to zoom in on the tops of the tree.

Yep, I knew it—the tree is loaded with acorns.

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“And that means what?” you’re wondering. . .
It’s a sign silly.
“A sign?”
Yes, as in a sign, a prognostication, perhaps even a harbinger.
“A harbinwho?
Harbinger—as in an ominous foreshadowing of things to come.
Of course I suppose it doesn’t have to be all that dark and sinister—it can be a heralder or announcement of something maybe positive to come—

“Such as?”

A hard winter or not a hard winter.

“Hummmm. . . ”

I have noticed a couple of wooly bears.
“Wooly who’s?”
Wooly bear caterpillars–those prickly black and reddish caterpillars which make their presence known this time of year.
They’re harbingers too you know.
As in harbingers of a bad winter.

However I suppose it is only the middle of July. . . Who wants to think about let alone chatter about harbingers and winter when it seems most of us are still trying to forget this past winter ?!
And anyway, in case anyone was paying attention, St Swithin’s day was Tuesday, July 15th.
As in:

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.’

All of which means that it was hot and sunny here on Tuesday. According to St Swithin— it’s going to be hot and dry for the next 40 days!
Do you have any idea what that’s going to mean for my plants and my water bill?!?!?

As a former girl scout, I do think it is always best to be prepared. . .
One certainly never knows when the weather is going to change.
Keeping watch for the harbingers and signs of impending change is most important. . .

And now if you will please excuse me—I need to go out and check on those bulls across the street. . .if they’re laying down, you can count on that needed rain!! St Swithin or not!

more of those blasted harbingers

When clouds appear, wise men put on their cloaks;
When great leaves fall, the winter is at hand;
When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?

Shakespeare Richard III, 2.3

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(the swarm at Julie’s / Julie Cook 2013)

You think you’re seeing a cute pretty little ladybug. So sweet and cute you say. So cute when a 3 year old little girl is dressed as one for Trick or Treat but not so cute when hundreds descend upon your world—-as is exactly what is playing out throughout the southeastern States the past couple of weeks, with my house being in the middle of the fray.

This is just the one “lady” out of many that I could actually follow long enough to zoom in on– all the hundreds of other little friends where busy scooting where I know not and flitting also to where I know not—but not inside my house thank you very much!! By George, not in my house!!!

This time of year. . . it’s always this time of year. . . like I said, this time of year, when the weather first turns cool, then turns back mild, which will in turn switch back to cool, then cold— the ladybug—better known as the Ladybird beetle, THE Asian Ladybird beetle, will gather en masse to find a place to “winter”. . .like my house looks like a place to “winter” ?! I think not!!

Why everything likes to “masse” up this time of year is beyond my soul. First it was the grackles, or blackbirds, who swarm together during the winter making for very noisy and quickly moving black clouds seen and heard dashing through the sky. Then it was the herd of wooly bear caterpillars scurrying across busy roads giving no never mind to the tires heading their way. Next it was the squirrels darting about my yard gobbling up every acorn in sight as if they know of some sort of looming acorn shortage. And now—-it is the attack of the ladybugs!

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One must be very careful when opening a door around here lest a handful of these “ladies” flit inside. Do you know how annoying it is to sit down to supper, enjoying something warm and wonderful, when suddenly you look down on the edge of your plate as something scooting along the rim has just caught your eye. Disconcerting indeed.

If all of the things that I have been “witnessing” and observing, these past couple of weeks, are true indicators of winter, then Georgia is in deep trouble. Perhaps I should alert some state official, or perhaps the Governor to ready the sand trucks. We all know what happens to the roads and drivers in the South when the “s” word arrives. We don’t like saying it out loud as it makes kids go crazy, drivers even crazier and our local weathermen, nuts.

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I certainly don’t claim to be any sort of soothsayer or prophet by any means but obviously “things” are all trying to tell me something. All I know is that if the frogs start falling from the sky, I’m packing my bags . . .