Ironies and anniversaries

“Don’t underestimate the value of irony—it is extremely valuable.”
Henry James

DSC01985
(a lone gull on the shore of Henderson St Park, Florida / Julie Cook / 2015)

32 years ago yesterday I got married.
Blessedly, I’m still married. . .to the same fella—loving him more today than I knew how to love back then. . .funny how that works—but Praise God it does!!
Fine wine and hearts do indeed seem to get better with time—or in my case they have, thankfully.
And yes, I know, it was a “dad day” yesterday but sometimes going over to take Dad to the doctors trumps a circled date on a calendar.

Traffic was a nightmare, which in turn put me in panic mode thinking that I wouldn’t / couldn’t get to him in time and we’d miss the appointment for sure.
But as luck would have it, or as I like to think Divine Intervention, we made it at 10:15 on the dot. Never mind we waited about 40 minutes until we saw a doctor. . .he, we, by George, were on time!

The follow-up was good, staying the course with the meds. His weight is still way down but he is back on his chocolates so maybe things will improve. Frail, pale and craving anything chocolate–could be worse.

My stepmother was in bed on a self imposed day of being in the bed—there have been a good many of those as of late. . .so I got them both lunch and went back to my old bed room the office to sort through the latest stack of mail and bills.

Sitting at the desk, the desk that was actually his as a little boy, a desk I never particularly liked when I was little as it was made out of wormwood—a hot commodity in the antique world these days but I thought it terrible to have furniture in the house worms had eaten. . .of which now sits in the room where I “grew up,” a room I found as both refuge as well as grossly claustrophobic. . .

I was suddenly struck by the irony of the moment. . .

August 13, 1983 was a summer’s day with a brilliant blue sky. There were no clouds as the humidity was surprisingly low yet it was still hot as hell as it was August and it was Atlanta for Heaven’s sake, so there were no surprises there.

Early that morning, I was in my room gathering the last of my things in order to schlep them over to the church so I could finish getting dressed. The room had been pretty much stripped of every and any remaining vestige of my having spent the last 23 years in that room as everything had been dismantled and boxed, with a good bit being moved to the house that I would soon be calling my own—a good 75 mile drive away–at the time, 750 miles would have suited me.

I was getting married at noon, to a man I had not dated very long—much to my mother’s and godmother’s chagrin—each had their reasons but the chief number one bother was that neither of them knew this young man, not to mention that he was 10 years older than his bride to be. . .

I’ve written about all of that before so I won’t bother with retelling that story. . .rest assured however, it’s had a happy ending.

My family had been the epitome of dysfunctional and I was quite happy about the prospect of getting the heck out of Dodge, so to speak. All I ever wanted to do was to find “Mr Right,” get married, and have a family of my own—- getting my very own chance at making that whole marriage and family thing right as my family had been the poster child of everything a family probably shouldn’t be.

There was no remorse in walking out of the room, no sense of nostalgia that had me linger while wistfully thinking back over life.
I was ready to go.
To move on to the next chapter of my life.
No looking back longingly with that familiar tinge of melancholy. . .
It was onward and upward with no regrets. . .
I was happy and resolute—time to get this show on the road, as in literally!

And anyway, it wasn’t like I was still living at home. I had taken a teaching position in a small town about an hour away, so I had already tasted independence. . .
Yet. . .
there was a very deep need within me to shake the dust from my feet. . .free from that room and from that house.

So here I was, finding myself 32 years later to the day and time, back in that same room and in that same house.
This time I had my 26 year old son in tow to help me with getting dad to the doctor’s office.

The dysfunction is still there, it’s just that now it’s different.
My mom has been gone almost 30 years next month. That in itself is hard to grasp.
I’ve also written about that tale before. . .about having to go to the house that fateful evening—of how I had to spend the night back in my room, while I began helping Dad in the very long, decades long, chore of putting the pieces back together. . .

Dad has since remarried.
Sadly their lives are now currently topsy turvy. . .

And oddly there I was. . .right back in that same room I had tried to shake from my feet, sitting at a desk I once never liked, paying bills and attempting to manage the lives of those other than my own–

Thomas Wolfe once wrote that we can’t ever go back home. And to some degree he’s right.
We can’t go back to what was and who we were. . . for good or for bad. . .
Life and time changes all of that—
Yet the thing is– we can go back sort of. . .We can go back different than who we were before. . .
we can go back changed, older, wiser, better.
That’s the thing about time—it dims the mind, the pain, the memories—and that whole Life thing helps in procuring focus—focus on what really matters, what’s really important. . .
all of which is all sprinkled with a hearty dose of maturity. . .

However there is one pivotal factor which allows us to return back to where we often began, it is the most changing of factors–the one that provides both healing and forgiveness, courage and hope. . .
that being Grace. . .

The Grace I received from the Holy Spirit.
The Grace that has allowed me to go back, to the beginning, to the place that wasn’t always good or happy to a place that continues to have trouble, and do what I need to do—demonstrate that same Grace in like turn. . .

So as my thoughts turned toward time and even fine wine on the day of milestones. . .as in there’s just nothing like that fine bottle of wine. . .I thought of life, my life and how both need to be equally well aged. . .

Cheers to 32 years and going. . .

Paying attention

“Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.”
James Cook, British Explorer

Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.
Antisthenes

DSC01843
(preening gulls / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook /2015 )

Attention verses inattention verses distraction verses indifference verses cynicism verses . . .

Living in a world full of gadgets and gizmos, internet and facebook, cell phones and ear phones,
Each vying for your time, your focus, your attention. . .are you missing the bigger picture?

Flags flap, genders clash, rights obscure, as the baby is thrown out, over and over, with the bathwater. . .are you missing the point?

Masses riot, burning and looting, while everyone’s shooting as tolerance and anger dance a dangerous waltz. . .are you missing the fire for the smoke?

Minorities rule as majorities fool with everyone more confused than before. . .are you missing the boat?

Marriages verses rights as bakeries fight refusing to make the cake. . .are you sitting on the fence

The world is changing as the enemies converge but everyone’s too busy to notice. . .

Listen and hear my voice;
pay attention and hear what I say.

Psalm 128:23

At peace

“There is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset.”
― G.K. Chesterton

DSC01800
(the sun slips to the horizon / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

We deserve not, nor have we earned the gift of
the glorious,
the beautiful,
the majestic
the splendid
or
even the sublime. . .
Yet we are privy each dawn and dusk to utter wonderment.

A weary sun sinks low, resting heavy on the melting horizon. . .
As a calming hush is pulled gently across the shoulders of the sleepy landscape. . .

Do you have any regrets?

Are you sorry, feeling poorly or badly for how events may have unfolded throughout your day?

Do you stare forlornly out toward the darkening curtain that is slowly
being drawn across the closing day’s stage?

Could things have been better, different, more hopeful, more positive?

Are you now feeling burdened, defeated, regretful, resentful. . .?

Or. . .

Are you at peace. . .
resolved,
resolute
and calmly determined. . .
Finding yourself in a place of no regrets, no remorse, nor restless spirit. . .
Exhaling a blissful release of self as you feel your body giving way to the beautiful display that is offered to you in the evening’s gracious sky by the only One who is truly in control and has offered you a piece of Himself. . .

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.
Psalm 65:8

the journeyman

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
Rabindranath Tagore

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
John Steinbeck

DSC01989
(looking out at a stormy day / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

No journey is completely joy filled
No trip is 100% carefree
No life lived fully is exempt from sorrow, alienation, frustration, tears, or storms

To stand alone, staring out across a swelling sea and ever darkening sky is not
for the faint of heart, let alone a comfort to the one who is prepared to journey forth into the very storm.

DSC01991
(lighting over the ocean / Henderson St Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Knowing that one must set sail, despite an awaiting perilous maelstrom,
takes perseverance and courage but above all, conviction.
It must be taken without question or trepidation. . .
Because for the journeyman the choice is clear.

Choices of Truth, those which act as the pole star to one’s internal journey, in turn become the navigational sextant for the outward journey.

It is obvious from the growing fury that the trip will not be easy.
At times it will be both dangerous as well as treacherous.
There will be betrayal, misjudgment and even failure.
However the course has been charted, and the dials are set, there is now, no return.

DSC01909
(waves in the surf / Henderson St Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

The journeymen must press on.
Ever forward.
The variables have been offered.
It is a yes or no decision as there is no in-between.
To go, despite what lay ahead. . .the alternative is simply to stay.
The offer has been presented, the outcome is guaranteed and yet it is the journey that remains in question

To go will not be easy. . .
There may be tragedy, possible harm or certain death
Yet to remain will offer only a slight reprieve of indecisiveness
The waffeling of a life without commitment.
There is no leveling of the playing field.
The wise know the answer before the question is even asked.

The ship is turned, the bow points toward the storm
The throttle is pushed forward as the journey now begins. . .

DSC01987
(a lone fishing boat sets out toward the coming storm / Henderson St Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.”

Jonah 2:2-9

The importance of keeping one’s head

Never bend your head. Always hold it high.
Look the world straight in the eye.

Helen Keller

DSC01913
(a preening gull /Henderson State Park, Florida / Julie Cook / 2015

We can hang our heads,
cover our heads,
hide our heads
or. . .
we can keep our heads,
raise our heads
and hold our heads high. . .

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

May there be peace in your soul

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”

Rumi

DSC01804
(setting sun through the sea oats / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

Coming and going

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
Maya Angelou

DSCN5900
(a threesome of gulls, Henderson State Park, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I don’t know whether it’s like this in other professions nor do I know if others feel as deeply about such issues as say as educators do. . .

One of the most difficult things I discovered early on in my teaching career was how difficult the transition of moves, transfers and retirements of colleagues could all be on one’s heart. Add to that the teaching of high school kids. Those young wards one would receive into one’s class as 9th graders–those awkward young folks perched somewhere between childhood and adulthood. The mission was to teach and nurture these ever-changing individuals for 4 years–watching them grow, learn and then, as life would have it, they would graduate, moving to the next stage of life—most of which would take a huge emotional toll on their teachers as one would have grown quite accustomed to their presence..

Coming and Going.

In teaching, especially working in a specific school, the staff and personnel become much like an extended family—just as such held true in my own community and in the school system in which I spent the majority of my life.
My colleagues becoming my extended family.

We shared the teaching, instructing and guiding of other’s children. We shared the joys, the sorrows, the nurturing of our own children, the comings and goings of spouses, the trials and obstacles of life, crises in health, births of children, losses of parents. . . just like any big family who would live life together day in and day out.

Yet oddly such transitions of life, those of the moves, the graduations and the retirements, no longer seemed to carry the same sense of permeant loss—as we now find ourselves living in an age of vast technology. It seems as if we now have 24/7 access to one another–much more so than ever before. We now have e-mail which can be delivered, read and responded to almost immediately. We can text at any given time, day or night, and we have grown to expect an instantaneous response— growing rather anxious if such does not occur within a reasonable amount of time, say 2 minutes. We have Twitter which allows others to peer into our psyche at any given moment, we have FaceBook which shares the glimpses of our daily lives with the entire world. We are morphing into the transparent while being constantly connected.

And so as it is time, once again, to say good-by to yet another colleague, friend and extended family member—hearts are once again filled with that familiar sense of angst.
No longer will there be the physical and tangible interactions. Different individuals will now fill the roles we all once filled. Life experiences will no longer overlap–as being from the same community will no longer exist. Teams cheered on to victory will no longer be the same. Life’s daily living will now be different.

Yet communication will remain instant and quick. A quick text of “hi, how’s it going?” A quick e-mail or Facebook view will immediately catch one another up to speed as to the big and small events taking place in life.
The distance seemingly not so vast.
A comfort of heart. . .

And yet the physical touch, a hand on a shoulder, a glimpse of eye contact captured when two similar minds and thoughts collide during a conference, a quick Saturday lunch to play catch up all coupled by that beautiful smile will all be deeply felt and now sorely missed.

Whereas we seem so much more connected than ever before with unlimited and instant access, it is still, and will always be, the physical contact which makes all the difference in the world–the other stuff, the technology and instant this and that merely softens the blow. Technology may unite us quickly but it can never replace the physical face to face interactions of daily life. One may see tears when Skyping, but no hand my reach out to wipe them away.

I will miss you Beth.