seeking and hiding

“In moments of exaltation one expressed sentiments that outstripped
one’s spiritual capabilities by a vast span; and she knew well that
unless God is sought for Himself alone, with a selflessness
of which she was at present incapable,
He is not to be found.”

― Elizabeth Goudge


(wild blackberries are ripening deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)


(the ripening blueberries bushes out back in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

I go to great lengths when it comes to seeking out, and subsequently picking,
those glistening seasonal black and blue ripening gems…
those succulent orbs and globes of juicy blueberries and now
the incoming crop of wild blackberries.

I have been known to go to near daredevil feats in order to fill a basket, bowl or bag
with these precious little beauties.
I have braved chiggers, ticks, snakes…as well as bleeding to death due to digging deep
into the proverbial briar patch.

This obsessiveness over berry picking worries my husband.

He seems to believe that I do not possess the gift of lithe or grace when it comes to say,
walking…let alone standing on my head while reaching deep into a thicket of the unknown
in search of the elusive black or blue jewel.

I think it comes down to the fact that he’s going to hold that broken ankle business
against me for the rest of my non broken life.
It wasn’t my fault I fell in a drain hole while putting out the pine straw that spring…
a hole he’d dug out just days prior and failed to fill back in before I stepped in it.

So when I must balance on a narrow brick wall,
while leaning over as far as I can with one foot planted on the ledge while
the other leg is sticking straight out behind me in some sort of yoga like pose…
all the while as I’m reaching as far as I can
without face planting into a mass jumble of branches,
fruit and leaves…
well, I don’t know what the fuss and worry is all about.

I mean, I watch for the snakes, bees and ants.
I try my best not to fall, really I do.
I can’t help that I’ll be covered with red whelps the following day that will itch like
nobody’s business…
I can’t help that I scream the word “STOP!!” when we’re happily and quietly driving down
a road in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly spot a lovely ripening bramble bush
along the side of said deserted road… beckoning to be picked.
He likes the pies and cobblers…so what’s all the the big worry???

So naturally while I was reaching and digging deep buried up to my elbows in stickers,
all during the throws of my berry seeking session yesterday,
oh so busy about the task of finding and picking…
I was stuck by a startlingly similarity between my hyper focused quest in seeking
the elusive hiding fruits—the object of an almost obsessive determination, and
the lengths to which I know God goes when He wants, nay yearns, to seek out and
eventually find….us….

As we have the tendency to hide, always painstakingly out of arms reach…and
yet a loving God painstakingly seeks his own…
for He will go to even much greater and even more daring lengths in His quest for us
than dare say I do over a mere berry….

And boy how grateful I am that He does!

I will seek that which was lost,
and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up that which was broken,
and will strengthen that which was sick:
but I will destroy the fat and the strong;
I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:16

in the shadows

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

To think of shadows is a serious thing.
Victor Hugo

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(a jackdaw at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As the winter wanes and spring advances, the evening shadows slowly retreat from whence they came.
Or so it seems to the causal observer…
those innocents who observe the rhythm of the seasons.

Yet the shadows that secretly veil this earth…
grow ever far reaching …
while hidden from plain site…they slink around undetected

There are those who know the dangers because they can actually see..
the shape shifting shadows that dart in and out…
hidden far from reality’s plain sight
Chasing and dogging those who seek the One True Light….

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendour through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his for ever and ever, amen!
1Peter 5:8 (Phillips)

Tall grass

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.
Saint Basil The Great

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few.
Emily Dickinson

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(red clover blooms in a field of tall grass / Julie Cook / 2015)

I lose myself in the tall grass
Hidden from preying eyes
Inhibitions that lay chains upon the backs of the innocent
are lost in the tall grass
Running unhindered, unencumbered. . .finally free
The tiny and small feel brave and bold in the tall grass

I am safe in the tall grass
Resting from demanding voices
Fears that lay hold falsely around the necks of the virtuous
are banished in the tall grass
Basking uninhibited, joyously. . .finally at rest
The weak and the weary are at peace in the tall grass

I joyfully sing in the tall grass
Free to be who I wish to be
Songs soar on the wings of the grasshopper reaching happily
above the tall grass
Resting, musing, dreaming. . .finally happy
The innocent and pure feel happiness and joy in the tall grass

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Hidden treasure

The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.
Johannes Kepler

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(hidden little green shield bug nestled among the baby meyer lemons / Julie Cook / 2014)

Go forth with eyes wide open.
With a mind clear and wanting,
Seeking always,
Expecting nothing less than fascinating.
With a heart deep and cavernous,
Anticipate the extraordinary.
Touch gently
Feel softly
Step lightly, yet determined
Breathe in deeply
Smell joyously
Examine meticulously
hidden treasures are waiting. . .

Where is your happiness?

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
― Walt Whitman

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(shells of the coquinas mollusk, otherwise known as butterfly shells, Henderson State Park, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

Where pray tell is your happiness?
Is it hiding today?
Lost and not yet found?
Perhaps you have misplaced it, putting it down in some most obvious spot.
Is that it there?
No no silly, up there?
Oh that must be it, down there, buried underneath all that rubbish?

By all means, please stop whatever it is you’re doing and take a quick look around.
What do you see?
Well?
Anything?
Anything which resembles that missing happiness of yours?
Anything at all?
Do you spy anything of the slightest and smallest which may vaguely resemble that happiness?

Vainly searching far and wide or high and low is simply not the solution.
The missing is never really missing you know.
It’s there in plain sight, right under your very nose.
It’s right where it’s been all along, waiting on you all this very long long time
Oh pity, you still don’t see it do you?

Well, you mustn’t give up, you simply mustn’t
You must carry on the search.
Leave no stone unturned.
For it is there, oh I promise it is there
It is there still waiting, just right where you put it, so very long ago,
and waiting it shall be. . . until you can finally stop all of your mad and endless goose chases
Oh it’s all in plain sight, I really do promise, simply waiting. . . waiting on you.

Cast forth a great light

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

Psalm 112:4 NIV

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

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(door of the granary of the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I spend my life swirling in and out of the shadows of Death.
A precarious dance with darkness.
As the cold languid hand offers itself to entice me, to lure me, to lull me.

A spell is cast and the die is tossed.

A gossamer veil of deceit falls across the window.
No one can see, no one need know, I may do as I please.
The choices all mine as the caliginous night covers the secrets of sin.
A sinister glee echoes off the walls.

Truth is known, yet purposely ignored.

He twists his lies into the false truths I call my own.
The lies swirl around my feet as I sashay around the floor.
The lights are dimmed, blurring truth into the sweat which mingle and fall away.

Suddenly a door is thrust open
A blinding light floods the murky pitch,
quickly diffusing the darkness.
The shadows, which clung to the night,
drip eerily down the walls.

Standing for the first time, awkwardly alone, vulnerable and striped bare of the vibrant scarves of falsehood,
knees now buckle.
The sordid images of my deeds, flash against the brilliant sky.
The burden of guilt hangs heavily around my neck.
No longer are there shadows to hide within,
as the toxic dance concludes.
Hope has overtaken the darkness.

The radiant Light burns away the layers of filth which were once worn with pride.
The lies, the falsehoods, the deceit. . . drifting forever away–diffused in the rays of the powerful brilliance which now claims the room.
The mantle of guilt is gently taken from my weak frame.
The heaviness and fatigue giving way to grateful relief.

Light engulfs my nakedness, clothing me in an all encompassing and warming radiance.
There is a necessary healing in the Light.
Shame is expunged
Guilt is vanquished
Freedom now offered
Love now the Victor

Gone forever is the long night.
Death, now bound in chains, is quickly forgotten.
The shadows all dispersed, the murky fog lifted.
The sins all finally exposed.
Truth now sweetly claims my hand.

Because of my foolishness, the lamb’s blood had to be shed
My selfish follies rendered a price.
Love beaten, nearly broken, was laid bare
Keeping me from the shadows of Death, the sacrifice was freely made.

Assurances fill my being, flowing inward with the cascading knowledge that He’d do it all again–
— simply to have this last dance.
All of this as He lovingly reaches to raise my chin, lifting my face to His–
With a single glance, what was broken is now made whole.