the sound of silence…can break the heart

“In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness,
your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers


(courtesy the web)

The school year has finally ended and thus our little extended family clan headed home
yesterday for good.

And I cried like nobody’s business.

There is now such a deafening silence that neither my husband nor I find comfortable.

No shrieks, no cries, no shouts, no laughter, no bumps nor bangs…

March 15th until May 22nd.
Holidays, birthdays, milestones, and seasons have all came and gone.

And now they are gone…

And there is still a Pandemic, a lockdown, a ‘new’ normal…
The silence isn’t helping…


(the attack of Da / Julie Cook / 2020)


(a warm spring day /Julie Cook/ 2020)


(snuggle bug siblings / Abby Cook/ 2020)


(a first hair cut / Julie Cook / 2020)


(the last morning with “mom” / Julie Cook / 2020)

ALMIGHTY God, heavenly Father, who hast blessed us with the joy and care of children;
Give us light and strength so to train them,
that they may love whatsoever things are true and pure and lovely and of good report,
following the example of their Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer

piece of cake

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.”

St. Brendan


(the wildflowers are now blooming / Julie Cook / 2020)

Oh, how the words of St. Brendan have touched my heart today–
(today, for me, being Monday and yesterday for you).

Walking into the unknown.
Journeying beyond the familiar.
Needing faith, as well as hope, while we leave the old ways, the old life, far behind.

Now left feeling helpless while trying to navigate uncharted waters…
Murky waters leading into something vastly different and to
something surreally new.

This is not to be a temporary change—not a momentary glitch to a set pattern or routine.
Such hiccups in life are not always pleasant but are made manageable in that we know they are
not meant to last…as in, not forever.

But this is not that.
This is not a slight bump or pothole in the road.

I think in all of this that what it boils down to is my simply yearning for what was…

And if the truth is really told, I think it is the feeling of freedom that I long for,
as well as pine over, the most.

To come and go as I once did…without worry or fear.

To hug an old friend who I’ve run into in a store.

To take a spontaneous road trip.

To save for, to plot and then plan a special vacation.

To actually linger in a garden shop…feasting on the colors and breathing in
the heavenly scents of beauty…free of masks or strips of tape that
keep me at a certain distance.

To simply being able to finally go back to the dentist for the new crown for my broken tooth.

Yet all those things are deemed “non-essential”, unnecessary to the basic day to day living.

So instead, I am left to precariously gather weekly supplies while spraying myself
with the sole sacred can of Lysol.
I tend to wee grandchildren as their parents now work and teach from home.
We cook, we eat, we clean, we wash, we huddle together and we wonder what tomorrow
will bring.

And so yes, I pray that God will give me the faith to leave what was known and trusted
behind as we all now embark on a journey into the new…of that which is
untrodden fresh ground.

If I walk hand in hand with my Father…that which is unknown, will be a piece of cake.

You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you,
that you may live, and that it may go well with you,
and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.

Deuteronomy 5:33

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

Okay, you can’t see the glue right??

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
undesirable sentiment.
If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and
address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.
On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(you can’t even tell, I don’t think / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, guilt is a powerful tool.

At last, my moment of weakness arrived…so I must confess…
I have relented.

I didn’t lie to you.

My intention was certainly a BIG no to this year’s tree…
but…
there were those faces, those words, those insistent voices.

It was one of those things, as I started the day, that I had not even contemplated.
It never crossed my mind that I’d be doing “this” for the remainder of the day,
well past dark.

Yet I had gotten plenty of proddings from those both near and far…
And I suppose it was indeed a sense of something missing, as I’d peer over to an empty
spot that was the ghost space of Christmas trees past, that pushed me this morning.

I marched up to that dreaded closest and pulled out that dreaded tub of
broken angels and tiny little nutcrackers.
Old ornaments of all the Christmases past.

I pulled out my various glues and got comfortable at the kitchen table.

I sorted through survivors and the debris.

I next text my husband’s friend, unbeknownst to my husband, and asked if he could
come by sometime today in order to help my husband haul up ‘that tree’ from the
confines of the basement.

He giddily text back a triumphant “YES!”

Now I know I told you that I did manage to put up the outside lights.
That was an all-day affair on the coldest day of the year thus far.
All by myself.

The neighbors have always guilted me with that as well as they would go into
my husband’s business asking when were the lights going up.

What is it with people and the lights????

I had rationalized that if the outside of my world could appear as if Christmas
was alive and well,
no one would be the wiser to what was missing on the inside.

But yet, there were a few who were the wiser.
And yes…even I was wiser.

Be they here at home or now in their own home, I think it’s the comfort of knowing
“it’s” still there.
That home is still home.
And that all is right in the world of “home” is what truly matters.

“It” is always blessedly there whether we are, or they are, here or not…
It’s that sense that life is as it should be…carrying on as if everything is
forever a constant.

The constant of the happy warm memories of what was.
Forget the bad and painful.
Forget the negative or even the current.

It is to the warmth of fond memories that the heart of a child,
now locked deep inside an adult, runs to.

There is a sense of permanence, of rooting and of anchoring found in those types
of memories.
The true essence of how we came to be who we are…for good or for bad.
For it is of the kinder memories we cling to of how we came to be.
We seem to need them in order to be reminded of them.

And so today became the day that I gave up or rather gave in.

Today, the warmth of Christmas came home…
whether anyone is here to see it or not.

Christmas comes and they will always know.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4

If a house could….be a home

Children are not casual guests in our home.
They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and
instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.

James Dobson


(The home of past and present while Dad was still living inside / Julie Cook / 2017)

A very long time ago, my mom and I would often go on Saturday mornings to
Symphony Hall of which was adjacent to the then High Museum of Art…
Atlanta’s fledgling art museum.

Since I don’t actually recall what they called those music and brunch events,
I’ll just say it was pastries and music.

The Atlanta Symphony would provide a breakfast/brunch of various
pastries and beverages and then put on a small yet lovely concert.

My mother had joined the museum early on as my grandmother, her mother-n-law,
was one of the early promoters for Atlanta to get her own museum.

She and my grandfather were to have flown on that fateful flight in 1962 to and from
Orlay, France but opted not to go…
This is what Wikipedia has in a nutshell on that flight:
Air France Flight 007 crashed on 3 June 1962 while on take-off from Orly Airport.
Air France had just opened its new office in downtown Atlanta, and this was the inaugural flight.
Air France was doing its best to publicize the flight; hence,
it was filled with Atlanta’s elite.
The only survivors of the disaster were two flight attendants seated
in the back of the aircraft;
the rest of the flight crew, and all 122 passengers on board the Boeing 707,
were killed.
The crash was at the time the worst single-aircraft disaster and the first single
civilian jet airliner disaster with more than 100 deaths.

The so-called “Atlanta elite” were the leading art patrons of the city.
They were hoping to forge a relationship between France and Atlanta as
the up and coming southern city was looking to develop an artistic and cultural footing.

But that is all another story for another day…
today’s thoughts are different.

When I was a young teacher, I found myself spending summers at the High Museum of Art
taking courses for art educators.
I’d spend weeks driving from Carrollton to Atlanta—back and forth daily
for the duration of each course.

During one particular course, our instructor had us keep a journal/ sketch pad
within arms reach at all times.
She would assign various tasks for the sketchpad and would also encourage us to reflect
in the journals about the assignments.

When I found myself at the Museum, wandering about,
I noted just how difficult it was for me not to think almost constantly about my mom.

I had lost her six years prior and so the Museum, along with Atlanta in general, still held
many shadows of my past.
It was often heavy shadows that I was very much aware of.

It was as if some specter was constantly walking by my side when I was in town.
It was often a very palpable sensation.

During one assignment, assignment 6 to be exact, the instructor had us wander off
and write about something…what that something was eludes me now but this
is what I wrote…along with a note I offered to the instructor who I knew would be
reading what we had written…included is also her comment back to me…


(the doodles of an old journal / Julie Cook / 2019)

“locked deep within my heart is someone I no longer know–
Forced back inside by anger and overwhelming pain.

Was it by choice or convenience that you left?

Your agony was short-lived, 6 weeks is what we counted but how long had you been counting?
Your presence lingers in the shadow of my daily life…and I often think I hear your voice
while my heart will skip a beat.

I don’t cry as much anymore.
Six years has brought healing or either a welcomed numbness.

I use to scream and yell at you for leaving me.

I don’t know if I’ve ever forgiven you or not.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to pray.

I’m not the same person that you left, you wouldn’t recognize me–
I often don’t recognize myself.

With your death, there cane a death within my soul.
A part of me went back inside, In life, you never thought you mattered much,
but in death, the impact of you and the lack of you has changed me forever.

(Note: my mother died 6 years ago from cancer.
The illness was very short-lived–
which was a blessing—but so fast it was like a blur.
As a teenager, she was my enemy.
As a ‘grown-up’, she was my best friend.
It’s just that I never told her that.

My mourning and dealing with the loss has been very much a private thing with me.
I didn’t have the opportunity at the time–because of taking care of my dad.
So–sometimes I can write down and express it.
She and I use to participate in a lot of museum/symphony activities—
so one of her shadows haunts me here–
but it is a part of the life long healing)

Response: Julie, I hope you don’t mind but I read this note to your mother–
it’s beautiful and universal-(love the reflection in the eye)

And so this incident and particular journal entry all came flooding back to the forefront
of my consciousness this past week when I found myself back in Atlanta.

While on my recent nursing duties, caring for our ailing Sheriff,
my daughter-n-law and I were chatting…and I think I made some off the cuff comment
about my hating the house…the same house they call home.

You hate the house?!,” she asked with alarm.
Yes” I nonchalantly replied.
You hate what we’ve done to it?” she fretted.
“OH…
No!!!
Not at all…
I love what you’ve all done…making it yours!
I just hate the past part of the house that was mine…

Many of you already know that the house our son and daughter-n-law call home
is actually the house I grew up in…having moved into when I was all of two years old.
Just about the Mayor’s same age.

It is the home of my childhood.
A childhood and growing up that consisted of tremendous dysfunction.

I often wonder what life would have been like had my parents not adopted my brother.
What if they had gotten a different baby?
Or no baby?
Would our lives have been different?
Happier?
More normal?
But what is normal?

There’s not a spot that I can’t stand inside, outside, in the basement,
out in the yard or even on the driveway that I can’t recall some sort of
melancholy or even dramatic event.

I even remember getting out of bed late one night, when I was still in high school,
stealing away to the sun porch where I closed off the door to the rest of the house
and knelt by a chair that had been my grandparents,
praying that God would bless me with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I thought if anything could fend off the madness inside this house,
it would be the Holy Spirit.

I also vividly remember when finishing my prayer…I felt no different.
Fruits, for me, have been a process of living.
I think God knows I need more time to ripen than most.

After having spent the past 8 days at the house, caring for the Sheriff
and the Mayor, I headed home late Friday evening…

It was a terrible sight to behold—A Friday evening, attempting to
merge onto the top-end of the Perimeter…

I found myself, once again, with tears streaming down my cheeks
as I made my way onto the interstate—
not because of the ridiculous traffic nightmare I was about to be entering into but
rather because of what I was leaving behind.

My two precious grandchildren.

I was to have stayed until Saturday night as we had plans to visit
Santa Saturday then have dinner out as a family to celebrate my upcoming
milestone birthday…but…I was headed home to die in bed.

Here it was, the height of rush hour, I was sick with the Sheriff’s crud and
I was headed home only to miss out on the Sherrif’s first Santa visit…
I felt as if I had let them down.
Let myself down.

But that part actually turned out ok…depending on who you ask.

The Sherrif was still too sick to venture out to the mall…
so it was just The Mayor and her father who went to see Santa.

In her pretty red, green and black plaid tafia dress
(I didn’t have a tafia dress until I was getting married),
black tights, black patterned leather shoes and matching hair bow…
The Mayor marched herself right down the aisle of the mall happily holding
her dad’s hand…up until…until she had to go boldly forth,
alone…

The video I later received let us all know that the visit was actually
on the disastrous side as the Mayor squawled non-stop upon Santa’s lap.
I couldn’t help but laugh.

But on that Friday night, feeling like crap and totally exhausted,
which more than likely lead to my melancholy mood, all the while tiptoeing
my way through a sea of red brake lights and cars,
I found myself asking…oddly asking an inanimate structure a question
or maybe it was more of a favor.

If a house could…if a house could actually offer, or perhaps afford,
those within its walls comfort, affection, protection, joy, happiness, peace and warmth…
would it please do so for this next continuum of my world?

The past will always be the past…for good or bad…
but for this newest generation…I ask for your kindness and love…

For what makes a house a home?

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true,
and you have promised this good thing to your servant.
Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant,
so that it may continue forever before you. For you,
O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your
servant be blessed forever.”

2 Samuel 7:28-29 ESV

there’s no place like home…for so many reasons

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once,
“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid
or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures,
following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea


(being home, for James, is a okay / Julie Cook / 2019)

Lots to say but not being afforded much time, I really just wanted to let those who have
wondered and been praying for our little family…that James got to
come home Friday evening!!

He came home with a 6 month supply of antibiotics.
He will have to be checked out between his pediatrician and Pediatric Urology
surgeon most likely weekly until he grows enough for surgery…
of which will  be in 6 months.

Because he is now so susceptible to infection that is why they are basically keeping him on
meds until he can have the surgery…lest he has to return to the hospital with
a high fever.

And for those of you who have had to either be in the hospital or keep watch over a loved
one who has, you can certainly relate to the joy of getting to finally head home.


(James channels his inner Batman / Julie Cook / 2019)

James has been a stalwart trooper throughout all of this…
his sister on the other hand…
well, let’s just say that the Mayor may have taken advantage of taxpayer money by
misappropriating funds to furnish herself a small oasis of a vacation while her
brother, the Sheriff, was out of the picture.


(The Mayor and Woobooville Chief aide enjoying a break from the unseasonable heat / Gregory Cook /2019)

But as we can all plainly see, The Mayor remains defiant over such allegations…


(trying to keep the hair out of her eyes, The Mayor does not like anything on her head/ Julie Cook / 2019)

We finally took the Mayor back to her Atlanta Office yesterday only to return home today.
But not before this Chief aide at the Sattelite Woobooville office ruptured another
disc in her back.

Shades of three years ago—except this time, it was from the constant picking up of a 24 pound Mayor
who likes to stay on the move.

The Chief aide is now on the floor gravitating between ice packs and heating pads…
and will call the Orthopedic Clinic tomorrow or Tuesday…depending on when they’re open.

Yet despite the hell of this past week that we have just journeyed through,
we give thanks, Glory, and Praise that the Mayor and her new Sheriff are finally
back together again at home—
despite her reluctance to ever admit such.
Always the fickled politician.


(The Mayor nonplused about going home / Julie Cook / 2019)

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through
the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:2-5

To all those who won’t be making it home this Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick —
even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Charles Dickens


(an odd site here at home / Julie Cook / 2018

Driving home yesterday after visiting the dentist, I was cutting through an area of town
full of some of our communities older homes, when I found myself driving behind a
vintage WWII Army ambulance.

An odd sight but suddenly I felt strangely transported to a different time and era.

The vehicle, the homes, the time of year.

If you didn’t happen to notice the small security company sign out front of this house,
you might just think it was 1943.

My thoughts drifted across time and space to places that were far away from
my own current little corner here in Georgia.

Despite there being such a heightened sense of urgency wafting through the air
this time of year…
What with the odd increase in mid-day traffic and the massive number of folks hustling
here and there…along with that unseen force that was moving the masses of folks
to go out and buy, buy, buy with a frantic frenzy…

And despite the current pull I was personally feeling to race from the dentist to some
local den of commercialism, seeking out those last minute items to fill in the blanks…
I felt a tinge of warming nostalgia instead.

I heard Bing Crosby’s crooning…his rich melodious voice echoing deep in my head.

A small smile spread across my face for no one in particular to see.

A simpler time, yet a precarious time.
A warmer time of humanity, yet a violent time for our world.

No matter that it was an ominous time,
we knew what our collective civilization was fighting for.
We were a united civilization standing against a giant monster of tyranny and an invasive evil.

There was a decisive and determined collective willingness to sacrifice.
Rations, victory gardens, sharing and giving when there wasn’t ever much to give nor share.

There was a joint desire for unity.
A shared experience of apprehension blanketed by a blessed sense of thankfulness.

I found myself gently humming a familiar yet comforting tune.

My gift to you today…

“In 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” joined “White Christmas” to become one of
America’s most popular homegrown holiday songs.
Recorded in a rich baritone by Bing Crosby,
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shot to the top ten of the record charts
(as “White Christmas” had for Crosby the previous year)
and became a holiday musical tradition in the United States.”
Library of Congress

A void and the Junk Guys

“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
Antonio Porchia

Mephistopheles: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.”

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus


(circa 1985 readers / Julie Cook / 2018)

What you see here is a pair of very dated readers…a pair of reading glasses that date
back to, oh say, about 1985 or thereabouts.

I found them yesterday in an equally dated Etienne Aigner cordovan leather purse.

Etienne Aigner was just one of “the” purses to own back in the late 70’s and 80’s.
It was a designer purse that didn’t totally blow the whole wad such as say a Louis Vuitton
or Gucci bag would have…

It was the type of bag middle American ladies could afford and still feel fashionable
without sinking a small fortune into a bag whose staying power would end by the following
fashion season.
Aigner bags were a bit timeless at this particular time.

It was the type of bag a woman like my mom would have had.

In fact, it was the bag my mom had.

I had something similar as well.
Mine, however, has long since vanished…Mom’s…not so much.

This past week, while I was up in Atlanta keeping a sickly Mayor, who by the way
has graciously shared her sickness with me–her chief aide, I arranged for
The Junk Guys to come to empty out, as much as they could in one day, the basement
to the house, the Mayor calls home.

A house and home that became my house and home in 1962.
I was almost 3 years old when my parents bought the 4-year-old 1958 stately
ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the boomtime of America’s urban sprawl.

Up until then, we had lived in an apartment.
An old-school sort of apartment complex that still stands to this day in Buckhead…
a word that is now synonymous with all that equates to being uber chic and trendy
in Atlanta…a once upon a time simple place that was just merely a junction of a couple
of divergent roadways with a buck’s head mounted on a local watering hole.

It’s an apartment complex that is probably on the National Registry of Historic Places
as the complex has been around a very long time…

Whereas I can vaguely remember the apartment I can, however, remember almost every
nook and cranny of the house.
Recollections of the house that was…not so much of the house that is now.

In 1967, my grandfather died suddenly from an artery surgery gone wrong.
The company he started in the early 1930’s…a business he owned and operated
until his death, was then quickly sold by my dad, the company’s lone salesman.

On a hot humid June day in 1967, a huge Mayflower moving tractor-trailer truck
pulled up outside of our house as men quickly worked moving the contents of a nearly
40-year-old company to our basement.

When they were finished and the basement door was shut behind them,
time immediately stood still in that large section of our basement.
A visible physical reminder of death.

Large wooden desks, metal filing cabinets, metal chairs, leather rolling chairs,
wooden cabinets… all still chocked full of file folders, Rolodexes, business cards,
staplers, gem clips, tacks, hand stamps, mailers, postage stamps, pencils, writing pads,
office signs…all sat still and quiet, in the back half of a dimly lit basement,
collecting dust and cobwebs.

That was until this past Saturday.

Along with that collection of office equipment, a plethora of dinged up and dilapidated
antique chairs, one formal victorian sofa, a couple of vintage dining room tables,
a vast array of rusting tools, circa 1960 metal cabinets filled with
glassware and figurines in various conditions, stacks of vinyl albums dating to the 1940’s,
various beds, Dad’s childhood wormwood bedroom suit, boxes filled with musty books of all
sizes and subject matter, photos and pictures, early computer equipment with heavy monitors and
dial-up modems, cameras, jackets, boxes galore filled with a variety of junk and unsundries,
complete with two giant plywood model train sets had all come to call this basement home.

One family had slowly faded…two by death and one by choice as the lone owner remained…
eventually bringing in a new wife, a new life and new junk to this precarious keeper
of time.

Years, lives and the leftovers of family’s…families who had come and gone,
and all of their forgotten stuff…stuff stuffed down into a dark cavernous basement
left to sit…
But for what reason?

Sentimentality?
Hoarding?
Identity?
Moving?
Life?
Death?

Well, that was until Saturday.

With a new baby on the way…the much-needed purging of previous lives had finally arrived.

When one shuts a door to such a basement…what is in that basement is usually quickly forgotten.
The shutting of a door closes away that which is… as the ‘it’ suddenly becomes what was…
as in the proverbial ‘out of sight, out of mind’ sort of mentality.

Unused space being a prime example of a law found in physics…
a void will eventually be filled…or so it seems.

Before the Junk Guys arrived, I needed to look through a few things…actually a lot of things.
Yet time, this past week, was not my friend as I was needed to tend to a sick baby.
No time to rummage in a cobweb infested musty overflowing time capsule.

On one quick trip down the rickety steep stairway, down just long enough to find a somewhat
hidden away Lord & Taylor box, sitting out of sight in a long since sealed cabinet.
Lifting off that signature colorful box top, I found a box filled with letters.
Letters still in their original envelopes, all addressed to two parents,
who each now seems long gone, were written by their eldest child.
Letters that were written home from college…
written from me to them.

I quickly put the top back on the box.

Mother had saved those letters, yet I wasn’t ready to read over a bunch of trite angst-filled
letters that were written by a shallow self-absorbed younger and more foolish self.
Not yet.

In another cabinet, I pulled out a small box filled full of “do-dads”…
small trinkets that Mother had gathered over the years which had filled her ‘what-not’ shelf
that graced a wall in the kitchen.
Trinkets that were once considered tiny treasures.

As the cleaning committee arrived complete with heavy-duty gloves and boots,
I found the pocket-book.
That same cordovan Aigner bag that I immediately recalled seeing on her shoulder.

It was shoved back on a top shelf of one of those metal cabinets.
Dad had obviously brought it down here to the place where things came to stay,
not necessarily die, but to stay… caught in an odd passage of time and space.
A purgatory of such.
All being oddly caught in a sad surreal stoppage of time.

Everything remained inside, albeit for a wallet— untouched, just as it was on the day dad
rushed her to the hospital that 25th day of July 1986—

And yet she never came home to claim her purse.

I quickly brought the bag upstairs to the light of day, leaving behind the small army
of purgers in that overflowing basement.
I wanted to dump the contents out onto a table where I could actually look at what
a life stopped in time looked like.

Yellowed and faded bank statements, tuition notices for my brother, grocery lists and receipts,
a sterling silver tortoiseshell comb which was a wedding present from dad back in 1953 along
with a couple of pennies, two tubes of lipsticks and a small bottle of Tylenol
all came tumbling out…along with that pair of reading glasses.

Funny, I never remember Mother wearing glasses…only sunglasses.

Quickly I pushed aside the glasses, the comb, a couple of the bank statements and one
grocery receipt before throwing away everything else while carrying the bag back downstairs
to join the host of junk being hauled out to the two moving trucks that were eagerly
ready and waiting to carry away the remnants of the various previous lives that had all
called this house theirs, leaving open space for new lives taking shape.

It would behoove each of us to remember that our lives here on this earth are finite.
Lives that may be painfully short or generously long…
yet each life, regardless of allocated time, is limited…meaning that each of our lives
will be eventually ending…whether we like it or not.

We hold onto things in an odd twisted attempt to keep that which was.
All the stuff becomes the tangible to that which we have lost…
of which is simply fleeting and finite.

Dad’s basement is and was testament of that.
It was the filling of the void.
The proof of resting in purgatory.
Be it good…
Be it bad…
Be it sad…
Be it happy…
or…
Be it simply bittersweet…

All that we have and all that we are will pass away or perhaps worse, simply be discarded…


(a mere portion of the purging basement / Julie Cook / 2018)

Left to being eventually thrown away by The Junk Guys…

What, therefore, you ask, lasts… as we are a people who yearn to last…

Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
C.S. Lewis

Going home…as it should be

Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation-coming home again.
Madeleine L’Engle


(mom’s roses / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well…
for both happy and sad, today (yesterday in case you’re reading this today) has finally come.

The day for packing up and having to move from a temporary home back
to a real home has arrived…

This is the part of life’s story when being the adult, the grown-up, the parent,
the grandparent is one of the more difficult roles to play.
Life dictates that I’m supposed to be the one who knows what is best and
simply keep that stiff upper lip.

And so, reluctantly, I do.

We packed up and journeyed homeward.

A wreck, coupled by construction, on 285 had us sitting in traffic for over an hour.

Do you know what a screaming baby sounds like in a car stuck in the middle of
an interstate impasse?
A baby who is happy only as long as the car is moving??

I wanted to roll down the windows for all the truckers and cars alike—telling them this
is what I’m currently listening to so could everyone just please drive
like they’re supposed to!!!

Yet when we finally reached “home”, what a splendid greeting…
Mom’s little lone tea rose bush was in full bloom.

Blooms of anticipation for a great-granddaughter mom never meet here on earth but
who I know she has met long before I had even met my little one.

This wee one has finally come home…a home that was once mom’s home…
a home that was also once my own home.

What a most fitting welcome…

And so whereas I will miss these day to day moments of growth and change…

I know there’s just nothing like one’s own bed and one’s own space…
each providing a welcomed sense of peace

Sweet dreams my precious little wee one…

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Proverbs 3:24

Spring cleaning

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once,
“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very
splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures,
following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.”

Robert Frost


(blue bird box obviously under some sort of construction / Julie Cook / 2018)

Pulling into the driveway and getting out of the car, I hear the familiar chatter of the
resident birds that grace our yard. Glancing over at the birdhouses dotting the trees,
I think I see a bluebird poking its head out of one of the boxes.

Instinctively I race for my camera as I’ve not had much opportunity this spring to
take many pictures of life in the yard.

Focusing in with the camera, I quickly realize that I’m not seeing a bluebird poking her
head out of the box but rather a wad of straw…
as if it’s being pushed up and out of the box.

Each year, usually late February, I always open up all of the boxes in order to clean out
the old nests and straw….because who wants to move into to someone else’s leftover mess?

However, it appears as if someone, bird or not, is busy with a bit of spring cleaning…
As I am reminded of my own bit of Spring cleaning waiting for me…

However my cleaning, where much of it is to be of the literal…
that of scrubbing, washing, and sorting…
my cleaning also needs to be taking place from within.

Each of us must be mindful in our remembrance that Springtime is not merely the time
in which all of Creation sheds the old while producing the new, the fresh, the radiant
and the young…
Spring is also the time for us, mankind, to shed our old while taking on a newness
of fresh beginnings as well.

Shedding the dust and weight of the heaviness of our old sinful selves—
Ridding ourselves of that ever-present sinful nature of man, as we step outward and forward
with the Resurrected Christ into the light of a new dawn…

There is certainly no rest for the weary!

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