traipsing in the woods amongst the fungi

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Traipse:
intransitive verb
transitive verb
traipsed, traips′ing
to walk, wander, tramp, or gad

When out in the woods my husband, more often then not, walks with a sense
of focused purpose and direction..

Me on the other hand, well I tend to lag behind…
traipsing about, camera in tow….

(all pics taken in the mid west Georgia woods last Sunday–Julie Cook / 2017)

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

joy….to give or to receive…

“I don’t think of all the misery,
but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank


(the work of a day / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thanksgiving afternoon, I was complaining to my daughter-n-law, dreading the notion
of having to begin the yearly arduous ritual, of “putting up” Christmas.
Some people will go into a feeding frenzy of all things consumerism and
I will go into light mode….

“Why do we do this?” I lamented.
“Why do we work our butts off, schlepping stuff up and down from basements
and attics every year….

Why do we move all this stuff in while moving all the other stuff out…
making way for holiday paraphernalia…
just to turn around to then put it all away again in just a couple of weeks???”

I lament so because I am the one who pretty much does it all….
all the lights,
all the decorating,
all the tree,
all the buying,
all the wrapping,
all the cooking,
all the cleaning etc…
because bless my husband’s heart,
he runs a retail business.

Suffice it to know that our lives are not our own right now…
nor will they be…not until about the middle of January.

Neither my husband or I truly “get” this Black Friday absurdity that consumes
this nation of ours.
He does nothing out of the ordinary for it and I don’t even acknowledge it.
Something about the wantoness of all the materialism consuming this country of ours
just oozes of emptiness.

Why do people stand in line for hours on end when they should actually be
home just enjoying Thanksgiving, family, time off, being outside, being inside, being someplace other than a strip mall, a big mall, etc…
oddly preferring to scoop up “stuff”????
Stuff no one really “needs” to survive.

Places like Syria just keep coming to mind when I see cars parked 4 deep,
wrapped around parking lots, just so folks can buy a flat screen TV or clothes,
a mixer or whatever it is they think they JUST have to have in order to survive Christmas…
along with all the other trivial things no one really needs in order to survive.
Like I say, I just don’t get it…..

So my daughter-n-law reminds me, “well you know he really does appreciate it”
He being my only child and son who was born a week before Christmas.
Christmas is his official holiday….but certainly not his dad’s.

The night our son was born, oh so many moons ago, in the wee hours of a December Monday morning…my poor husband had to leave us shortly after the birth so he could go
open the store and work all day…after having been up all night.
Missing his only child, his new son’s first day of living…
He is remorseful all these many years later, but it was how he fed us,
and for that we give thanks.
Yet how does one ever get back time?
They don’t.

In this family of ours, there is definitely some resentment concerning the consuming madness of holiday shopping…. on all sorts of levels…
and yet our son just adores Christmas…what are those odds?!

Sigh…..

So as I was lamenting, my daughter-n-law tells me about a movie they recently went
to see —-a movie I would never ever consider watching.

They are only in their late 20’s—they watch things on television and at the movies
that I pretty much consider toxic—
of which I hope they too will soon realize as toxic…but until then,
I just pray….

My daughter-n-law relayed a line from the movie which actually resonated with me….

She said that in the movie the main character was grousing, much like I was, about
this whole Christmas business.
In walks the mother who deadpan responds….
“don’t you know, mothers don’t receive
joy, theirs is but to give joy”
(a paraphrase)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

An understanding as to what exactly a lot of this is really all about.
It hit in certainly not a martyresque sort of understanding…but a deeper sense of understanding.

It is an understanding that none of this is about me….never has been.

It’s not about what “I” can get,
not about what I can buy,
not about what I can have….
nor is it about what I want….
but rather it’s about what I can give.

It’s about the ability to give verses the ability to get and receive….
And that giving has nothing to do with stuff—not of things gathered
from a store, or from on-line or from any place else for that matter.
Nothing tangible….

It has nothing to with with savvy shopping, marketing strategy, deals, door busters
or the madness that has become what we know as Christmas in the modern world.
A time that won’t even allow most schools to utter the word “Christmas”
but rather “winter break.”

What this season is about…isn’t about all this decorating,
or about all this consuming, or about all this buying and wrapping of “stuff”….

It’s not about the amassing or consuming….or materialism.
It’s not about the biggest gift, the best deals, the nicest trip to some
exotic wonderland.
Rather it’s about what we can offer and what we can give…

Because the original notion of this holiday Christmas business wasn’t about
Black Fridays and sale margins…it wasn’t about cyber Monday’s or on-line surfing…

It was about a gift…. but not a gift in the modern mindset of what constitutes
as a gift…

It was a single tiny gift that was actually given in order to save…
to save both you and I, as well as all of mankind, actually from ourselves….

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything
we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

2 Timothy 1:9

punctuating the ordinary

“On the single strand of wire strung to bring our house electricity,
grackles and starlings neatly punctuated an invisible sentence.”

―John Updike


(grackles on the line / Julie Cook / 2014)

I imagine it happens to all of us at some point or other…
and it’s always out of the blue…

It catches us totally off guard— when we least expect it.

Suddenly a lump is forming in our throat as we find the words catching, cracking and breaking as we can barely whisper along.

And just when we frustratingly focus on the fact that no sound seems to be
coming from a voice attempting to speak, stinging tears now form in our
eyes, rendering us both mute and almost blind…

Mute and blind with raw emotion.

We blink hard and swallow hard…as we hear our brain pleading “not here, not now….”

Maybe we’re just sitting on the couch…
Maybe we’re walking down the aisle at the grocery store pushing a cart full of
paper towels and cat food…
Maybe we’re sitting in the middle of traffic, stuck…
Maybe we’re sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting….

It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing…it happens…
and it happens when it wants to…never mind what we want.
And there is always some sort of trigger…
as the ordinariness of life is punctured like an over inflated tire…
our breath begins to release as we are helpless to hold it in….

It comes suddenly out of the blue..
Out of nowhere…and there it is…
A familiar sound, a familiar tune, a familiar voice…more oldie then goldie…

For me this time, it was Wichita Lineman and it wasn’t even Glen Campbell
singing the song but rather someone else…

Yet it mattered not—it was still that same melodious memory drifting in on
the passage of time… swirling down on the currents until settling sweetly, yet
painfully, in the recall of memory.

My mother loved Glen Campbell.

What woman in those heady days of the late 60’s didn’t?

Dashing boyish good looks…dimples, perfect hair, sculpted nose,
laced with a velvety voice.
He wasn’t Country, he wasn’t Gospel, he wasn’t Pop…
he was simply the complete package.

I can remember sitting with mother in 1969 on that old tweed couch
watching the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour—
This was a time when children could actually watch television without fear of hearing
or seeing things that children shouldn’t really see or hear emanating
from a television….

The line is iconic…
“and I need you more than want you….
and I want you for all time….
for the Wichita lineman is still on the line…”

…as heart tugging violins finish out the notes….

About two years ago, give or take,
Glen Campbell and his current wife (I say current because he had had four marriages
with one in particular making for tabloid drama) gave what was to be Glen’s
last public interview.

Glen Campbell was suffering from Alzheimers.
A disease that actually claimed his life earlier this year.

The selfish disease was robbing his family of the husband and father they loved
while robbing a man of the one person he’d known best his entire life…
that being himself.

He was asked about singing and his songs— what song had he loved the most….

A question I would think somewhat difficult for any musician / singer,
who had had such long careers, to answer—
As songs and melodies ebb and flow with the times—
Because it’s hard to compare what was a career starter with what came about
during one’s peak moment throughout such a lengthy career…

But he answered quickly and at first very effortlessly…
“it’s really the best line of all time in a song you know…. isn’t it???”
as he then turned to his wife with that lost look of one battling with a
memory-robbing illness, when he sadly and poignantly realized he didn’t
remember now what line he was talking about.

His wife offered a small airy couple of notes with the first word, which allowed
Glen’s mind to grab hold as he finished the stanza himself in beautiful A cappella
fashion.

And it is an iconic line.
A beautiful line.
A line that has for me, over time, changed it’s meaning.

Songs, lyrics and melodies all have that effect on us.

So much so that I think I’ve written about this before—and about this very same
song for most likely the very same reason—

It simply caught me off guard.

It reached out through the abyss of time grabbing hold of my arm while pulling
me to a bittersweet place I don’t often like to go.

The hot tears formed as I attempted to utter those familiar words….but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even speak the words because they had stuck in my throat…
as they achingly cracked coming from my mouth without sound…

And then slowly…the recesses of a memory came into focus,
I was seeing the one who had first loved that song long before I had.
She had her own personal reasons, her own personal recollections…

Things that, at the time, were unbeknownst to me.
Something that caused an overwhelming sense of melancholy…
Something that had left her with words which had no sound,
something that had left her eyes wet with warm tears…

I had no way of knowing then…no way of understanding…
for I had not lived yet what she had lived…

Yet sweetly and even oddly in that bittersweet moment of hearing that single song
with that most iconic simple lyric, I actually understood what she had known
all those many years ago…as warm tears filled my eyes and the words coming
from my mouth had no sound…I was transported one day closer to understanding
the woman I had lost so long ago…

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.

Psalm 102:18-22

God is laughing

“I love people who make me laugh.
I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh.
It cures a multitude of ills.
It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

Audrey Hepburn


(A closeup shot of Pere(Father) Jacques Marquette, a 17th-century Jesuit missionary and explorer of New France, along with his visiting gull pal, whose statue graces the central green on Mackinac Island, MI / Julie Cook / 2017)

Sometimes I feel like one of those poor city statues…you know the ones…
those once well thought of monuments to those once notable figures
which are now more of less forgotten to time and are relegated to being a
resting spot for both weary tourists and disprespectful birds.

Now whereas Fr Marquette’s statue is looking rather regal and very clean,
not yet having been “desecrated” on this particular day with the random and
less than nobel telltale signatures left by resting birds—
I just can’t help but feel that my life lately is that of such a statue…

I feel as if I’ve become just another old forgotten statue that currently
has an entire flock of birds resting on my head,
just waiting for the moment when the commanding bird gives the signal for the
troops to simultaneously do what it is they do…
all the while, being simply left to their mercy.

And then it would be just like God, or so I would imagine,
who’d be the first one to laugh.
Yet what a joyful laugh it would be….

For you see I tend to take life seriously….
a little too seriously…

I tend to think things are a big deal.
I allow myself to get all worked up and bent out of shape when my
seemingly grandiose, well thought out,
detailed plans get all skewed as I watch everything I’ll have worked so hard over
collide head-on with the proverbial Murphy of Murphy’s law.

I can come unglued and unraveled as I sit in the midst of the debris…
sadly picking up the pieces, while crying over my life’s spilled milk….
As I furiously and frustratingly try to figure out the lessons
I’m to find in the current spate of misfortune, error, accident and
simple run of bad luck that has all come my way.

For you see I believe things in this life are never random—
everything has a purpose and a plan.

God has a plan in not only the good events of life…
but more importantly and most especially, His plans are even found in the
bad events…

And being the ever impatient one, I try to quickly figure it all out so the
current run of misery will not seem to be all for naught….

And then He laughs because He knows it’s really a matter of His timing
and not mine.

I have a post to write—a little self deprecating post but one filled with lots
of humor.
All because I was much like someone sitting in the middle of one of those
Chevy Chase family vacation movies last week during the little trip my husband
and I had taken—
if it was to go wrong,
it would…
and boy… did it ever…
over and over and over.

First there were the tears of utter frustration as I saw our precious “away”
time being bombarded by misfortune…
with my poor husband trying to offer comfort.
The smart man knew it was best that he keep his temper and composure over
our relentless misfortune and misadventure as I was likely to come totally
unglued…
And not knowing if anyone could survive a total meltdown by his now
distraught wife—heck I didn’t know if I could survive such a self implosion
as I’ve never had a total crumbling….
he managed to keep his cool–something he’s usually not good at doing.

However by week’s end, it all became almost comical…
the kind of stuff one looks back on when fondly remembering some of life’s
greater adventures.

Yet when we got back home, trying to put things back into the play of routine,
there came word of something else–something, when compared to all that we’d
just been through, went totally over the top.

For this latest “event” has now put the icing on the cake…
which in turn is giving me grand pause to sit back and see that God has
indeed had the final teaching moment…

And it all is culminating with God delightfully laughing…
Laughing a grand ol belly laugh full of love and full of hope and full of joy…

and soon, when life slows down, at least just a tad,
and I find myself caught back up with things here…
I’ll share my tale…
One in which we will all be able to commiserate together and then joyously laugh
triumphantly…

Sarah then said,
“God has given me cause to laugh,
and all who hear of it will laugh with me.

Genesis 21:6

shuttered and unplugged

When I was a boy, the priest, my uncle,
carefully inculcated upon me this proverb,
which I then learned and have ever since kept in my mind:
‘Dico tibi verum, Libertas optima rerum; Nunquam servili, sub nexu vivito, fili.’
‘I tell you a truth:
Liberty is the best of things, my son;
never live under any slavish bond.’

William Wallace


(the shuttered windows and doors at the Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland
Julie Cook / 2015)

Over the course of the following week I will be in and out of blog land—and  more out
than in…
for you see…
for the first time in history….
my husband is shuttering his business this holiday week in order that he and his employees
may all actually be off at the same time…
allowing everyone to enjoy a holiday’s festivities all at the same time.

And in light of this momentous occasion, I will disconnect myself from my electronics,
as it were,
in order to be more focused and more attuned to his first real taste of of freedom
in many many years….

May we all give pause this special July 4th week to remember why we are allowed the freedom
to enjoy such a special time of celebration…

And I will leave you with the immortal words of William Wallace ….

FREEDOM!!!!!!!

I always showed myself in the face of day,
asserting the liberty and independence of my country,
while some others, like owls,
courted concealment and were too much afraid of losing their roosts to leave
them for such a cause.

William Wallace

a husband

The most important thing in the world is family and love.
John Wooden


(my husband during the latest trip to the beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

A while back, shortly following Dad’s death, a blogging friend inquired about
my husband.
This friend had been patiently and graciously following my sad daily
tale of Dad’s battle with cancer.
This friend had also joined in prayer and was an ardent supporter offering words
of consolation and hope during my 24/7 ordeal of driving over daily those many months
to care for Dad as well as my stepmother.
He had wondered in all of this ordeal about my husband as he was pretty certain
I had, form time to time, mentioned having one…
so he was wondering if he had been supportive.

And it did seem as if I was “alone” a good bit of the time during my time of constant
care management but that’s what happens…not everyone can drop everything, when life
comes calling, as there has to be someone who remains behind holding down the fort.

I do have a husband.

I’ve written about my husband from time to time here in cookie land,
but he prefers that I don’t.
He doesn’t quite understand this “blob” of mine and why I do it and what it’s all about.
He is why I don’t “do” Facebook as he was adamantly opposed when that thing called
social media first hit the forefront of our now virtual reality.

He doesn’t have time for virtual reality because he is really too busy in the literal reality
of the daily grind of working and living….

So if you will indulge me a few words, I will share a little about the role my husband
played and continues to play as I think father’s day is a most appropriate day to do so….

We’ve been married just shy of 35 years.
My husband was a confirmed bachelor and is actually 10 years older than I am.
He was 33 when we married and I was a fresh out of college, naive young teacher of 23.
We have one child, a son who is now 28.
We also have two cats and a grand dog.

My husband, who at 67 is tired and would very much like to retire, but likes
to be able to pay the bills…
and we do like to eat.

Five years ago when things began to take a nose dive in the health and wellbeing with
my dad and stepmother, it was my husband who told me that with 31 years in under
my belt, he had decided I needed to “retire” so I could be more available to them there
in Atlanta.
He’d pick up the economic slack so I could go and do.

I felt badly because my husband had been working since he was 14 years old, having
lied to a local manufacturing plant about his age.
His father was a long time and long suffering alcoholic and my husband actually
had lived in 8 different homes before entering 3rd grade for theirs was a life of
physical pain, mental anguish and uncertainty.
I felt if anyone deserved to retire, it was him rather than me.

He took over his family’s jewelry business in 1976 and has been running a small town
business ever since.
Anyone who has ever worked retail or owned their own business can understand the
overwhelming anxiety and uncertainly that comes with such.
It has not always been easy…as the business has ebbed and flowed.

Add to that that it took our son a while to get through school.
He has lived with, as well as learned how to cope with,
a very difficult learning disability that made school at times an
insurmountable obstacle.

My husband worked, as I worked, but I was afforded the time of summers to help our son
by ferrying him to a regime of various tutors as we spent one entire summer
driving daily to Atlanta to a school for kids with dyslexia…
We could not afford the school on a year round basis…so we paid for what we could
and took advantage of each opportunity.

My husband always made certain that our son would have the tools necessary
to succeed even if that meant he was constantly working at the store in order
to make it so.

And that success was made a reality last summer the day our son graduated college.

My husband attended college…. albeit briefly.
His saving grace growing up was football and he actually earned an athletic scholarship
when he was a walk-on with the school’s football team.
He had wanted to be a coach or a dentist but his father demanded he
quit college after just two years because the family business needed him—
he sent my reluctant yet dutiful husband to jewelry school in New York.
The last thing he wanted to be was a jeweler tied down for a lifetime
in a family business.

My husband went to New York under a sense of obligation to a man who had
caused him so much pain,
but thought being a dutiful son was more important in the bigger scheme of life.

And even years later, having spent years alienated from not only his father but
the majority of his immediate family due to the utter collapse of dysfunction
run amuck in an alcoholic family, my husband found himself caring for his
ailing 92 year old widowed father…

We’d cook his meals, and once my husband got off work, we’d drive several evenings
throughout the week to the small town his father called home….
all until his father’s death a year ago.

That story is a long mess unto itself, but a mess that my husband took on all
on his own.
Simply doing what he deemed to be the right thing for a man who never opted to
do the right thing by a once vulnerable young boy turned now grown son.
Yet I think God always has a way of honoring such selflessness…as I keep reminding
my husband when he laments doing what he did as it has now proven to be problematic
with those who chose to remain in the quagmire of dysfunction.

For that is what my husband does…the right thing when others, including myself,
would readily say forget it…that’s not your worry, your problem…
that bed has been made, let them all just lie in it…

But the thing is… my husband sees that the right thing, the selfless thing, in
the long run, is just that…the right thing…
and he’s never been one to keep a record of wrongs…
deciding long ago that life is bigger than keeping or settling a score.

And so it was, as I spent the past several years running back and forth, tending
to my own father’s life and eventual death…
my husband was working 6 days a week, 14 hours a day,
keeping things at home a float so I could focus solely on my Dad…his father-n-law.
Not a perfect man either, but a man who had had a child and having eventually
grown old and sick, needed that child.

And so today, this day of all things fathers,
I am left remembering the men in my life who have each come and gone,
leaving both this world and me behind…
yet I am forever grateful to and for the one man who remains…by my side…

For despite his having wondered, as I’m certain he has done from time to time,
as to why he has indeed remained so steadfast by my side,
he’s simply doing what he deems to be the right thing no matter what…
and I’m certainly the better for this most thoughtful and dutiful man!
so…..
Happy Father’s Day

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is
alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

heed thy words

img_0891
(the front window pane smashed)

The majority of the posts I write are written the day before they are posted.
Yesterday and the day before that were no exception.

Witnessing the surreal angst raging across this nation, Saint Velimirovich’s quote
seemed to best capture the correct Christian response…

“the world is a sick man whom sin has made sick…

as this pious cleric reminds us that…

“sin is the sickness and to scorn sinners is to scorn the sick.”

And therefore a healer is needed and we are to pray for the sinner…

Little did I realize how much those words were to resonate in
my own heart on a very personal level….

Saturday night we had been out to eat with friends…
It was just before midnight when we finally climbed into bed, ready to call it a day…
that the phone rang.

Calls in the night are never good.

It was the security monitoring system alerting us that the alarm at my husband’s store was going off.
Quickly dressing we raced to town hoping this was just some sort of false alarm.
Pulling into the shopping center we were met by the Georgia State Patrol and 4 Carrollton Police vehicles…it was no false alarm.

Glass littered the sidewalk like a million sparkling diamonds, scattering out into the parking lot…
this was the ominous welcome mat for what we would find inside.

img_0888
(the front corner that was smashed and the Pandora case…I am not showing the rest of
the damage in the store…that of the the broken cases as the investigation is on going)

I can’t describe the sicking feeling that grips one’s gut when walking upon
and seeing an extended part of yourself shattered and violated…
A flock of shadows eerily wandered in the fractured light with flashlights in hand,
searching for any information as a carpet of broken glass crunched underfoot.
The police surmised it all took place within 20 seconds.
Twenty seconds and thousands of dollars later…..

My husband’s father had returned home after spending fours years in Europe fighting
in a world war.
With no training or connections and little money in hand,
he opened a small town jewelry store with a legacy now 70 years old.

My husband took up the torch 40 years ago.
His store, his business, is all he has ever known.
He’s poured his entire existence into this small-town business with a
sense of selflessness rarely seen in today’s business market.
His integrity, diligence and sheer honesty has been the greatest example of
living and working that he could ever offer to our son.

Seeing a portion of this self-effacing work ethic of the man I’ve been fortunate to
share the last 34 years with…
broken and scattered along the sidewalk and parking lot late on a stormy Saturday night,
left a part of my own heart shattered and mixed within the glass.

Over the past several weeks,
I’ve sat perplexed as I’ve watched a swarth of this country act disgracefully and unbecomingly.
I’ve seen protesters marching, burning, and smashing store fronts.
Women enjoying profane laced rants.
Young people with masked faces torching that which is not theirs.
Vandalism for the sake of vandalism.
while hate percolates up to the surface…
As a percentage of this country decides every time we have transition and change,
it is a rallying cry for destruction.

There has been a call to destroy.
To destroy that which belongs to someone else…
that which was sweated over to create,
that which was labored over to build
of that which has witnessed the loss of sleep and great sacrifice…
coupled with the tender nurturing while praying as it all ebbed, flowed and growed…
pouring out a life to and for…
While others now selfishly and hatefully decide,
in the blink of an eye,
that none of that matters.

I cannot abide by those who steal or blatantly vandalize.
I do not make excuses that such individuals are disenfranchised, impoverished,
or uneducated…
that such individual’s behavior is due to the fact that they have not
benefited as others have…
so therefore such behavior is not to be seen as wrong…
just merely misunderstood.

Such is the liberal mantra echoed by those who make excuses for those who knowingly
choose to do wrong.

There are no excuses for choosing to do wrong.

Rich or poor
Educated or illiterate
have or have not
black or white
brown or yellow
Believer or not…

Wrong is wrong…
and it matters not your position in life nor
of your opportunities or lack there of…

So now I am finding myself hearing the same words of St Velimirovich that I typed
and shared yesterday…
“Make your heart prayerful, together with your soul and your mind,…
feel pity and compassion for every creature…
Do not scorn sinners, but pray for them…”

And so now…
I pray…
I pray for sinners as I pray for myself…
Sinners who have decided to turn their sins of selfish choices which
have been pointed in my direction…
I am called to pray for sinners to turn their hearts and their ways just
as I am to pray for my own ability to be able to forgive…

Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:47