the tale of the drunk mockingbird….

One day Bessie Braddock, a rather plump Labor MP,
approached Winston Churchill in which she said
‘Sir! You are drunk’, to which Mr. Churchill replied
‘I am drunk today madam, and tomorrow I shall be sober but you will still be ugly.’

Winston S. Churchill


(our resident mockingbird / Julie Cook / 2015)

Remember how I shared the tale of woe concerning our shower?
The twenty year slow leak that could only be rectified by tearing out the old…
all the way to the studs…with dust upon debris of rot and leak….
Only to slowly, and just ever so, add back layer upon layer…
eventually putting things back better than before???

Well we’re still in the middle of the layering process—
water mesh, moisture barriers, shower pans, sealant, cements…
on and on goes the mess.

Tile fellow is a very nice man and very much a Brooklyn boy who lives and breathes
for his beloved Yankees…. who have been winning their series in the playoffs.
Much to my favor as Happy Yankees beget Happy Yankee fans who beget
Happy Yankee tile guy, who beget happy tile customers…

But this has been a very messy and very dirty task.
Had I known what all was entailed, I would have just said re-do the entire bathroom
while you’re at it because if I live through this, I won’t be retiling anything
again in my lifetime.

After Tile man leaves each evening, I’m rolling up drop cloths,
vacuuming up a ton of dust, gingerly removing old insulation, wiping down cabinets,
mopping floors, and cleaning from top to bottom the residual mess of the day’s work.

Tile man wanted to leave his shop vac sitting in the middle of my very dusty bedroom at night as its just too heavy to haul back and forth from the garage along with the air compressor for the nail gun.
“You know we sleep in there right?”

I had to remind him that I prefer not having heavy equipment out lest I run into in the middle of the night.
He also didn’t understand why I insist on rolling up the very dirty and very dusty drop cloths every night only to roll them back out early each morning….
I don’t know, something about living without any more excessive dust and dirt then absolutely necessary seemed to make sense to me, but who am I to say.

So you should know we have a door in our bedroom that leads to the back deck,
the covered back deck.
We never use that door but it was in the plans when we built the house 20 years
ago so we have a door we don’t use….

Tile guy tells me that since he’s a New Yorker and Italian to boot, the heat is brutal
on him so every available window is open, the AC is running, fans are blowing
90 to nothing as dust is delightfully blanketing my entire house—
think Pompeii indoors.
And the high this week have only been in the mid 70’s….go figure.

He told me that he was going to open that door in the bedroom for more air.
Obviously windows are not enough.

However he was going to need to make a quick run to get more caulking.
Tile man was obviously born in a barn because all doors remain open whether or not
he is coming or going—
as in he will not, for love nor money, shut a door behind him.

Think now of every fly in the county and every bee and wasp for miles seeing
these open doors and I might as well have a sign out,
“all bugs please come inside!”

So as Tile man ran to the store for more caulk, I went to shut the back door.
When I headed into the bedroom to shut that door imagine my horror as I spied
our resident full grown Mockingbird flying around and around in a panic in my bedroom.

Let that sink in a minute…

a full grown bird in a tizzy flying around and around like
a nutjob in my bedroom—
did I mention the antique lamps that were my grandmother’s???

Let me back up a tad.

During the past week or so I have noticed how our Mockingbird has been singing
his pretty little head off as if it were a new Spring…
as in the birds and bees being oh so happy that it’s “that” time of year again…
as in it’s time to sing and look pretty for the ladies.

But wait…the calendar says mid October…as in cool nights and temperate days.
Not the time for making, let alone thinking about, woo…

This nutty bird has been sitting outside the closet window staring in at
Percy my cat, singing to my poor cat his song of love, for the past week.
Plus I’ve noticed a copious amount of bird poop out on the front porch…
As in the bird is off his rocker, making a mess and creating all sorts of havoc.

And then it dawns on me…

This time of year berries, Pokeberries to be exact, are in plentiful supply.

These things are similar to elderberries but poisonous to human consumption.
However they have been used by Native Americans and others for centuries to make a
deep lasting purple / magenta dye.

The berries just sit on the vine and, well, ferment.
In other words… free drinks on the house for all woodland creatures of
both field and air…

Meaning, I’ve now got a very drunk Mockingbird…
who by the way, is acting very much like a typical drunk,
now trying to fly drunk in a place he has sense enough to know is not home…

This is why you don’t drink and fly.

Ok, back to the present and this bird in my bedroom.

The bird continues circling and bamming into the ceiling,
leaving grey feathers everywhere along with seeds and purple poop.

I collect myself enough to quickly shut the bedroom door—
otherwise I’d never catch the bird if he made it to the rest of the house.

And now he heads to the bathroom.

REALLY?
THE BATHROOM????

Of all places????….
Tile guy is bad enough in there and now I have a drunk bird pooping purple crap all
over the place.

It was a miracle he missed bombing the lamp shades and my bed!!!!
As that purple mess isn’t washing out of anything.

The bird flies into the shower, into the mirror, into the window,
into the ceiling and back into the bedroom…
grey feathers are now stuck or floating all over the place.

All the while I”m chasing this drunk bird with both arms outstretched
trying to either catch it or shoo it out….whichever works….

Finally, thankfully, he finds the door….and out he goes as I quickly slam
the door in his wake.

And if you’re wondering where the cats were during all of this excitement—they
shelter in place in the guest bedroom, cowering in the closet when workmen are in
the house as they have apoplexy when visitors show up.

So not only was I cleaning dust and sheet rock residue, I was now cleaning purple poop
from the the windows, the door trim, the floor, a pillow case, the drop cloths…

When Tile man finally returns I, in no uncertain terms, tell him that there will be
no more open doors in the bedroom as I pleadingly ask how much longer does he
anticipate this job is going to take…

“Tile,” he tells me, “is messy hard work, probably another week or so… that is
if I don’t rush him…”tile can’t be rushed”….

Sigh—

So what’s the moral of this little tale you ask?
Well there really isn’t one…
just know that you should always be weary of melodious singing birds in the fall
who have been hitting the sauce, or in this case the pokeberry juice, one too many.
And that pokeberry juice will stain anything it touches…

Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:21

the old shell of self

God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger,
but by making us weaker and weaker.
That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say;
but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin,
not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him;
not by helping him to do anything, but by removing him from the scene of action.

Watchman Nee

We must die if we are to live.
There is no spiritual life for you, for me, for any man, except by dying into it.
Have you a fine-spun righteousness of your own?
It must die.
Have you any faith in yourself?
It must die.
The sentence of death must be in yourself, and then you shall enter into life.
The withering power of the Spirit of God must be experienced before his
quickening influence can be known:
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.”
You must be slain by the sword of the Spirit before you can be made
alive by the breath of the Spirit.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(the shells of cicadas discarded on a pine tree / Julie Cook /2017)

Summer, to a young child growing up in the South, meant evenings spent
catching lighting bugs in an old mayonnaise jar or scouring the sides of pine trees
for the crunchy fragile brown leftover shells of cicadas.

These leftover exoskeletons often found on the sides of pine trees or fence posts
are simply the shedding of the old skin of an ever growing and ever changing cicada.
Cicadas being the creatures responsible for the loud raucous screeching heard
throughout the landscape of the waning days of a southern summer.

Finding a shell was akin to finding a small treasure…
of which was then joyfully and ceremoniously carried to the start of school,
nestled safely in a small cotton ball lined box,
all for the start of the new school year’s show and tell.

But the shell was always quickly beaten out for the coveted oohs and ahhs
when the shark tooth, that someone else brought in from their summer trip
to the beach,was triumphantly presented…

Science teaches us that there is a wealth of amazing creatures scattered
across this globe…all of which constantly shed their old shells or skins only to
emerge as something new, clean and fresh…

And the fact is… that we, that being you and I, are really no different.

Whereas we may not break out of our skin, leaving the old sloughed off
empty layer littered along the floor, we do however…and we must…
do away with our old selves.

For if we insist on keeping that which is old and bound to this world, refusing to
relinquish worldly flesh, then we are bound to death….
for all that is of the world’s will perish.
There will be no new birth, nothing fresh, nothing clean.

Yet if we are willing to die unto self, surrendering that which is earth bound,
yielding to the desire of the spirit to be reunited from whence it came,
then we will have life eternal…which is the treasure indeed.

So then…
Two choices…
life or death….
that should be an easy choice….
and yet oddly, it is not.

“Many, indeed, cry “Lord, Lord,” and make mention of him,
but honour him not at all.
How so?
They take his work out of his hands,
and ascribe it unto other things;
their repentance, their duties,
shall bear their iniquities.
They do not say so; but they do so.

The computation they make, if they make any, it is with themselves.
All their bartering about sin is in and with their own souls.
The work that Christ came to do in the world, was to “bear our iniquities,”
and lay down his life a ransom for our sins.

The cup he had to drink of was filled with our sins,
as to the punishment due to them.
What greater dishonour then, can be done to the Lord Jesus,
and to ascribe this work to anything else, –
to think to get rid of our sins by any other way or means?”

John Owen

Not a pretty picture

“If you believe what you like in the gospels,
and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe,
but yourself.”

St. Augustine


(leaf-footed bugs, both adults and nymphs, feast upon the dregs of the tomatoes / Julie Cook / 2017)

Coreidae are a family of sap sucking insects.
In North America these insects are called leaf-footed because of the leaf-like
structures on their back legs.

They are a growing nuisance and attack
or feast upon, depending on one’s perspective,
various plants and fruits by sucking out the juices.

Here in my neck of the woods, these leaf-footers predominately “attack” tomatoes.
A tomato that has been visited by the leaf-foot bugs will have what appears to be
a severe case of the measles…or rather a massive covering of tiny discolored spots.

Not very appealing nor appetizing…
and in essence, seeing a fruit or vegetable covered with a hoard of
sap sucking insects is not a pretty picture….
something akin to a science fiction movie.

Looking at the sad end of a season, with those few reaming dying tomatoes
clinging to the brown and withering vines…
all the while as the leaf-foot insects literally cover the fruit,
sucking out the residual living juices…
I can’t help but think of the current situation of our world.

For the season is quickly fading while only a few straggling fruit remain…
All the while a scourge descends upon the land.
We’ve grown weary, even weak…while there are those who wish to use our
vulnerability to their benefit as they work to take our remaining resolve.

But we are busy, too busy fighting amongst ourselves…
fighting over things of no consequence, things that
have no bearing, things that only have us using our
remaining energies needlessly…the minutia of what is.

While a legion of vermin wait to feast upon our remains.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be preoccupied by
a limited vision as an infestation is taking place.
Before we know it, we’re covered by those who wish
to cause harm before discarding us, leaving us to wither on the vine.

If we persist on reaming within this current season, our
demise, which in essence will be by our own hands, while those who wait to
take advantage of our distraction will feast upon what remains,
will only be a matter of fading time….

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke,
and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,
but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers
to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth
and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

the cutest little worrisome concern

“There is a great difference between worry and concern.
A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.”

Harold Stephens

For as the eyes of bats are to the blaze of day,
so is the reason in our soul to the things which are by nature most evident of all.

Aristotle

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(a close up of my returning resident…who has got to go / Julie Cook / 2016)

I’ve mentioned before that I was not like most little girls growing up…
Whereas many a little girl donned fancy little party dresses,
complete with lacy little petticoats underneath…
whiling away their hours playing with baby dolls and the like…
I was in a pair of shorts with matching flip flops, wearing a Gilligan’s sailor hat,
while building pine straw forts in the woods….

On reading day, that most exciting day of the week, when we were all marched to the library,
in order to pick out a book for our weekly reading,
with most young girls choosing books about the adventures of Madeleine or
books about fairy princesses–
I was picking out science books about bats…

Oddly I found bats to be the cutest little things.
Brown and furry with tiny beady black eyes—
kind of like a teddy bear…
yet where there were to be arms and paws, the bats had wings and claws.

I don’t know where any of that came from…and bless my mother’s heart for enduring such…
but just remember…I was adopted…

However, fast forward to today…
to this now grown woman who has been around the block a couple of times or more…
This woman who has had much learning and experience now tucked safely up
under her belt.
She knows that things such as bats are good for the environment,
as they are Mother Nature’s natural insect eradicators.
They are our secret weapons against things like malaria and zika….

Yet I also know that bats are susceptible to things such rabies and the like…
And whereas their droppings make for great fertilizer, it is also rife with bacteria….
Several small caveats to having them in close proximity to humans and their pets…

So I was thrown into a bit of a tizzy when I walked out on the back deck this morning
just to find Percy, my dear sweet cat, sitting directly at the door.
His head cocked at an almost 90 degree angle making those
odd little sounds he makes when he spies a bird.

I follow his gaze….

Knowing there was no bird hiding up under the awning of the back deck…
just wanting to hang out with the resident cat…I had a sneaky suspicion what I was seeking…
And sure enough, wedged between the awning and the house was a lumpy dark mass….

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I snatch up Percy like he’s on fire, whisking him inside before he could utter a sound.
That’s all I need…a bat to bite Percy… sending all that money down the drain on rabies shots—
I don’t know how all that really works—is he, isn’t he now immune from rabid bats???

I grab a broom.
I poke the broom up in the crevice gently attempting to nudge the little bat loose in hopes
that he’ll opt to fly away.
The bat makes a crackling sound at me like a giant bug….
I drop the broom and jump in the house.

You may notice in the picture above what appears to be a dryer sheet stuffed up by the little bat.
You are correct.
It is a dryer sheet.
And I suddenly have a moment of deja vu….
as I think this little fella tried to move in here last summer.

Last summer I panicked, like I’m doing today, wondering if the bat I spied
wedged up between the awning and the house had actually bitten the cats…
Plus I fretted about bat droppings covering my grill…

So I did the only thing any former Girl Scout could think of at that very moment
which might act as a bat deterrent…
I grabbed a box of dryer sheets.

I stuffed dryer sheets in all the cracks and crevices between the awning,
the deck and the house.
However it soon became obvious that bats like a fresh scented crevice—
the now pair of bats paid the dryer sheets no never mind—
Continuing to fly out at night and back during the day only to roost
in a clean scented crevice.
At least they are clean scented loving bats.

As I was now to my last resort, other than taking a flamethrower to the awning which I would imagine would result in a small fire…I grabbed a can of hornet spray, aimed and fired.

Out shot the bat, narrowly missing my head…

So today, with this latest little guy back and obviously up to his same idea of moving in,
I have decided he must have a very short memory and now needs a refresher course in eviction.

So once again, this evening, when the sun goes down and this sleepy
little thing decides to finally get up, and seek the myriad of disease carrying mosquitoes…
I’m going to douse his bedroom with wasp poison—
and pray he decides to move on once the sun comes up….

Otherwise I might just go purchase said flamethrower….

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*****This little brown bat is native to Georgia.
Recently, their declining numbers have alarmed both scientist and
wildlife management specialists alike.

Bats, like frogs, are first responders to changes in the environment.
Their declining numbers indicate that environmental troubles are afoot.
Currently there is an epidemic, in the state of Georgia,
which is adversely affecting the little brown bat population.
It is known as WNS—white nose syndrome.
It is a fungus that is decimating entire colonies…by the millions.

This little bat is most likely a male as they tend to roost alone.
They are marvelous insect gathers.
But in close proximity to humans, they do raise a concern.

This little bat is obviously aggravated that I keep snapping his picture
all the while as he’s trying to get his beauty sleep…

And the broom is a real pain in his behind….

Please visit the following Georgia wildlife link for more information concerning
the plight of the little brown bats….

http://www.georgiawildlife.com/WNSFAQ

River dancers

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“The sacred sense of beyond, of timelessness, of a world which had an eternal value and the substance of which was divine had been given back to me today by this friend of mine who taught me dancing.”
― Hermann Hesse

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(section of the Middle Prong, Tremont, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

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A collection of water striders are found gliding effortlessly upon the surface of a mountain stream which has quickly lost its summer warmth during the waning light of a random Autumn afternoon…

They mesmerize, even entertain, anyone fortunate enough to find themselves perched on one of the numerous rocks or boulders littering many an Appalachian stream…
those who have come to these mountains for healing, rejuvenation or simply to marvel in the hand of the One True Creator…

This particular group of aquatic bugs makes their home on the Middle Prong stream…a branch of the Little River stream flowing through Tremont, Tennessee.

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On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

Psalm 145:5

Melancholia

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.”
― Hermann Hesse

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(a visitor to the blackberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

Waiting for the burdens to lift,
growing familiarly uncomfortable,
we ripen like freshly picked fruit.

Tender to the touch yet apt to bruising far too easily,
Colors now slowly blend, as the sun continues to work her charms.
Time will not be kind.

Buried by inconsistencies while hiding in the dappled light,
We long for the miraculous of the Divine
Only to be transfigured and made all the more beautiful.

And so we hope and wait.

Unblemished

“It is far more important to me to preserve an unblemished conscience than to compass any object however great.”
William Ellery Channing

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(new beauties snapped on the IPhone at the local garden center / Julie Cook / 2015)

A trip to the garden shop, especially this time of year, is nothing short of mesmerizing topped off with a color filled overload of spectacular.
Rows upon rows of picture perfect annuals, perennials, biennials and any other ennial you can imagine. . .
Talk about things that sell themselves.
Who wouldn’t want to walk away with a cart, or two, filled to the brim with the likes of such beauties. . .large, tall, spiky, showy, red, blue, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, lavender, green, black, two tones, monotone, sweet, sassy, demure, austere, even those of the exotic bordering on the erotic. . .

These flowers and plants are perfect.
Nary a blemish to be found.
Perfectly watered.
Fertilized to perfection.
Protected from wind, rain, and the relentless burn of the sun
Picture perfect and gorgeous.

But just get them home. . .
Get them repotted and replanted,
Add your own special TLC, step back and bask in the glory. . .
That is until the blooms begin to fade, eventually dying–oh did you forget to deadhead?
The leaves curl or turn yellow.
Wooops, you forgot to water when you went away for the weekend. .
Talk about drying out.
Looks like you over watered. . .
And it actually died from root rot.
Applied too little or too much fertilizer. . .
Wait, whoa. . .what about those Japanese beetles, aphids, white flies. . .
and the birds—who knew they liked to eat those flowers or was that the deer, or chipmunks,
or rabbits, or armadillos or. . . .

Things always look better in the store as there is an army in place to ensure such.
As in it obviously takes a massive village of caregivers
to keep everything prime for the shopping public. . .

For those of us who are Christian believers. . .
do you remember how it felt when you first made that conscious decision to be a follower of Christ?
That moment in time when you were brought to you knees. . .
Do you remember those first couple of days of the giddy excitement?
You felt clean and no longer bruised or full of blemishes
You basked in the warm glow of joy, peace, acceptance.
Your burdens had been reduced and you actually felt good for the first time in a long time.
You felt strong and bold, unafraid.
You felt like the teflon king or queen, as in nothing any one threw your way would stick or hurt.
You were walking on cloud nine.

And then, without your cognizant acknowledgement, life crept back into the picture.
What once seemed like a life of endless joy and energy gave way to frustration and irritability.
You quickly discovered you weren’t exactly indefensible or indestructible.
Your significant other decided to leave.
Your boss gave you your walking papers.
Your kids got in really bad trouble.
You got sick.
You got in a wreck.
You got robbed.
That joyous high that you had been riding seemed to crash right down on top of you. . .

“Oh where is your God now” they whisper?
What?
Does Mr / Ms religious have a temper?
Did you just curse?
Are you feeling guilty for thinking all those bad things about those who have hurt you?
What happened to all that forgiveness and pie in the sky loving of yours. . .
All of this as the bitterness creeps slowly back in.
You’re heard to murmur sarcastically “thanks a lot God”
A slick voice is heard encouraging you that you’ll be better off without Him.
“Forget about Him, see how He deserted you, let you down. . .He wasn’t really real. . .”
“Come back to your old ways, your old friends, your old life. . .you were comfortable there, accepted. . .”
As in. . . all the current misery is loving all the present company. . .

I once heard a sermon where the priest reminded everyone in attendance, who had decided to establish or reestablish their relationship with Jesus, not to be surprised if they actually lost their job the following day. . .
Hummmm. . .

Was that what you signed up for?

Be mindful. . .
Where the Sprit works, there also dwells Satan.
A power struggle ensues for each and every heart and soul.
The faithful will be battered and hit with all manner of harm.
For ours is a fallen world.
We cannot change that fact.

We are like the pretty plants and flowers we bring home,. . .those that are so full of hope.
Yet we get a hold of ourselves and things don’t go so well—either by our own devices and ignorance, or at the hands of Life which is beyond our control, delivering a one two punch.

Doubt
Despair
Hate
Resentment
Pride
All of which rapidly creep in whispering into our ears the endless lies. . .

But all is not lost.
For God has never walked away despite those lies we are told.
He has never left, never given up. . .
on you or I. . .

Yet let us be reminded once again, we live in a fallen world.
A battle zone of Good and Evil
Yet thankfully we live with a God who Loves without ceasing.
He tells us to get back up, again and agin. . .and to simply follow Him
Never mind the bruises, blemishes, cuts and scrapes. . .
He tells us to gird ourselves with the armor of Truth.
His armor, His Truth.

However, for any of that to be true, to be real. . .
You’d have to believe in Good and Evil
You’d need to admit that there is indeed a God in Heaven
Or that there is evan a Heaven
Or a Hell
Or a Satan. . .

You’d have to admit that the soul of man hangs in the balance
You’d have admit that there is a Divine Design and not a random design
You’d have to let go of self, ego and pride
You’d have to be willing to become less in order to get more. . .

Many may scoff that unlike those unblemished flowers in the garden shops, ours is a life
full of imperfection, struggles and challenges, falls and scrapes, bruises and blemishes. . .
Yet just like those well tended and pampered flowers,
We too have an arsenal, a team waiting in the wings offering aid, assistance, defense from the struggles and trials of life. . .

We have a Master Gardener who has given us His all,
In order to afford each of us the chance to not merely survive,
but rather the gift to thrive . . .

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. . .
Psalm 92:12-13