there be varmints

“Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap,
baits it, then steps in it.”

John Steinbeck

“Say your prayers varmint…dead rabbits tell no tales”
Yosemite Sam


(this is all that remians/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Remember this image from early Spring?


(my spring crop looking ever so hopeful / Julie Cook / 2018)

This was just one of the four apple trees burgeoning with the hoped-for abundance
of a season that was not quite yet to be.

There was excitement, as well as anticipation, both abounding as thoughts of pies, stews
and all sorts of baked treats swirled around our thoughts.

The air just seemed heavy with sweetness and cinnamon…

That is until this week…

Out of all of those hoped for beautiful apples from those four fully ladened trees,
only 7 measly apples have been salvageable.

There is a culprit…or perhaps even multiple culprits.

But the question remains…Whom?

Deer?
Raccoons?
Birds?

I suspect all three…but the teeth marks are telling.

This tale is to be continued as I go about my stealthy sleuth work…

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today,
the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

Deuteronomy 28:1

mothers…it’s complicated

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children..”
John Steinbeck


(a bluebird nest with two remaining eggs that never made it / Julie Cook / 2017)

Perhaps it does indeed Mr Steinbeck,
perhaps it does take courage…..

It should come as no surprise that no matter whether you’re young or old,
Republican or Democrat,
Christian or Muslim,
Jew or Baptist,
liberal or conservative,
black, white, brown, red, yellow…
alive or even dead…
the one single thing that I think is safe to assume for every last one of us,
a matter in which we may all find common ground…
and is surely a topic which we can each unite upon is…..

the single fact that we have all have had a mother!

Oh we’ve had a father too, but since today is earmarked for all things mothers…
mothers shall be the focus.

Mothers and motherhood…

It’s complicated.
Ask any mother….

And getting more and more complicated with each passing day I fear.
Because that role, that contribution, that definition is now morphing faster
than I can blink my eyes..

There was a time in history when more women died from complications with childbirth
than from anything else.

So it would be safe in assessing that birthing is not a piece of cake.
Then there is the raising…

Some of us are better at the whole motherhood thing than others…
Pintrest being probably the current best portal into
the realm of successful mothering and of those who are up for the current year’s awards.

Yet we each must admit….that during the course of a lifetime….that we have…
loved our mothers,
hated our mothers,
loathed our mothers,
divorced our mothers,
disowned our mothers,
liked our mothers,
acknowledged our mothers,
ignored our mothers,
not claimed our mothers,
never known our mothers,
been angry at our mothers,
been embarrassed by our mothers,
cried over our mothers,
missed our mothers……

but in the end…
we each must admit…for good or bad, we had a mother…

And petri dishes and test tubes aside…

Some of us are good at mothering and nurturing and loving….
and some of us, not so much.

Some of us want a boatload of children while…
some of us give away the only child we had.

Some of us “mother” children who we did not birth,
as some of us choose our children….
while still others are given the children they are to raise.

Some of us mothers are actually fathers who have had to take on the role of mother
for a variety of reasons…

So yes, this one simple fact of a mother, mothering, motherhood…
is complicated.

I am not a Catholic…so no one can accuse me of bias or blindness…
but there is one thing I know for certain, that being the example we have been given as to
what a tremendous job mothering can demand…
an example is found in a simple woman named Mary.

Oh we all have some notion about Mary–something akin to a fairytale really.
An image of a benign gentle face, adorned with white shroud with blue tunic,
hands tenderly folded as her unblemished face looks lovingly down upon mankind
from atop some heavenly throne as the stars dance around her head….

And that may very well be how things are for her now…in Heaven….

But I actually think of a young dark haired, olive skinned Jewish woman who’s hands
are calloused as her feet are dusty…
She is neither fair haired nor do flowers adorn her beauty.

Oh she is indeed most blessed among women, but she is also greatly burdened.

She carries in her heart a burden none of us shall ever know.
We may glimpse her burden, her pain, her hidden anguish…but we will not know
exactly her magnitude.

I see her the day she is angry at this strange yet gentle son of hers who speaks with
adult leaders as though he is one of them…

I see her when he becomes lost to her for days during a family trip.
Literally lost, as in gone.
He is young and seemingly naive to the ways of a dangerous Palestine under Roman Occupation.
Panic has taken hold of her as she and her husband desperately search.

Has your child ever been out of your sight for even just a minute or two
and for those moments of uncertainty, did you not feel that nauseating hold on time,
the feeling of drowning without being under water…?

And I see her releasing both relief and anger as she finds him comfortable and selfishly lost
in his own time with no apparent concern that perhaps his family had been anxious
during the three day search.

There were no phones, no Amber alerts, no police who would aid in the search.
And yet, he is among the elders, teaching.
In his mind, a perfectly normal place for him to be
but so frustratingly odd for her….

What does the mother of God do?
Does she yell, punish, reprimand, perhaps even ground him…
or…
does she bite her tongue as he speaks to her words that come from some place else.
As she is pondering, wondering, bearing the burden hidden in her heart.

I next see an older woman, hair greying, the lines on her face run deep.
She is no longer young or vibrant, but tired.

She stands in the middle of an angry crowd.
She is hot after standing for hours in the midst of this pulsating mob
as her nostrils burn from the heaviness of both sweat and dust mingled
sickeningly together.

The shouts from these people, some she actually knows, pains her but pales in comparison
to the sight now standing before her.

A man striped of clothing, no dignity remaining, naked, bloody and bruised
head lowered in exhaustion.
He is bound, bleeding profusely as he is the image of a man who has
been savaged.

This is her son.

The once young, gentle naive boy who spoke of things she did not quite understand.
Her mind flashes to holding him, cradling him, soothing him as she now longs to do the same…
wishing to not only kiss away the hurt but to wash his bloody and torn skin
while shielding him from the abuse—
yet she is frozen and paralyzed knowing there is nothing she can do.

A mother who bore Salvation.

So yes, mothers, motherhood and mothering is indeed complicated
as it does indeed demand courage…from every last one of us….
Mary should know…

So on this springtime Sunday in May,
may we each remember the mothers in our lives…
with love, with forgiveness and with hope…

Happy Mother’s Day….

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2:33-35

life is truly a mixed bag of nuts

I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes,
a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt,
and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.

John Steinbeck

mixed-nuts

Life is truly a mixed bag of nuts…
Despite our best preparations, plots and plans…
most of the time we have no clue as to what we’re going to get.

The tasty or the succulent, the salty or the sweet,
the crunchy or the sour or even the stale and the rotten…

But as it is life, we take what we can get, and get when we can…

Aunt Mothaaaa, aka Martha, met with the oncologist yesterday.
I was sitting with Dad when she called with her news.

Now you need to know that we’ve been living under a huge dark cloud.
Dad is dad and sadly rapidly declining.

Martha’s news of a spreading cancer hit like a rock.
She told me Sunday that she refused to turn the lights on her christmas tree
and wondered if she’d ever see those precious heirloom ornaments of hers ever again…
as she had begun expressing how she wanted her things to be “divvied up”…

Funny what we think about when faced with our own mortality…

Heaviness had wrapped its suffocating arms tightly around my small family.

When Martha called, I stepped out of dad’s room as I had not yet told
him about Martha.

There was a light joy in her voice.

The Oncologist told her that the cancer had indeed come from the
removed diseased kidney.
Chemotherapy wouldn’t touch it.
And there was no way to radiate three organs
And there was no cure for the cancer…

But….

He told her that she can take a pill, four times a day, for the rest of her life
and that will keep the cancer at bay, keeping it from spreading.

She was elated.

I finally exhaled…something I don’t think I’ve done in three weeks.

So whereas things are tragically racing down hill faster than I like for Dad,
we will stop momentarily this day, in order to rejoice for this moment
for Aunt Mothaaaaaaaa!

Who by the way has asked that I thank all “my blogging peeps”, my friends, for their
prayers…
because for next to being told she was cancer free, yesterday’s news was
about as good as it could get…

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 5:11

Loss

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
― John Steinbeck

DSCN2941
(blooming dogwoods / Julie Cook / 2016)

Friday we lost a member or our ever shrinking family..
My 92 year old father-n-law.

Despite his advanced years, his dependence on a walker, he had gotten himself up and dressed as usual… as he readied to head to work…
To the business he started single handedly 70 years ago located in a small west Georgia town.

It was a massive heart attack.

He was a widower, a proud World War II Veteran, living indepentalty alone…
Yet he got dressed each and every morning, complete with dress shirt and tie, waiting for a grandson to pick him up in order to be taken to his beloved store.

Despite the years of alcoholism, abuse, misfortune, and heartache…there had been a reconciliation within this past year…a healing…for which I am most thankful…especially for my husband.

Families are funny that way.

There will be difficult days ahead for his grown children and grown grandchildren… each who will struggle in their own ways with the memories of the shifting shadows of childhoods that were less than ideal.
With each one piecing back together the ebbing and flowing of a shattered past.

I’ll be in and out over the next couple of days, but hope to be back soon…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

the journeyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonah 2:2-9

A visual tale of contrast

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John Steinbeck

The sun is brightly shining, as the frigid bitterness of the days prior, tempers to a delightful and balmy 45ᵒ
I’m on a mission.
A mission to find life amongst the frozen tundra known as the land I call home.
The ground still hard and frozen under foot, the bright winter sun brilliantly warming while accented by a cloudless azure sea of sky.
There is the scent of smoke in the air.
I have shed my heavy coat.
The nuthatches and chickadees chirp merrily as they poke and prod the hard ground for seed.
Nestled near a walkway cowers a small ancient birdbath now sadly frozen.

DSCN3020

Amazingly just a few short steps beyond the solid frozen mass of water, leaves and straw lie tucked sweetly among the rocks, a tiny beautiful carpet of soft chartreuse moss begging to be rubbed. Is there any better feeling on a hot summer day, barefoot, finding a cool patch of moss. . .

DSCN3023

All of the bushes and shrubs are now barren clumps of twisted sticks and twigs. Odd thing it seems now to have merely a garden of sticks verses the usual lush plump green leaves and vines which typically call this place home. Upon a close inspection of the gnarly twig clumps dotting the now leaf covered bank–there oddly remains a few shriveled grey masses protruding along the quince bushes. These alien nodules resemble some sort of grotesque growth rather than the usual crunchy yellow green orbs which typically adorn these showy asian orientals.

DSCN3029

And just as Mother Nature, who seems to relish in her relentless taunting of our tender senses, would have this winter world of cold appear hopelessly void of any semblance of colorful life, I spy a tenacious little champion of all that screams LIFE.
It is the lowly, albeit stubborn, bane of any gardener. . .the hardy and nearly indestructible dandelion.

DSCN3030

The ground a hard frozen mass, the winds and temperatures so brutal that almost all vegetation has either perished or will surly be stunted come the growing season, and yet, this most noxious of garden foes not only maintains its place in the pecking order of nature, but appears to thrive—-providing any and all who happen to pass by a bit of colorful joy in a bleak and oh so cold world.

So yes Mr. Steinbeck, it is to this winter that we must acknowledge there is indeed a sweetness to be had—in just about 5 months or so we will have all but forgotten these current cold long shadowed days. This barren world will no longer exist. Our seemingly long deprived senses will be filled and overflowing—

Yet until those long warmer days arrive, I shall continue my quest, my mission—and that is to find those hidden breadcrumbs which a previous season has strewn along its departure– leaving behind a tantalizing trail to remind me that better days are indeed ahead!