9/11

“I still have the shoes I wore to work that day.
The soles are melted and they’re caked in ash.
I keep them in a shoebox with the word “deliverance” written all around it.
They’re kind of like my ark, a reminder of God’s presence and the life I owe to him.”

Stanley Praimnath, 9/11 survivor

It was a day ripe with a cloudless clear blue sky.

The kind of deep blue sky that beckons one to look up..
to look up and far beyond…

It was the second week of September.
Labor day was behind us and fall-break was over a month away.

But there was something about this day, this bright blue day,
that made me stop and pause.

Since it was just before the end of my planning period, I had walked over to our vocational
wing in order to pick up some copies I had run off for my upcoming class.

On the walk over between the two buildings, I caught myself looking up.
Looking up and noting the brilliance of such a beautiful cloudless blue sky.

It was still very summer-like in Georgia despite the calendar reading September 11th…

I walked back into the main building just as the bell was ringing for class change.
I reached the door to my classroom in order to monitor the hallway as the kids
traversed up and down, in and out.

One of my colleagues, a coach who also taught Social Studies down the hall from me,
suddenly came sprinting by my room stopping long enough to tell me to turn on my
television because “we were under attack!”

I can remember asking him to repeat what he had just told me.

“We’re under attack, they’ve attacked New York and now they’re attacking Washington!”

“WHAT?!”

As the kids were filtering in, I ran to turn on the television because
I really wasn’t comprehending what I had just heard.

As everyone began to trickle in, we gathered around the wall-mounted television
just staring at the images taking place in New York.

I remember hearing one of my girls announcing to no one in particular that her dad was
currently on a plane to New York…she needed to call her mom.

Needless to say, the day’s work and lessons were long over before they even began
as we were now in the midst of a tragic moment of our Nation’s indelible history.

That cloudless blue September sky changed our lives that day.
It changed our entire world, forever.

My colleague and friend who had stopped to tell me the tragic news would not live to see
the end of the next school year.
He was unaware that on that most fateful of days, the cancer that was multiplying inside of him,
was insidiously at work.

So much was changing, so much had changed.

It seems almost surreal, but today we have generations who were born well after
the fateful day of change…they are actually unaware that we were, that we are,
now different.

New York
Washington
Pennsylvania

Planes
Buildings
Fields

Simple names of states.
Simple names of things and places.

Yet all these years later, nothing remains simple about them.

Nearly 3000 lives were lost that day.
Many more lives were damaged.

Since that fateful day, many more lives have been lost due to the caustic air
inhaled as responders toiled to find the ashes of remains hiding in between the ashes of debris.

And then a war ensued.

And thus more lives have been lost and damaged.

Yet some people have the audacity to claim that the terribleness of that day was simply our own fault.
Some people think it really matters not that we should even take pause to remember.
Some people think it’s no big deal.

And yet on that day, lives ended.
Dreams were broken.
Hearts were broken.
Lives changed.
We changed.

And so yes, it is a big deal.
It was a horrific day of what seemed like a day of unending change…
and thus, in turn, we are now bound to forever remember…

Because the important thing today is that we must never forget why we have changed
and why all of those broken and shattered lives still matter.

Because if we do forget…if we allow our memories to fade…
then the pain, the suffering, the hurt that was felt by so many,
can and will actually return…

Such sweeping and tremendous pain mustn’t be allowed to ever return…

And so on this 11th day of September, we collectively gather to remember…
as we continue with our healing…
vowing that this will never happen again.

Our country is strong:
These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat.
But they have failed. Our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”

Former President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001.

Alleluia

I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh, I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19:25-27


(home sky 2016 / Julie Cook / 2016)

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

digging deeper

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil,
and let us see what we are made of.

Charles Spurgeon


(piping plovers dig deep into the sand in search of tasty morsels / Julie Cook / 2018)

What is it about digging that leaves us uneasy?
Not the type of literal digging with a shovel, but rather the digging into one’s self.
A metaphorical digging.
Digging deep within in order to discover what makes us who we are.

Chances are most of us don’t much care–
Or don’t much really want to know…

We live day to day, doing our thing, whatever that thing might be…
so to uncover anything extra is not seen as a necessity for survival.
Something more trouble than its worth.

Yet these little plovers spend every waking daylight hour poking and prodding deep into the
wet sand in search of something to eat.
They never tire nor abandon their quest.

The lives of plovers obviously depend upon their digging, poking, and prodding.

Our lives…not so much.

Our sustenance is dependant upon the digging of others.
So we don’t much worry about real digging.
So introspective digging is not considered essential to life.
And therefore, obviously not needed.
And if the truth be told, we find it uncomfortable.
And who wants to be uncomfortable??

And yet we are living in a time of the self-help generation, the hashtag generation,
the generation of whatever the latest cause is that’s coming down the pike.
We jump on the latest bandwagon believing, whatever bandwagon it is, that it will make us happy,
make us complete, make us real… all the while making us content in our lives of
here and now.

All the while we are an angry people, a self-consumed people, a distrusting people,
a sallow people a divided people, a lost people…
who just so happen to find ourselves longing only to be happy and content…

And yet we join the movements.
We jump on the causes.
We play the parts.
We profess the earthly falsehoods as some sort of lasting truth.

However…

Bandwagons are fickled.
Hashtags will come and go.
Angst will fester.
Worldly happiness is fleeting.
and fulfillment comes at a cost to self-worth…

Dig deeper for the what is pure, what is lasting.
Dig for that which will not fade, will not leave, will not falter, will not leave
you longing…
When you dig, what do you find…

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe,
lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,
should shine on them

2 Corinthians 4:4

Pax et Bonum

“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end.
Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature.
What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more.
Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…
but only what you have given;
a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

Francis of Assisi

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(Florentine bookmarks / Julie Cook )

Pax et Bonum

Latin for…
Peace and Good
or
Peace and Goodwill
or
Peace and Salvation

depends a bit on translation…
However it was the motto of St Francis…

And with all the vitriol rhetoric streaming constantly into our ears,
seeping deep into the psyche of our hearts…

With malcontents running rampant through the avenues of our lives,
casting the seeds of bitterness and hate…

With division drawing an ever widening perimeter,
separating those who once were oh so close…

How great would it be,
could it be,
if we all had such a motto….

Be very careful, then, how you live—
not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil

Ephesians 5:15-16

the diversion of a feeding frenzy

“If our condition were truly happy,
we would not seek diversion from it in order to make ourselves happy”

Blaise Pascal

“The news media is in a feeding frenzy”
George Bush

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(the butterfly bushes are rife with those feeding / Julie Cook / 2016)

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Ok, so you thought you were going to see some images of ravenous sharks, wildly thrashing about,
tearing apart some poor fish…

Sorry, it’s not shark week.

However…
rest assured…
A feeding frenzy is indeed under way…
With both you and me front and center on the main menu.

For it is now open season on the average citizen.

We are currently under assault, you and me, by all the news media outlets, as well as all things political.
I hate to say it, but the season is open and in full swing until November.
And unfortunately it looks as if it won’t truly be over until most likely sometime after the
first of the new year…or so.
And depending on the results, it may never be over…

The thing is….
we are all currently dealing with our individual lives….

We don’t have time to spare for things other than our manic lives….
It is simply to the everyday nitty gritty of living that has us consummed.
Time is not ours to give away to those who are now chomping at the bit for pieces of it.

For me…it’s dad who has developed a gravely concerning malady…
that is proving troublesome to pinpoint, let alone resolve…
as a few grim scenarios are waiting in the wings.

I’m driving back and forth to this doctor and that, to this test and that, all the while reassuring Dad that he is a okay…despite the alarming physical symptoms.

Do I have the time or energy to be bothered every time I just want some quiet down time…???
Flipping on the telly, seeking some mindless light diversion, yearning for a little football,
yet instead I am met by the likes of every TV personality and new anchor bashing Trump, touting Hillary, telling me only one kind of life matters, yada yada yada…????!!!!

Do I want to see ad after ad about why I should vote this way or that—???
Ads both dark and ominous of what will happen if I vote this way or that????
Do I want to see ads filled with a whole lot of malarky and bull crap????
All the while finding myself sadly yearning for the days of those cheeky little toilet paper ads…

And it seems that I am not the only one needing a diversion from the feeding frenzy of this season.

The odd phenomena of the Pokemon craze has become a global obsession.
Even as poor dad frets and waits to see the latest doctor in a string of doctors,
look what my son spies sitting by his grandfather…sigh…

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And whereas I am actually gravely concerned over this current trend and need
by this ailing world of ours…
This ravenous desire of seeking such an obsessive diversion…
Wondering why we don’t or can’t actually see what our true need actually is…
What it is that we yearn for…
What it is that we ache for…

That being satiated by the balm of the Resurrected Christ…

Yet reluctantly I can understand the need of escape from all this misery,
mayhem and feeding frenzy that is currently besieging us…

For it is in this desperation that the masses now seek the diversion of a virtual game…
sigh….

So…
With that being said…
and that being that,
it’s time to put down the remote,
close the laptop,
turn off the freaking phone…
and head outside for a real life diversion…

One that is actually Heaven sent….

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Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Psalm 119:23-24

A storm is gathering…

You start out giving your hat, then you give your coat,
then your shirt,
then your skin and finally…
your soul.

Charles de Gaulle

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(the gathering storm on a southern summer’s night / Julie Cook / 2015)

Our prayers, once again, are offered up to our ally and friend…to the nation of France.
To the French people, especially the citizens of Nice, we offer our hearts in solidarity.

It is apparent that there is a war raging.
A war that is being waged and carried out by a hostile and ever morphing Islamic state.
A war that is apparently one-sided.

For you see, the Western World has yet to acknowledge it is being attacked, relentlessly.

Once upon a time…

In a different time and place…
there was a lone voice…
A lone voice that was relentless in sounding an alarm to the gathering storm clouds.

Yet no one wanted to listen.
No one wanted to hear the hard truth being offered by this lone voice…
And so the voice was ignored.

By the time the storm had come, raged and then passed…
Well over 60 million people had lost their lives.

It appears that today, we continue not to listen.

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6