Mother’s Day–happy and nostalgic

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.

Mark Twain


(me and mom circa 1980 )

The fact of life is that we all have two parents.
A mother and a father.

If life is as we would wish it to be, we will know both of these parents.
They will love us and we will love them.

We will all grow together through both ups and downs.

Yet if life opts for a different path, we may or may not know our parents…
or we may not love them and they may not love us.

However, the fact of the matter remains— we all have had two parents.

And we all had a mother who carried us for, give or take, nine months.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that those 9 months can be joyous, fretful, painful,
jolting, frightening and certainly changing.

Most of us have one mother…
I, on the other hand, had three.

My first mother, my original mother, my birth mother, is unknown to me.

In early 1959 a 23-year-old woman became pregnant.
Plans did not go as perhaps they should have and this young woman up and moved away
from her home…moving to a large city where she could blend in and become,
for the most part, anonymous.

She never traveled home for those many months as her pregnancy was her secret to keep.

She gave birth to a premature baby girl and left the hospital shortly thereafter.

Leaving behind…me.

I eventually went into foster care until I was adopted by the woman who would become my
second mother, or what is commonly known as an adoptive mom.


(me and mom on my wedding day, 1983)

When I was a teenager I was sent another mother…a God-mother.
I say ‘sent’ because I honestly believe God sent in a pinch hitter because He knew
the turns my life would take and that I would need someone to catch me when I’d fall.

And I fell many times.

This third mother was the wife of the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip.
Both she and her husband designated themselves as my God-parents.
They were keenly aware of the fact that I was in desperate need for Godly parental guidance…
and it was at such a pivotal age.

They offered stability, encouragement and a clear Spiritual direction.
This Godmother taught me the importance of what it was to be a Godly woman, wife and mother…
despite all evil attempts to disrupt such.

She also taught me about Spiritual healing…healing that was crucial to my very survival.


(a grainy photo of Ginny Collins from 1978 / Julie ‘Nichols’ Cook)

Tragically, due to my brother’s mental illness, my adopted family was a caustic and dysfunctional mess.
It was an illness that took a grave toll on all of us,
but perhaps none greater than upon our adopted mom.

My brother and I were both adopted, five years apart, and we each had different biological parents.

Mother died very unhappy and prematurely at the age of 53.

My Godmother then stepped deeper into the fray of acting as a surrogate guide.
Her support and guidance remained a key part of my life until up until the time she died.

She died two years ago at the age of 94.

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum of life and of the two women, I eventually lost,
is my biological mother.
She is now 83 and is still living–but where I truly cannot say nor of what path her life
eventually took.

Maybe one day we will meet and I can tell her something very important.

Maybe I will be able to say to her “thank you.”
Thanking her for the selfless gift she gave me…that being the gift life.

Had she been selfish, putting her life and plans first, you and I wouldn’t be currently sharing
this moment together.

And I wouldn’t have my son or his wife or their two children in my life.

The choices we make in this thing we call life all have far-reaching and lasting effects…
be they negative or positive.

Life is positive.
Abortion is not.
My biological mother chose life rather than my death.

So today I want to thank all three of these women…
these three mothers who were, unbeknownst to one another,
intertwined in a single life..that life being mine.
Be it either briefly or for far much longer, they each gave me various gifts of love.

A love that now lives on in two precious little grandchildren…

And so on this Mother’s Day 2019, I want to say thank you to three women.

Firstly, thank you to my biological mother for the choice of giving me life.
I miss not having known you.

Secondly, to Mary Ann my adoptive mother, thank you for taking me into your heart and raising me–
a role that was no easy task—I have missed you terribly.

And finally to Ginny, my adopted Godmother, thank you for instilling in me the
importance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…thank you for teaching me
what it means to live, to love, to confess, to repent, to forgive and to be forgiven…
I miss your wisdom.

And lastly, I want to thank a fourth woman.

Thank you, Abby, my dear daughter-n-law…

Thank you for loving our son.

Thank you for opening your heart to us and our family…
and thank you for the gift of two precious babies…The Mayor and her new Sheriff…

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things
your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:9

A sickly mayor, lies, truth and the notion of an a-political life

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Mark Twain


(the mayor thankfully on the mend / Julie Cook / 2018)

Having been gone for nearly three weeks, I walked into the seemingly empty house
putting down my bags while grabbing a different smaller bag and immediately headed to
Atlanta in order to see the Mayor.

Jet lag??!!
What jet lag???

So what was to be a few days stay to help out during schedule changes and
overlapping work hours which came before the daycare lady opened her doors,
actually turned out to be a week
of nursing.

When I got to Atlanta, I was met at the door by a set of worried parents noting a sudden
spate of tiny little red spots covering two tiny little legs and arms coupled
with a puny little girl.

The following day a slight fever developed so an after-hours visit to Urgent Care was
in quick order.

A lingering sinus infection mixed with severe teething woes made for one miserable little
girl and several troubled adults.
She refused to take a bottle and shunned her applesauce.
Sleep was something that alluded us all as laying down exacerbated the difficulty in
breathing and the throbbing little gums.
When the Mayor is awake, all of her aides are awake.

Gone was the happy perky little girl which was replaced with a very fussy miserable baby
who only wanted to held and rocked.


(an ailing little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yet blessedly today, finally, I could tell the antibiotics were kicking in as breathing
was no longer regulated through a tiny mouth agape while the angry tugging at ears and hair
had happily abated.
A smile sporting two tiny little teeth replaced the upturned frown and protruding bottom lip.

As she and I sat outside this afternoon, actually enjoying the sun and a crystal blue sky
following yesterday’s ominous stormy weather thanks to the passing of a monster named Michael,
I simply marveled over what I held in my lap while basking in the moment of engulfing peace.

No Right
No Left
No hate
No news
No crime
No fear
No lawlessness
No bashing
No distrust
No disrespect…

It was the only thing that really mattered…just she and me…
a rare moment of simple care and simple peace.

There was nothing outside of the moment…because right then and there, life was that moment.

No cries from Democrats about kicking hard and low at the Republicans.

No issues over preferring to be moralistic while eschewing the current cultural push
for all-inclusiveness total acceptance of whatever floats one’s boat.

No ridicule over desiring to live a Christian life.
No persecution for believing in the traditional family.
No news media pushing personal liberal agendas…

And so it dawned on me…
since this culture of ours is now all about lifestyles that are
basically asexual—meaning our society wants so badly to be gender neutral,
not male, not female, but simply whatever one chooses at the moment…
Why then not opt for what is a-political…meaning…
to hell with politics and politicians??
Who needs them?

Because I for one have grown weary of the hoopla and the hype that screams for our
attention each time we turn on a television, open a paper, click on a computer…

The latest idiocy over the Kavanaugh hearing was such a travesty of humanity…
of what it means to be a decent human being to another human being,
that I really wish I could just cut all of the politics and politicians
out of our lives.

Which reminded me of our recent trip to Rome.

We had the opportunity to visit a relatively infamous oddity—
the hauntingly odd Bocca della Verità—otherwise known as
The Mouth of Fate.


(Bocca della Verità / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

According to those in the know,
Long before the modern lie detector and its harmlessly jittering graphs and
wires were invented,
the superstitious and untruthful faced a much more severe fate between the jaws
of the Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Fate, an ancient carving which is said to bite
the hands off of liars.
While no one is exactly sure when or why the frieze was created,
there are a number of theories.
Dating back to around the 1st century CE, the Mouth of Truth is a tall stone disc carved
into a humanoid face with hollow holes for eyes and its gaping mouth.
The original purpose of the large medallion has been theorized as everything from a
ceremonial well cover, to a piece of fountain decoration, to a manhole cover.
The face itself has been said to represent a pagan god although exactly
which one is up for debate with scholars guessing at everyone from forest god Faunus,
to sea god Oceanus, to a local river god.

While the origin is up for debate the one unifying legend surrounding the stone carving is
that if one were to stick their hand inside the disc’s mouth and tell a lie,
the rocky maw would bite the offending hand off.
This belief seems to have originated during the Middle Ages when the disc was supposedly
used during trials having the accused put their hand in the slot and if found to be untruthful
a hidden axeman would lop off the appendage.
While this use seems to be apocryphal, the superstition persists to this day.

The Mouth of Truth, which now rests outside the doors of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church,
has been used as a whimsical lie detector in a number of movies and video games,
most famously in the 1953 romance, Roman Holiday, in which the carving was a major plot device.

Excerpt from Atlas Obscura

So with this notion of a Mouth of Truth in the works, how many then of our current
mob mentality, rabidly progressive politicians, bounty hunting news media
and hateful cultural demigods would be willing to place a hand into the Mouth of Fate?
How many would emerge with hands intact?

How many of the lies that are thrown at us on a daily basis would then not simply be
cut out of our lives?

My life has been so grossly full as of late, in so many areas of this tiny world of ours,
that I have fallen woefully behind in my reading of the good Bishop Gavin Ashenden
and of our friend the Wee Flea, the Scottish Pastor David Roberston.

But for all of my negligence, these brave Christian men are continuing to the fight
the good fight.
So much so that the good Bishop was actually recently banned from Twitter for
hate speech…hate speech because the good Bishop noted that the seemingly endless revelation
of the pedophilia plague unraveling within the Catholic Chruch actually has its roots
stemming from that of homosexuality…an observation that the Gay community took to task
and didn’t much find to their liking–and therefore crying foul…
while Twitter acquiesced.

While we must remember that before he was an ordained Anglican priest,
our friend earned degrees in, practiced and taught both law and psychology.

Archbishop Cranmer on Twitter censoring Gavin Ashenden for describing the facts…

And yet it was what I read today from Bishop Ashenden’s take on the Kavanaugh confirmation
that I wish to also share.
Wisdom from across the pond concerning our latest American dirty laundry.

The presumption of innocence saves both bodies and souls in this civil war with ‘Identity Politics’.

So I must confess that I have gravely missed those voices of reason and Spiritual groundedness
throughout my recent travels and nursing duties while the madness has simply been allowed
to run amuck.

May we pray for those who continue to sound the bells of Truth, fighting the good fight
during these such dark days of falsehoods and lies…

And here is to a happy and healthy Mayor!!!!

death, an expensive business…

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not fear death.
I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

the-knight-death-and-the-devil(Albrecht Durer / Knight, Death and the Devil 1513)

Back around 1973, when I was more of a youngster than what I am now…
I remember finding a paperback book in a bookstore that I just had to have.

I think it was the cover that drew me in.
Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal sitting perched on a cutout of a crescent moon.

The book, Paper Moon, was actually the movie title based on the book
Addie Pray by Joe David Brown…it was simply renamed in 1973,
which is when Peter Bogdanovich directed the film.

The story, set in Depression era Alabama, is about an orphan named Addie
and a man named Moze who is a drifter and scam artist.
Moze who meets Addie following the burial of her mother, agrees for a fee,
to take Addie to relatives in Missouri.
With much of the underlining thought being that the drifter / conman
is actually the young girl’s biological father.
The story is about not only their actual journey to Missouri and the
myriad of scams they pull trying to make a fast buck,
but it is also a tale of the journey of self discovery.

I never did go see the movie but I imagine it was probably pretty funny as well as moving
as the storyline is one of humor as well as sorrow.

What I remember from the start of the book is that Moze had a particular scam
that would take him from town to town reading a local paper’s obituaries.
He would then make note of the names of those who were recently widowed, names
sounding as if they had money.
He’d next call upon the recently bereaved widows explaining that their recently
deceased husband had paid for a very expensive engraved bible but that the
deceased husband had only paid down a deposit on the bible and was
in turn to actually pay the balance when the bible was delivered.
Moze would then claim that he had come to deliver the bible as the widow
was now expected to pay the outstanding balance.

I think that was my first exposure to not only conmen,
but to the notion that death could
in turn equate to big business… as in a means of profit.

And I can now attest to the fact that, with both sound and knowledgable authority,
that there is not only big business running throughout all of life,
but that there is indeed big business to be found in death as well.

The Spector of death has certainly been hovering about my life as of late.
I think he hovers around all of us, that Spirit and Shadow of death,
but it’s just that we are more aware of his presence at certain times during our lives
more so than others.

If you had told me last Thursday that dad and I would have been chatting today
about Clemson’s big win over Alabama Monday night, I’d have told you that you were crazy.

From Tuesday, when Dad was sitting up eating chocolate covered doughnuts to Thursday,
when he was incoherent,
more out of it than not as his breathing was shallow and erratic at best…
I just knew our time had grown greatly limited.

(This is where I would insert a picture, but the picture is too sad to share)

The Hospice nurse had even come out to tell me those things they tell people
when Death is closer then we care for.

The idea of goodbyes was looming as it was a long hard day…
that is until late that evening when Dad seemed to come back to the present…
wanting a bowl of soup as he also wanted to know the times of Saturday’s NFL playoff games….

Go figure.

So my cousin, who is more brother than anything else, told me after our Thursday’s scare
that it would probably be a good idea if he and I made plans to met with those folks
whose jobs it is to deal with all things death.
Such as the funeral home, the cemetery, etc…..

Of which we did today.

Dying, death and burial is just as costly as living…if not even more so it seems.
And maybe that is because it comes in one huge lump at one single time as life and living is
spread out over time.
As in death, time becomes a bit of a moot point.

Yet during all of our planning and arranging…during all of the heavy decisions that we were wading through and deciding on…those sorts of things that one normally muses over briefly from time to time
preferring rather to linger only momentarily and casually…
I was struck by something other than the sheer costs behind funerals and burials…

Whereas we can prearrange, arrange and rearrange all we want here on this earth…
what with our lives and our dying…
It all pales in comparison when it comes to what is actually going on
once we take our last breath.

Maybe it’s because I have had Death’s presence so close to me these past several
months…such that I have found that the here and now is not nearly as important
as to what comes next.

There are so many folks who are concerned with living and living well,
that they run like hell,
far away from any thoughts of what comes after when the good living is all but over.

Maybe it’s because of a shallow and empty belief system,
maybe it’s due to fear of the unknown…
but no matter what the reason, as I am now all too aware,
the importance if found not in how we live…
but rather the importance is actually found in how we die.

That is not to say that our deaths are to be melodramatic or rehearsed…
as that is nearly impossible because for most, death is instantaneous…
both without time nor thought.

And it is for that very reason that the thought of death and dying must come long
before it is really all too late.

Because I know that when one takes one’s last breath…
something else entirely different begins.
And it is only up to each of us to decide what exactly that beginning is to be all about…

And if you think thoughts about God and Jesus,
Heaven and Hell,
life and living,
sin and death…
are all fodder for the superstitious or simply the mumbo jumbo of the sick and elderly…
you need to reconsider you thoughts….

Because there is something which is much more expensive waiting on you other than the cost
you will be leaving behind….for those who remain for when you die….

For it is truly a question of Life eternal
or
Death eternal

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;
it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness,
it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

remembrances

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time,
and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

DSCN3224
(the flag I fly at home / Julie Cook / 2015)

Today Americans will pause in order to celebrate Memorial Day.

A day many assume was put on the calendar in order to mark the unofficial start of summer.

It’s a day for day’s off…
for family gatherings,
for picnics,
for cookouts,
for ballgames…
and basic idyllic enjoyment.

However it would behoove us, on this unofficial day of all things festive,
to recall the original intent of Memorial Day…

Originally it was not a day set aside to commemorate the opening of the seasonal door to summer…
rather it was a day set aside for Americans to remember the thousands of lives lost,
as well as the thousands of bodies forever broken, during America’s darkest days of the Civil War.

It was originally referred to as Decoration Day.

Over the years, Memorial Day has taken on a life of its own.
It has become a day of celebration, an excuse for a party, a shift in the seasons, …

Yet as we celebrate, we must also remember…

We remember the countless numbers of men and woman who have served
and continue to serve in our armed forces.

We remember the lives taken.
The sacrifices made.
The limbs lost.
The souls shattered
The minds altered.
The hearts broken
And the children who have grown up and continue growing up never
knowing the parent who was called to offer the ultimate gift
to their fellow man.

So as you work in the yard,
fire up that grill,
play in the surf,
build that sand castle,
watch that ball game,
sip that lemonade,
eat that hot dog,
and just enjoy a special moment to be lazy…
Offer up a thank you…
to those men and woman who have given, and continue giving, their all…
allowing you to say “hello summertime”

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

Luke 9:24

No getting around it

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the
intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke,
thoroughly used up, totally worn out,
and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson

DSC00247
(image of Christ crucified, Rapperswill Polish Museum, Rapperswill, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

Death…
There is no getting around it.
No bailing out.
No avoidance.
No free pass.

It is the proverbial truism…
Death…
and of course those blasted taxes.

It comes to all of us, at some point in our lives…
Be it tragically, prematurely or thankfully…
One thing is certain, it will come.

Driving home from the store this afternoon I drove past a cemetery with a freshly dug grave
close to my line of sight.
Having recently buried my father-n-law, then having rushed a feeble dad this week in for IVs as he’s gotten himself in a dangerous predicament, death has been a frequent thought.

Death is certainly disrupting.
It disrupts obviously the one who it just whisked away…
and it disrupts those who are now without the one Death so rudely, or thankfully, took away.

Picking up the pieces is, more times than not, an emotional nightmare.
I’ve done my share of picking up and I’ve not much cared for it.
But haven’t we all….

There is such a finality to it all.
No reruns, no redos, no getting back.
It’s a done and done sort of deal.

It’s the ultimate in being robbed or stolen from…
And I don’t like that.

Yet if given the option of living forever, I would politely decline.

For life is hard.

Oh don’t get me wrong, Life is grand as well,
but overall, it can be hard.

Yet I feel an odd sense when pondering death…
something I really don’t like pondering…
as in, I’d rather not think about it.

I don’t like thinking about being separated from those I love…
Me from them and them from me.
Of things moving merrily along without me.
I would be so sad.
Yet is that not our ego…thinking we just need to be here, in the thick of it all…
Or fretting over what we might just miss…

And then there is the wondering of exactly where might I be headed.
Up, down, all around….

I like to think I’m headed in the right direction…
Being a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
Having confessed, and confessed some more, those egregious actions and sins of mine…
and then trusting in God’s promise and Holy word…

Yet what human, no matter how much they profess, claim, proclaim and believe…
isn’t plagued by questions?
If you’re not, nor haven’t been, your’e a far better person than I…

Yet I do know that the Prince of Darkness loves to whisper in the ear of the faithful
all sorts of gobbledygook, lies, half truths and falsehoods…
Inserting and sowing doubts, worry and fretting wherever the ground seems fertile.

Then I worry about being alone…
as in left alone
Not in the book series but rather here by myself all alone…
I don’t like that.

Yes there is indeed lots to ponder when Death happens upon our door…

Do you remember when you first learned to swim?
I almost drowned at the age of 5 during that process
but that is not my point here….the point is remembering the process.

Chances are you stood on the edge of the pool or on the boat dock
or at the edge of the lake or up on the sand at the beach…
A parent, or older trusted individual, was below (or standing in the surf)
treading almost effortlessly in the water, arms out stretched, waiting for you
while they coaxed, encouraged, implored or even pleaded with you to jump…
waiting patiently for you to come to them….to their strong open arms…

It was an overwhelming feeling.

Big and deep, murky or clear, cold or warm, the vast body of water waited along with a loved one.
There was a bit of excitement, of wonderment, a sense of mounting adventure.
Yet there were also the nerves, the worry, the anxiety, the predisposed need for survival percolating upward from some deep recess of your hypothalamus (that part of the brain responsible for fight or flight).
The internal struggle of should I or shouldn’t I was raging in the span of just a few minutes.

Some of us may have needed to run through this routine a couple of times before working up our nerve or building our trust.
We may have had to run to mom, or someone perched on dry land who could reassure us that it was going to be ok.
We’d work that nerve up again, and again…facing that great challenge,
all the while knowing that we weren’t really going this alone because there was that person who wanted to love us and protect us, who was waiting for us in that water…

Learning to swim is not just something done for fun…
it is a true life survival skill.
A skill our parents and loved ones want to instill in us.
There is the benefit of swimming for fun and pleasure, but don’t let that fool you, it is a survival skill plain and simple.

I kind of like to think Death will be a lot like learning to swim.
There are the nerves and the trepidation.
The fear of the unknown.
But then we see Jesus, with His arms outstretched.
I see the wounds in His hands as He stretches out His arms towards me…
There is peace in His eyes…
He voice is calm as He beckons…

It’s going to be ok,” he reassures…
I’ve already done this, so don’t you worry…..”

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

Time to expect the unexpected

“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected:
the expected for which one has refused to prepare.”

Mary Renault

“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes”
Mark Twain

DSC02592
(premature fallen acorns / Troup Co. Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

This morning finds us turning the page once more, summoning forth yet another day and another month.
September has rather unceremoniously arrived.
No fanfare.
No gala.
No festive celebration.

Yet September, this 9th month out of 12, is truly a month of the unexpected,
the unpredictable, the unassuming. . .and albeit a bit of the unappreciated.

Obviously no one has told the tired old thermometer that Fall is all but a few short weeks away.
The mercury continues to hover at 90 as the humidity continues to cling to our very being like a sticky, hot, wet towel. . .yet the shift has secretly begun. . .
We sense ourselves sliding into something different, something changing
and something slightly new.

We are creatures of the season you and I.
Delightfully craving the ever changing and ever new which can only be found in the trading of one season for another.

We both yearn and long for what the coming change has in store for us.
We are as giddy as children on a bright Christmas morn as we’ve anxiously waited—waited to finally feast our eyes on what lies under the tree—
Our time has finally drawn nigh.

We find ourselves shifting gears as our likes and dislikes begin, once again, to ebb and flow.
Our taste palettes are now craving the savory as our surrounding palette will soon shift to warmer tones yet cooler nights and crisper days.

Our brains are screaming that the time is here yet the world arounds us seems to be stuck in place. It’s as if life is in slow motion as it appears Mother Nature may need a gentle nudge reminding her that we have had our fill of heat and humidity, bugs and pests.
Like a hungry child anxiously anticipating the hearty simmering fare on the stove, we hold our arms outwardly stretched ready to embrace cooler, crisper, softer.

Will today be the day?
Will it be a day which still thinks of itself as a child of the Summer
or. . .
will it be a day of change. . .
refreshingly clear, cool and full of the unexpected. . .

clouds

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?–it is the same the angels breathe.”
― Mark Twain
DSCN5617

Overhead, stretched across an endless palate, colors and textures collide in a dazzling spectacle.
Dust particles, light and various masses of air–some hot, some cold, choreograph a mesmerizing heavenly banquet–an endless feast for any skyward glance.

IMG_0696

Shifts in atmospheric pressure rise and fall, as foreign winds whip unseen forces into precarious unions. Colors, of radiant glory, sparkle as from a million tiny prisms suspended on an seen chandelier.

DSCN2701

As Winter’s evening light sets forth a tantalizing tidbit of self, explosions within the spectrum, seldom seen with such force, offer grandeur over an otherwise barren land.

DSCN2715

An invisible hand unfurls a massive patchwork quilt which falls languidly over a sleepy land.
“Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
Red sky at night, sailors delight”

Echoes of ancient rhymes lyrically and rhythmically rise and fall as a lofty drama plays out guiding the ancient traveler.

Summer’s heat unleashes instability, as an ominous skyward cocktail mixes aloft.
Overhead a thousand unseen forces prepare to do battle.
Change is soon at hand as varying air masses vie for control,
As a cacophony of sound and light unleash a frightening display.

DSCN1842

Yet just as quickly as refuge and safety is sought, the unseen foe is suddenly vanquished.
Light emerges the victor as wary souls emerge unscathed while eyes still scan the changing sky.

DSCN1273

A treacherous beauty has arrived

“It occurs to me now that I have never seen the ice-storm put upon canvas, and have not heard that any painter has tried to do it. I wonder why that is. Is it that paint cannot counterfeit the intense blaze of a sun-flooded jewel?”
Mark Twain

DSCN3480

Along the moonless landscape, under the cover of darkness, crept a primordial spirit working with sinister glee–toiling throughout the long night painting a dangerously beautiful masterpiece. The innocents who slumbered, wrapped warm in the chaste dreams of ignorant bliss, would soon awaken to a new diamond encrusted twinkling world.

DSCN3478

The ancients knew the spirit as Woden or Cailleach Bheur, today it is Old Man Winter who has come calling. With a single sweeping motion of an ice ladened brush, the world has been transformed. Gone from the fleshy fabric of Mother Nature’s genteel handiwork, with the joy of her tactile beauty, is the very essence of life’s warmth. For now, as far as the eye can see, lies a glistening cold, heartless prism.

DSCN3479

With each gust of wind, the eery jingle of the massive wind chimes of limbs, full with ice clanging against ice, groaning under the weight of a mantle of water transformed, reminding the brave, who venture out, to be wary of all things overhead. The trees now alive with the rustling of the shimming sound of heaviness. In the distance the familiar roar of an explosion—wood shattering under the crushing weight of its tomb of frozen water.

DSCN3494

For unto us this day, the world we know has been transformed.
Foreign yet strangely familiar.
Dangerously tempting, like the alluring siren who, beckoning to all weary travels to come gaze upon the beauty, falsely offers safety and security. Beware of those things that glitter, for not all are meant to be embraced. . .

DSCN3495

DSCN3482

DSCN3484

DSCN3485

DSCN3493

“Explore. Dream. Discover.”

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain

DSCN1899
(Photograph: butterfly Troupe County, LaGrange, Georgia / Julie Cook

I know, you’re sitting there at your desk, your kitchen table, on your couch…wherever it is you have your computer or tablet checking out the blog world. You read the quote, the one I’ve got perched atop the picture of the butterfly, by none other than Mark, Samuel Lnaghorne Clemens, Twain and you’re thinking to yourself…”yeah, right Julie…”

“Easier said than done” you say. “I can’t just throw caution to the wind and “set sail” as you say.” “I’ve got a job, a family, responsibilities, how can I just up and chase a dream…..?”

Well, over the years, I too have wanted to throw off the bowlines and take off to follow a dream, any dream..but lamented that I was just unable to do so…as I was too chained down with my life.

And then, slowly coming into focus, it began to dawn on me….I began to realize that the following of ones dreams does not necessarily mean having to abandon the life we, you, me currently call ours…the obvious is to toss the world aside and jump on a plane, in the car, handing in our resignation and off we go…but it’s more subtle than all of that drastic business. It’s more intrinsic than a physical pursuit—it’s more of a state of mind…an internal determination. It’s a slow growth not a radical jump.

The frustrating desire of wanting to do something big with my life, once again, hit me after reading the book Come be my Light about Mother Teresa and her life’s journey. Whatever could I do in my little world to make such a difference…any difference??…I live in a little town, I’m just a wife, mom, teacher….

And then it dawned on me, I may not be able to change the entire world, but I can make small changes in my world—these small changes have ripple effects—expanding outwards, out to those whom I come into contact with… who, in turn, may go about in life, their lives, continuing the force of positive change….reaching out, further and farther. Maybe I’m not to be the big game changer, maybe I’m just the catalyst…..the starting point. All big dreams, large or small, have starts…and all great realities have to start somewhere as small or large dreams…

So yes, you may explore, you may dream and you just may discover that you are capable of so much more than you ever imagined….

Watch out for Mother Nature, just ask the poor pine tree

DSCN1274

“Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.”
Mark Twain

“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather…”
Can’t you just hear that sultry voice of Billy Holliday..”stormy weather”…
Unfortunately my encounter with stormy weather is never so…”sultry”…more rather like something form Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812 complete with massive cannon fanfare…..
Lightning and thunder. The sky grows dark, the distant rumbling growing ever stronger, the flashes of light brighter and nearer. The impressive calling card of the all too familiar summer thunderstorm. And yes I get nervous. I don’t know why but bad thunderstorms scare me to death.

I can remember once when I was little, being in the den with my mom, watching TV. A summer storm blew up as lightning struck something near the house causing a fire ball to explode out from the bottom of the TV. Mother whisked up my brother and me, all three of us screaming, and hurrying us out to sit in the car in the carport—something about how a car was the safetst place during a storm due to the tires….truth or wive’s tale I know not, but that’s where we waited out the storm.

After yesterday afternoon it is with good reason that I get nervous. Mother Nature seems to want to constantly remind me of the power she has over me….I get it, Nature is indeed the greater…I am but a mere player in her great teeming and seething ways…..

I was in the kitchen late yesterday afternoon getting geared up to start supper. A coming storm steadily announcing its impending presence by the ever nearing crescendo of sound. There were several “pops”, those familiar tell tale signs that lightning is too close for comfort, then the earth rattling reverberating booming. I usher the cats in from the deck, once I see and hear the approaching storm, continuing all the while preparing supper.

Suddenly there is a brilliant flash and a terrific snap—a snap of massive energy that sends 5 different pictures hanging on various walls scattered throughout the house crashing to the floor. I am literally dropped to my knees.. then BOOM……….the deafening thunder….Oh dear Lord, it has to have just hit the house! The cats huddle near me eyes wide open. I quickly run upstairs to the attic making certain things are not on fire. I see nothing. Thank God! But it hit something and that something had to be close.

Once the storm passes, and my poor, soaked to the bone husband, gets in from work, we go out to survey the yard. Suddenly I spot the victim. A tall pine that sits, or should I say sat, at the top of our driveway– yet directly across the street in a pasture. The pine tree is no longer what one would call a tree. It looks more like a tall splintered toothpick, with nary a bit of bark.

DSCN1270

DSCN1269

DSCN1268

What was Ben Franklin thinking??!! He’s out tempting fate and I’m hiding under the sheets praying like nobody’s business. Yes Mother Nature is one tough cookie…this cookie however, who is not too proud to admit, is a whimp—and proud of it —-the next time you hear a clap of thunder, just remember that out there somewhere is a normally stalwart woman cowering for cover……..