time for reflection

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
William Shakespeare


(moi in 2013 / Julie Cook)

What are the types of things that happen to us in a year’s time?
What sorts of things take place to and or around us during the course of a year?

In my world, there were milestones, fieldstones, capstones and stone weights.

The greatest being a baby turned one as another baby came into the world.

And there were, for this small family of ours…

stress tests
epidurals
CT scans
MRIs
X-rays
ultrasounds
bloodwork
surgeries
healings
shots
medicines
waiting diagnoses
dental implants
additions
trips
trips to an ocean
trips to the mountains
trips to the city
family gatherings
quiet time
accidents
demolitions
updatings
hope
despair
surprises
growing
pruning
anniversaries
multiple ER trips
multiple Urgent Care trips
viruses
infections
food poisoning
haircuts
lost hair
purchases
sales
trials, literally
tribulations
disappointments
discoveries
tears
anger
laughter
solace
peace
good news
troubling news
bad news
sad news
happy news
new friends
old friends
new family
found birth parents
lost birth parents
welcomings
shunnings
new decades of life
frustrations
blessings
reflections…

And so here is to reflections…
May there be many more… that both come and go, in the next decade of living…

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 ESV

in pursuit

“Among the strange things of this world,
nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right
and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer.”

John Jay


(some of norht Georgia’s finest…Arkansas Blacks and Winesaps / Julie Cook / 2019)

The rains had departed, the clouds were racing off, chasing the latest weather front,
and now the air was actually, delightfully, a bit chilled.

This was to be a short-lived moment as the weather folks were telling us that the
temperatures would be rising this week while the rains would be returning by Tuesday with a vengeance.
Bad weather in the South, no matter what the time of year, is something to be wary of…

So if we wanted to seek out a single colored leaf, now was our moment.

And thus we got into our vehicle Sunday morning and decided to point the truck following
the compass arrow pointing north…or so said the dashboard readings…north.

It’s just about a 2-hour drive from the house to reach North Georgia’s apple capital–
Elijay and her fellow communities of Blue Ridge, Cherry Log, etc…

We almost thought we’d move up this way about a year ago…
but that’s another story for another day.

As the truck’s compass continued pointing north, north-east, we drove on, passing
various polestars pointing towards various destinations…

I must confess, I’ve never been to, let alone seen, Rock City.
Have you?

It was always my understanding, since I was a little girl back in the day,
that farmers were paid to paint the famous “See Rock City” on the sides or roofs
of their barns but I can’t say for certain…
However I always did want a Rock City birdhouse…but I digress

Finally, just before noon, we found the ‘apple barns’ selling the fruits of their labors and harvest.

There were fried apple pies, preserves of every shape and description along with pumpkins for sale.
However, we had come for apples and apples it would be.

There were Grannysmiths, Jonagolds, Pink ladies, Honey crips, Winesaps, Arkansas Blacks, Ozark Gold, Romes,
Fujis…any variety you’d like to purchase is most likely found by the bag or bushel.

I opted for the tried and true Winesaps and a bag of Arkansas Blacks—
an apple variety that I’m told does best if it is stored chilled in a root cellar for a few months—
Since I don’t have a root cellar, I’ll opt for the fridge in the basement.

After gathering our apples, we continued northward toward a stop in the quaint mountain
town of Blue Ridge…the home of the North Georgia Railway offering train rides up through
the north Georgia mountains.

Blue Ridge is such a dog-friendly little town.
Some of the public parking lot’s proceeds go toward the local animal shelters.
We saw every kind of dog on holiday with “their people.”

We stopped for lunch at a lovely spot on the crowded downtown strip, Harvest on Main,
a place we’ve enjoyed on previous visits.
I had the tastiest drink sporting some local bee pollen…go figure!


(The Harvest / Julie Cook / 2019)

As the afternoon was beginning to wane, we opted to head back toward the more flatlands of home
rather than continuing eastward over the northern part of the state towards Blairsville, Helen
and Georgia’s gold capital of Dalonagha…

Sadly, however, we were more than aware that we had yet to really see any colorful foliage,
as our Fall is struggling from our having had one more extreme record hot and dry Summer.

We retraced our steps back towards Elijay, opting to take Hwy 52 / 2, a road that would carry us over
Fort Mountain back towards Chatsworth, Ga. and Hwy 411 South.

I’ve lived in Georgia all of my life, less than two hours away from Fort Mountian,
and yet I had never heard of this “mountain” nor of the state park of the same name.

“Mystery shrouds the ancient stone wall of Fort Mountain State Park,
located near the Cohutta Wilderness, offering you a look back in time to the previous inhabitants,
as you discover 60 miles of recreational trails and majestic overlooks.”
A scenic drive on Highway 52 near the Cohutta Wilderness leads visitors
to this mountain getaway.
Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders will find some of the most beautiful trails in Georgia,
winding through hardwood forest and blueberry thickets,
crossing streams and circling a pretty lake.
Hikers can also explore a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
and an ancient rock wall that stands on the highest point of the mountain.
The mysterious 855-foot-long wall is thought to have been built by early Indians
as fortification against more hostile Indians or for ancient ceremonies.

During summer, visitors can cool off on a lakeside beach.
Park guests may stay overnight in fully equipped cottages, a campground or backpacking campsites.

Fort Mountain State Park History

Fort Mountain State Park sits at the southwestern end of the Cohutta Mountains
near the Cohutta Wilderness. Sitting at 2,850 ft above sea level, Fort Mountain
is a great destination for hiking and history lessons alike.
The area in and around the park was home to the Cherokee Indians for hundreds of years,
and their legacy is still felt throughout North Georgia today.

We stopped at an overlook, just before reaching the state park, that was actually the pinnacle of this
“mountain”— hoping to catch a touch of color.
The vistas pointed toward both Tennessee and North Carolina.

There was a couple with their dog who had also climbed up to the outlook.
They asked where we were from… we told them and they told us that they were from
Jacksonville, Fl. They had driven up last year and had opted to come back this year.
They were just so impressed to know that Georgia had such splendor.
I inwardly smiled with a touch of pride as we all like hearing folks from other states
saying nice things about your own state.

But as you can see, there was little if any color for viewing.
A few yellows, a few reds but green is still reigning supreme.

Maybe in a few more weeks things will be turning more colorful…

Despite the lack of fall color—the deviation of a pursuit that was other than
the typical was most welcomed and most refreshing…plus I learned a thing or two
about my state that I didn’t know before…

How’s that little verse, or is it a poem, go??
‘The world is wide and wonderful, wherever we may roam…
but our thoughts return to precious things such as friends and love and home…

It’s not always the pursuit now, is it???…
It is, more or less, the journey itself that is what matters most…

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
(as seen on a small country chruch’s sign during our drive northward)

is my heart strong enough???

The goodness of God is the highest object of prayer, and it reaches down to our lowest need.
It quickens our soul and gives it life, and makes it grow in grace and virtue.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(The Mayor is all smiles…if only she knew what was coming her way…./Julie Cook / 2018)

Almost two years ago, before my husband sold out his business and before we had
The Mayor in our lives…
we had both already lost our parents, I was retired and our son and daughter-n-law
had moved away.
We knew we didn’t have much that was remaining keeping us here in our current community.
No family to speak of…so selling, downsizing or simply resizing seemed like a
viable thought.

We toyed with the idea of perhaps moving and in turn, started kind of looking around.

I like nature, the woods, the mountains, the ocean, water…
He likes nature, the woods, the mountains, not so much the ocean, but definitely water
as in lakes and streams.

Maybe someplace out west?
Someplace wide, unpopulated and quiet?

Maybe somewhere down in Florida’s panhandle…white sands or better for him, out on the bay?

Maybe up in the mountains of Tennessee or North Carolina?

It doesn’t hurt to look and dream right?

We actually came very close to pulling the trigger a year ago on a place in Florida
but walked away before going too far.

And it was shortly thereafter that we found out that The Mayor would be coming.

Sooooooo our vision changed. We couldn’t be far away.

The idea of The Mayor coming into our lives put a halt to ever being further away
then we are now.

The notion and thought of different, however, remained…particularly as my husband
sold out the business in June.

Maybe we should move closer to The Mayor?

Despite having grown up there, I hate Atlanta…
And my small town husband…well, I think living in the city would kill him or kill
me for having to live with him in said city!

Still, there just wasn’t anything keeping us here…albeit the house we built 20 years ago.

And it’s 5 acres are getting more and more overwhelming…
more than either of us can physically maintain…we have
more than enough bedrooms…let’s just keep looking…right?

So we thought we had found a place in North Georgia, up in the mountains and not much
further from The Mayor than we are now.

We got right close to closing on this latest pipedream of ours when we realized
the impending house was in worse shape than we actually were aware and that getting
it up to speed, to the necessary shape expected before the closing, just wasn’t happening…
and who wants to buy a house in bad shape for a price beyond its shape???

Not us.

So that was our wrinkle this past week, besides drawing the ire of realtors.
But such an investment needs to be worth what you’re paying for—not something you
want to be overpaying for…only to turn around to pay more down the road as an
unending fixer upper…think the classic movie The Money Pit.

We’re too old for that.

Add to all of that… we are both still dealing with the messes our respective father’s
each left us upon each of their deaths.

Besides having almost been house poor, we are currently a bit lawyer poor.

At some point, I will be free to write about these two messes we’ve inherited….or
perhaps I’ll simply write a book from our experiences…
Maybe I could title it…
“When it’s your time to go,
make certain those who remain aren’t left cleaning up after you!”

Sooooo…there we were Wednesday night, eyes glazed over, licking our wounds
when the phone rang.

It was The Mayor.

Well actually it was The Mayor’s father who was facetimeing Moppie and Poppie on
behalf of The Mayor.

Our son says…”Mother move away from the phone, just let daddy look”

Hummmmmm…what’s up with that I wondered???!!

Peeking over my husband’s shoulder, aka Poppie, I see The Mayor rolling about like
the wild rabbit she is…I notice she’s wearing some sort of new little shirt.

I can make out only one word, but it’s a keyword that has me instantly jerking the
phone out of my still clueless husband’s hand as I immediatley holler into the phone…..

OH MY GOD, ARE Y’ALL PREGNANT???????!!!!!!!”

The shirt reading “I may be small but I’m going to be a Big Sister”

WHAT THE HELLO DOLLY?????


(The Mayor is mad to be held still so Moppie can clearly read the shirt)

So yeah…not planned, but The Mayor is about to have an assistant…

The assistant, James Gregory, is due May 1…and yes it is a he…
and it’s a safe bet that Poppie is already planning a fishing trip…
So I just bet a lake may be in our future…who knows…

All I do know is that I only thought we were consumed by The Mayor…
now there will be two…under two…

Yes… God help us all!!!!!

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Julian of Norwich

waiting and hoping toward wider horizons

“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget,
that until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man,
all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and hope.’

Alexandre Dumas,
The Count of Monte Cristo


(a view looking out over the north Georgia mountains with veiws into North Carolina / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The way Jesus shows you is not easy.
Rather, it is like a path winding up a mountain.
Do not lose heart!
The steeper the road,
the faster it rises toward ever wider horizons!”

Pope John Paul II

we are your people

“Let all nations know that Thou art God alone,
and that Jesus Christ is Thy Son,
and that we are Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture.”

— St. Clement


(image in Cades Cove, The Great Smoky Mountians National Park, TN /
the lingering morning clouds and mist help give these mountians their name as smoky mountians)

**I’m currently in Atlanta for a few days visiting “The Mayor”…aka babysitting.
We took the show on the road and have a nice “new” Woobooville setup, complete with a new
constituency… Madomeillse Spindly Legs (aka a flamingo in a pink tutu), Piglet, Pooh bear
and Sophie the Giraffe. The office is full and things remain busy…as so it seems with most mayors.

Heading back home Friday so I may be a bit in and out…
The Mayor tends to keep me very busy…

sanity remains despite insanity’s fight for dominance

For at present we all tend to one mistake; we tend to make politics too important.
We tend to forget how huge a part of a man’s life is the same under a Sultan and a Senate,
under Nero or St. Louis.
Daybreak is a never-ending glory,
getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance;
food and friends will be welcomed;
work and strangers must be accepted and endured;
birds will go bedwards and children won’t,
to the end of the last evening.

—G.K. Chesterton
from the essay What’s Right with the World,
found in In Defense of Sanity

Two things…well maybe even more but two things first.

First…I saw this shelf fungus, or full blown mushroom, growing directly out of the side
of a tree…and at first glance, I asked my husband…
“is that thing real???”
with his woodsy savvy response, “of course it’s real”

“Huh….who knew?!” is all I could muster in reply.


(a fungus among us / The Great Smokey Mts National Park / Julie Cook / 2018

Secondly…what about G.K.???

Is Mr. Chesterton not hitting the proverbial nail on the head with his very current
words???

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Chesterton…Gilbert Keith to be exact,
Mr. Chesterton came into this world in 1874 in London and died in 1936 at his home
in Buckinghamshire, England.

He was a prolific writer, being considered by many, the greatest writer of the 20th century.
He never attended college however but rather opted to attend art school,
earning a degree in illustration.
Yet it was after being asked to contribute an essay on art criticism to a magazine that
his lifelong passion for writing and his career as a writer, would not stop until
his death at age of 62…
and yet it never really has stopped as his words live on most enthusiastically
to this day.

And it is due to his prolific writing that Mr. Chesterton remains as current and
as relevant as he did at the turn of the century…that being the turn of the 19th
to the 20th century.

It was actually from the writings of Chesterton that lead a young atheist by the name
of C.S. Lewis to conversion to Christianity…
but Chesterton first would have to come to conversion himself.

Born of Unitarian parents, as a young man Chesterton and his brother veered toward a
fascination with the occult and that of Qujia Boards…as this was a time of a cultural
interest in such…a time when seances were all the rage and much in vogue with most of
cultured society.

Intellectualism and science were both coming into their own as Christianity was
being seen as the stuff of fables and fairy tales as well as too stringent for
those seeking to dabble in all things ‘other than’…
for this was an age of enlightenment.

Chesterton credits his wife Frances, who he married in 1901, with actually leading
him back to the fold of believers.
They became members of the Anglican Church…yet Chesterton would refer to
Anglicanism as a “pale imitation” and eventually joined the Catholic Church in 1922.

It was at this point that Chesterton became what many consider to be one of the
staunchest of all times apologists for the Christian Faith.

Chesterton was equally blessed with the gift of gab and debated the likes of
H.G. Wells, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow and not only
lived to tell about it but was considered to be the victor of each debate leading
George Bernard Shaw to proclaim that “the world is not thankful enough for Chesterton.”

And so as I read today’s quote, I found it amazingly instep and even quite timely.

In fact, reading the quote and not knowing it was from Chesterton,
I would have thought any ardent
Christian living today might have said such.

And so it was on our recent trip to the mountains–Cades Cove to be exact, that we
found ourselves wandering into an old creaking white clappered church…
This small mountain Methodist church’s original log hewn structure, built in 1820,
is long gone …leaving in its place the current surviving structure which dates to 1902.


(a pic of the church I took several years back during the fall of the year / Cades Cove /
Julie Cook)

I find that there is something not only peaceful about this long empty church but
actually inviting…

The setting which surrounds this bastion of faith beckons to my soul.


(a view looking back to the right of the Chruch / Julie Cook / 2018)

As we walked inside this glimpse of days gone by, breathing in the stale dusty old air,
feeling the ancient wooden planks gently give and squeak underfoot,
I immediately saw the same simple altar with the same simple wooden cross
hung on the wall…of which was still standing after 25 years when I first took a picture
of our son standing at that very same altar as he once thought seminary was in his future,
I felt an immediate sense of coming home.

Yet on this particular visit, splayed open in reverent fashion on the ancient plain
wooden altar, sat a Bible.
A worn open Bible…
And whenever I find a lonely open Bible,
I am always intrigued as to where might this bible be opened…
what passage did a previous visitor find important to leave for
those who followed after…

The Bible was opened to the Book of Lamentations…
with one section of verse shining like a blinding light…
Lamentations 3:20-24

My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

So given Mr. Chesterton’s words regarding our tendency to take politics
(and our current state of events) way too seriously,
of which is oh so easy to do with one click of a button, it is a deep comfort
to see those long-standing words still there, still consistant, still constant…
a reminder that despite our dire current state of affairs,
the Lord remains my portion as my hope rests only in Him…

live to see another day

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.
Voltaire


(a young bear scales the tip top of the trees in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

We’ve come up to Tennessee, to Cades Cove for a couple of days.
It is by far one of my most favorite places on earth…as I have seen some mighty grand and
lovely places on this planet. But Cades Cove is special.

I’ve written about Cades Cove before so I won’t go into all of that all over again
but just know that it remains a small remnant of who and what settled this great
land of ours.

Today in the Cove (an 11-mile one-way loop around what was once an early 19th-century
mountain valley settlement and centuries-old Indian territory)
we actually came upon two bears climbing like nimble footed acrobats
to the tip-top branches of the trees…
there were berries.

Cars had stopped as everyone got out, careening necks upward while staring in amazement,
watching these two big black bears acting more like squirrels.

As the day waned, we made our way back to the cabin where we were staying and
decided to go hike some of the nearby trails.
We had been told upon check-in that there was a bear on the property so just be
vigilant when out and about.

Making our way up a narrow trail, my husband leading the way with his long spider stick
waving precariously in front of him like some sort of crazy conductor’s baton
(a stick or twig used to knock down all the webs that are prolific this time of year)
all the while as I lagged slightly behind with my camera snapping pictures of the various
mushrooms and toadstools and yes, spider webs…

Suddenly my husband stops dead in his tracks and urgently announces BEAR.

I freeze.

About 20 feet in front of us, at the bend in the trail, lumbers a very large mother
black bear with two tiny cubs in tow.

I threw my camera up as fast as I thought I had life left to do so in order to snap a shot,
a shot I didn’t even have time to focus, when mom and babies nonchalantly kept
walking around the curve in the path….
all the while as we prayed she wouldn’t turn and charge at us.

We just stood there as she rounded the turn and disappeared.
Then boldly, or brazenly I’m not sure which, we opted to take a few steps forward just
to see which way they were headed when suddenly one of the cubs pops back around
the corner to take a gander at us before he circles back to mom.

At which point we turned and took another trail.

Once back down to the main road we spied a maintenance worker who we decided should
hear our report of seeing a mama bear with cubs on the retreat’s property.

He casually replies “yeah…they’ve been around awhile, best to keep your distance
but that’s nothing…
two weeks ago I was standing right over there when a mountain lion came
out of nowhere and crossed the path right in front of me…
but these darn spiders…now they’re what really bothers me”

We opted to leave him our spider stick for protection.

The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,

Isaiah 43:20