zen to hell and maybe one day back

“I realize as never before that the Lord is gentle and merciful;
He did not send me this heavy cross until I could bear it.
If He had sent it before,
I am certain that it would have discouraged me…
I desire nothing at all now except to love until I die of love.
I am free, I am not afraid of anything,
not even of what I used to dread most of all…
a long illness which would make me a burden to the community.
I am perfectly content to go on suffering in body and soul for years,
if that would please God.
I am not in the least afraid of living for a long time;
I am ready to go on fighting.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 122
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(a lovely look at The Highlands Botanical Garden’s trail at Lindenwood Lake /
Julie Cook / 2021)

Close your eyes.
Breathe out slowly.
Feel the weight lifting…
ahhh the zen of life….HA!

Today’s image is that of a zenful moment.

And yet, there is no such thing of zen and life–
the two are simply incompatible.

We stepped away from life for a few days, headed northward about 2 hours toward
the North Carolina mountains…taking a belated anniversary get-a-way.

38 years of wedded bliss (cough cough) needed to be celebrated.
And the particular inn that we wanted to visit only had a first available
room about 2 weeks after the fact, so we took what we could get…
and thus off we went.

This escape came at a time when our nation was / is at a such a juxtaposition.
And yes, there is just oh so much to say…
so much dismay, so much pain, so much sorrow, do much disappointment, so much anger…

I looked forward to tuning out for a couple of days.
But how do you tune out the pain you feel for 13 families who just
lost their children, spouses, siblings because of a president who
is nothing but inept?

If you can do so, you have no empathy in your heart.

I am absolutely seething under the surface.
Disgrace does not speak strongly enough.

How in the world could a president have no clue?

We, the average US citizen, all knew that an attack was imminent,
we all received the notice via our various news outlets.
Heck, I received a push notification.
If I got it— if I get it…how come the President didn’t and still doesn’t?

An attack was coming and yet he sat back and basically waited.

So it appears that the deaths of those remaining service members
closing out our stay in Afghanistan could have been readily and easily avoided.
Throw in the 90 billion dollars worth of American war equipment that has been abandoned–
all of which could have been readily evacuated…
had there been a cohesive plan….but there was no such plan.

A plan.

As a longtime educator, I totally get the concept of a cohesive plan.
I know all too well that how you finish is just as important as how you begin.
And yet sadly this administration does not comprehend such.

Stand down from a lengthy occupation…stand down from being in a place
much longer than we ever should have been…yes, by all means, stand down…
but to stand down without precision, order, or a well calculated plan…
well even we simpletons, call that pure negligence.

So off we went Saturday on our little trip all the while Afghanistan
swirled within both our thoughts… a sick heaviness lingered in the pit
of my stomach.
13 American service men and women were killed needlessly.
ABSOLUTLEY NEEDLESSLY!!

Add to this the hundreds of Americans, their Afghani partners, US babies,
and US military service dogs who are all now stuck behind enemy lines…
Yes– left stranded, Jen Psaki…as in stuck in harms way…no thanks to
our President.

Yep, we little people actually comprehend this notion…we call that stranded.
You can’t sugarcoat stranded.

And you can’t sugarcoat what will happen to those left behind.
Think torture, abuse and twisted delight in the demise of any
human or animal associated with the Americans…
but we don’t like to think about such…we don’t like the uncomfortable…
we don’t like that which makes us feel out of sorts.

Explain being out of sorts and uncomfortable to the families of those
Americans who are now hurting today over tremendous loss.

I will be the first to tell you that I agree with the fact that the
length of time we have spent in Afghanistan has been well past its prime.
Pulling out certainly needed to be, however, the manner in which we pulled out
should have been paramount.

Start strong, end strong.

Oh there’s just so much to chat about isn’t there?
However, today, time does not permit those lengthy sort of conversations.

We’ll look at masks, mandates and Covid dilemmas tomorrow.

And of course we’re coming up on 9-11…
so much to say, so little time.

Stand up my friends.
Time is not on our side.

sailing with a ship of fools

Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made,
for somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid.”

Robert N. Rose

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars,
or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven
to the human spirit.”

Helen Keller


(Hieronymus Bosch / Ship of Fools/ 1490-1500/ Louvre, Paris)

The art of Hieronymus Bosch coupled with the notion of sailing…

Ahhhh…

Does it get any better????

As a long time art teacher, who loves the symbology of the Dutch northern Renaissance
artist Hieronymus Bosch, topped off with notion of sailing…sailing along a
warm air current, I was actually transported back to a better time by the misery
of our current events.

Huh??

Stay with me.

When I was in college, I spent my summers as a camp counselor up in Black Mt,
North Carolina…at a Christian girls summer camp.

And may it be noted that I have an equal love of both mountain and ocean…
for God planted the seed in my soul for a love of His handiwork.

I was a city girl who was growing up in a massively dysfunctional family…
and so just being able to get away, getting lost high in the Appalachian mountains,
provided me with the reassuring knowledge that there was something, or more like
Someone, who was so much greater than my current state of misery.

It was the summer of 1980 and I took off from Atlanta in my little blue pinto
with its solid glass back hatch and blue plaid seats, pinto jeep as I affectionately
called her, heading north on a 5 hour journey, high up into the mountains.

I had a tape cassette player in my car and I always popped in Chris Cross’s tape.
At some obscure mile marker as I exited off of I-85, I popped in the tape
once I saw the first looming blue grey mound topping the horizon.

I’d play the song Sailing over and over again.
Hitting repeat constantly.
Over and over, mile after mile.

Windows cranked down as my arm was outstretched acting like a small wing–
all the while as I cruised upwards on what seemed like an endlessly
inviting string of winding roads.

Alone, with some sense of independence, I was contently winging my way to
a place where I felt at home.
Sailing along on the current of a warm summer wind, I was lovingly nestled
within the undulating spine of an ancient mountain chain.

Flash back to my northern Renaissance art history class.
It was where I met Hieronymus Bosch.

A surreal painter long before surrealism was a thing.

Mystical and full of Christian symbolism…his paintings rang of
the satirical yet candid truth of what our ancient faith was all about.

God doesn’t play.
His word is His word…whether we like it or not.

Fast forward…..

I did a stupid thing today–I watched the news.

Hackers hit again.
Holding US companies hostage.
Putin knowingly and smugly smiles.
Biden trips over his thoughts and words.

Chicago continues killing itself…skyrocketing black on black murders…
Innocent children being shot and killed…
while a black mayor blames a white population.

A White House Press Secretary is asked about the current troubles
plaguing the land and right on cue, she defers responsibility, blaming the
previous administration.

The latest version of the Mod Squad defames the flag, their
constituents, their responsibility, their nation.

Hate spews from their mouths.

A black anthem verses THE anthem.
Segregation is oddly, once again, the name of the game.
A statue of Liberty is labeled obsolete.
Oddly it is now black who wants the separation from white while
a new generation is brainwashed over the notion of white privilege.

All the while we sail away on a ship filled with fools….


(A reconstruction of the left and right wings of the triptych: at upper left
The Ship of Fools; at lower left: Allegory of Gluttony and Lust.
Panel at right is Death and the Miser. At bottom “The Wayfarer”
which would have been on the outside of the triptych.)

The painting Ship of Fools is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch,
now on display in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The surviving painting is a fragment of a triptych that was cut into several parts.
The Ship of Fools was painted on one of the wings of the altarpiece,
and is about two thirds of its original length.
The bottom third of the panel belongs to Yale University Art Gallery
and is exhibited under the title Allegory of Gluttony.
The wing on the other side, which has more or less retained its full length,
is the Death and the Miser, now in the National Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C.
The two panels together would have represented the two extremes
of prodigality and miserliness, condemning and caricaturing both.
The Wayfarer was painted on the right panel rear of the triptych.
The central panel, if existed, is unknown.

wikipedia

Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
Believe me.
It’s not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
Believe me.
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free
Fantasy, it gets the best of me
When I’m sailing
All caught up in the reverie, every word is a symphony
Won’t you believe me?
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free
Well it’s not far back to sanity, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
Believe me.
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

(songwriter Carter Burwell / performed by Chris Cross)

even when you’re down, look up

“A people who do not honor the deeds of their worthy dead
will do nothing worthy of being honored by their descendants.”

Macalay


(a weathered tombstone, Myers Cemetery, Townsend, TN / Julie Cook / 2020)

It was hot, nearing 90, as the sun beat down on our backs.
The bugs certainly weren’t bothered by the heat as they swarmed around our faces.
My husband kept slapping at his legs to fend off the ravenous bites.

On this particular July 4th, 2020 we found ourselves wandering around the oldest cemetery
in this particular part of Tennessee—
Myers Cemetery in the small sleepy town of Townsend, Tennessee.

Townsend boasts being the quiet side of the Smokies…
a far cry from nearby Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.

We like quiet.

Townsend is one of the gateways to The Great Smokey Mountains National Park…
in particular the gateway to Cades Cove—
One of the first mountain settlements by white European immigrants in what was
originally a part of the Cherokee Nation.

Myers cemetery dates back to 1795, if not even years before.
There are approximately 300 graves, many unknown, and even many unmarked.
Out of the approximate 300 marked graves,
75 graves belong to children under the age of 12.

There was the bittersweet double tombstone of twins born in 1805—
each living 4 and 5 days respectively.

Sheep and lambs that rest atop tombstones, denote the graves of children.

Even the small etched hand, held within a larger hand.

But many of the oldest graves simply have a single stone or piece of slate marking one’s place.

And so when I saw the worn weathered marker of a hand with a finger pointing upward, I couldn’t
help but see the significance that even in death, we are reminded our hope and help
comes from above.

So as we find ourselves currently gripped by all sorts of angst, sorrow, fear and the unknown on this earth, it is here in a quiet mountain cemetery , walking amongst the long dead, that I am pointedly reminded that even in death,
we are to always look up…

“We must pray literally without ceasing— without ceasing—
in every occurrence and employment of our lives…
that prayer of the heart which is independent of place or situation,
or which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant
communication with Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

senses put in order

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order.”

John Burroughs


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)

That quote by John Burroughs is so true is it not?
After any walk outside, out in nature…be it in the woods, through a meadow,
a ragged shoreline or a challenging mountain top…I always find myself at peace…
All worry and fret subsides…as that which is so much bigger, so much grander
than my mere self, has an enormous way of healing that which currently ailes my soul.

God is good like that.
Offering me the vast glory of His creation…

So it is no surprise that I love wandering in the woods especially this time of year…
It’s a time when I am not bothered by such things as spiders, snakes, or ticks.

No fears, no immediate worry as I can walk unimpeded—not fretting about where
I put my foot, as long as I avoid any and all stump holes—
those rotted out places in the ground, holes left gaping which are the remains of a dead tree…
such holes can be readily covered by the freshly fallen leaves and not immediately detected
by a mere glance downward.

Many a sprained ankle or even a break can happen when falling into such a hole.
I should know…thankful nothing ever broken…just usually sore and bruised.

And so I can hunt for those small wonders that still wait to be uncovered…
wonders that are not hibernating or buried deep within the ground waiting for Spring.

Shelf fungus and mushrooms are always a favorite to find as their shape, size, and colors
are usually most eye-catching.

Here are just a few from the other day…


(mildewed shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(mushrooms, mushrooming out from under the crevis of a wooden bridge/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully,
he can learn more than what is in books,
for they speak with the voice of God.

George Washington Carver

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…