humble past

“You may delay, but time will not.”
Benjamin Franklin


(a bible sits open on an old pulpit in the Shoal Primative Baptist Church /
Talladega National Forest / Julie Cook / 2017)

A long time ago, before cotton was ever king…


(a rural cotton field, Rabbit Town, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2017)

Or 13 colonies fought to form a new and perfect union…
the Nation of the Creek Indians called the lands of what is now Georgia and
Alabama home.

It is estimated that these native Americans had lived and thrived in this region
before the year 800 AD, as they were descendants of an even earlier people, from
what is known as of the Mississippian period.

In 1733 Captain James Oglethorpe landed in the what is known today as
Savannah, Georgia.
He claimed the land south of the Carolinas and north of Spanish Florida,
in the name of King George…as the New Georgia.

In 1752 Georgia became officially the 13th colony.
However despite the British crown’s claim to this new land,
the Creek indians continued to be the majority inhabitants and land owners
of this young colony.


(James Ogelthorpe /Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016

However that all began to change in 1760 with the continued exploration
and expansion westward by the British, Spanish and French.
Native Americans were quickly being squeezed from their ancestral lands
by a deluge of European exploration and subsequent settlers.

By 1800 the Creek Nation ceded all of their lands to the state of Georgia
and were forced to move westward…

This time they moved deep into the lands of what is known today as
the state of Alabama.
But in 1819, with Alabama being recognized as the 22nd state
in the Union, once again the Creeks were forced to relocate.

In 1830, following the orders by President Andrew Jackson,
the once proud Nations of the Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw
tribes were forced from their traditional lands,
and were relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi,
as Scotch/ Irish settlers made their way
south and west, down from the Carolinas, claiming these once tribal lands as
their new homesteads.

Around 1835 to 1840, deep in the back woods of the Alabama foothills of the
Appalachian Mountains, a small community of European settlers found a home
in a rugged area of Alabama.

These settlers were farmers, hunters, loggers and even moonshiners.

At the heart of their community these hardy settlers erected a log hewn church
to serve as an anchor for their community.
It was a building that would serve their community needs, their spiritual needs
as well as the educational needs of their children.


(Shoal Primitive Baptist Church, originally built in 1845 / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today both time and Mother Nature have each reclaimed this once small community.
Long forgotten are the voices of those first Native American inhabitants…
as well as the voices of those early European settlers.

Yet hidden deep within a mix of virgin forest and replanted pines,
resting at the end of a long forgotten rutted, single dirt lane road,
a lone wooden church remains ever vigilant…
standing the test of time.

She is a far cry from the great Cathedrals and Churches of big cities or
of far away lands.
She possess neither stained glass, gleaming silver or brass nor
ornately carved wooden fixtures.

For hers is a humble yet strong and determined example of faith.

Her small cemetery of unmarked graves whispers tales of those hardy souls
who once called these lands home…those individuals who worked the land
living and dying in the shadow of this church.


(the unmarked graves of Shoal Creek / Julie Cook / 2017)

The Shoal Primitive Baptist Church originally erected in 1845,
with the building we see today being rebuilt in 1895, is listed and recognized
as an important historic building on the National Registry.

It remains a lone sentinel of the early American pioneering spirit in an area
that is now known as the Talladega National Forrest.
This area was bought by the Federal Government and made a national park
by President Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930’s.

The church is one of 6 remaining log hewn churches scattered throughout the state
of Alabama and still hosts special events such as Sacred Harp singings.

Inside this lovely and lonely darkened church, resting atop the single black pulpit,
sits a worn and tattered bible.

It is open to the book of Psalms….

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

Vibrancy

“The more ugly, older, more cantankerous, more ill and poorer I become, the more I try to make amends by making my colors more vibrant, more balanced and beaming.”
Vincent van Gogh

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(American Beauryberry hiding out deep in the woods, Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2014)

As Monday morning has rolled around once again, with many of us heading back to a long grinding week of school, travel and work, I decided we could all do with a little jolt color—just enough as to evoke a smile verses too much which might leave us a bit unsettled.

I could think of no better example than the American Beautyberry bush (callicarpa americana), also known as the French Mulberry–bedecked and bejeweled with its skittle like candy colored berries?

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The Beautyberry is a member of the verbena family and cousin to lantana.
The Beautyberry’s fruit, also known as drupes, those lucious looking clusters of vibrant lavender berries are a favorite food of the Northern Bobwhite, also known as Quail. The American Whitetail deer enjoys foraging on the leaves of the Beautyberry and Native Americans used the roots, leaves and berries to create teas which would treat such ailments as rheumatism, malaria, fever, dysentery as well as colic.

Botanist and scientists continue to study the Beautyberry’s powerful ability of warding of mosquitoes, gnats and ticks with some proclaiming the chemical compounds found in the leaves may equal the chemical Deet when battling such bloodthirsty pests.

I found a lovely site by a Florida forager who makes Beautyberry Jelly and has even concocted his own Beautyberry insect repellant cream that he claims to be “hands down” the best repellant he’s ever used.
Who knew ?!

Beautyberry Jelly
as excepted form the site:
http://www.eattheweeds.com/beautyberry-jelly-on-a-roll/

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boiland boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

Repellant Cream
I pretty much chopped up a plant(leaves and stems) and boiled it in a pot and let it cool and strained the brown liquid into my blender, about 1 1/2 cups. In a separate pot I warmed some organic neem oil (1 cup) with 1 ounce of beeswax until melted. Then you turn the blender on and pour in the oil mixture very slowly and it becomes a cream. I have to say hands down the best insect repellent ever! Because its a creme on july/august days one application is all you need for the entire day even when your sweating.”

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Here’s to a happy and vibrant Monday!!

Indian Corn, a kernel by any other name should be so colorful. . .

“Colors burst in wild explosions
Fiery, flaming shades of fall
All in accord with my pounding heart
Is not this a true autumn day?
Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize.
The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit.
Delicious autumn!
My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

George Eliot

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(Indian corn / Julie Cook / 2014)

Images of Indian or Calico Corn, otherwise known as Flint Corn.
Did you know that Flint corn is one of the original species of corn grown by most tribes of North American Native Indians? The yellow and white sweet corns, that ubiquitous staple found at most back yard BBQs, that humble buttery and salty corn on the cob, was developed many years later, long after corn was introduced to the first European settlers.

Indian corn is also known as Flint corn because of its very hard exterior–as in, it is as hard as flint. This variety of corn consists of less water molecules and less starch then what is known as “sweet” corn, so when it dries, its kernels remain uniformed and compact unlike more traditional corns whose kernels pull away from one another leaving the familiar “dent” around the kernels— therefore earning the more familiar yellow corn the name of “Dent” corn. Because Indian corn does dry compact, leaving the cob appearing full, it is a wonderful little byproduct of Nature suitable for Fall decorating.

And because Flint corn contains less water, it is much less prone to freezing—which in turn allows for the corn to be harvested much later, well into the late months of Fall. It was one of the few, if not the only, crop recorded in Vermont to have survived the harsh harvest season of 1816 when Vermont and her sister New England states recorded the phenomenon known as “the year without Summer.”

The year of 1816 was recorded globally as one of the coldest and harshest on record. Many people were left to starve due to the lack of harvestable produce as snows and frosts were recorded late into the Summer months. Many people in North America and Northern Europe froze to death during the long brutal winter. Climatologist associated the never ending winter with the 1815 volcanic eruption of Mt Tambora in Indonesia. The thick suffocating and wide spreading ash cloud literally dimmed the warming effects of the sun on a massive and global scale— which in turn caused a catastrophic food shortage. Indian corn was one of the few sustainable crops to survive.

Flint corn is most often ground into meal for polenta, posole, or even for animal fodder. It is the preferred corn for the making of hominy and is a popular corn used for “popping” corn—

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An American Beauty-berry?

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
George Eliot

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(Photograph: the purple variety of the American Beautyberry–Callicarpa Americana / Troup County, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

I know what you’re thinking…Julie, why do you have a picture of some purple berries when you obviously mean to be chatting about Fall? And what in the heck is an American beauty…berry of all things?

Ahhhh, not to fear, I have not lost my mind. These delightful little berries are indeed very much all about Fall. I know you were looking, no doubt, for beautiful images of leaves…those of the Autumnal foliage color variety gregariously showboating flames of oranges, red, and golden yellows….We must remember, however, that it’s still September and this is Georgia…we won’t have those sorts of displays for at least 3 more weeks to perhaps even a month longer. I’ve got to make do until then with what we do have available way down here in Dixie.

Look what I found while traipsing out in the woods last weekend. “How terribly pretty are those berries” I thought to my self…how beautiful the brilliant lavenderish purple played off the light yellow green leaves. Not ever claiming to be a botanist, I knew I’ve seen these bushes and berries out in the woods before but assumed that it must be a sort of sumac and no doubt deadly. I was wrong. I know that is quite a revelation for me to admit, my having been wrong, but just don’t let my husband know……remember he’s convinced the wild pears in the woods are poisonous, this news would rock his world….

Once home I conducted a little research looking up information on a southern bush with bright purple berries which appear in the Fall. The very first entry was indeed my plant. It is the American Beautyberry–and is not only relegated to the woods but people actually add these showy little beauties to their yards for landscaping.

They are native to the southern regions of our country and have been used for all sorts of purposes by Native Americans…and no, they are not poisonous—however I’m not about to dash out and consume any part of them as I tend to always be a little leery of bright pretties that grow in the wild. Seems they have been used medicinally for centuries and are also used to repel mosquitoes, flies and more importantly in my world…fire ants. Seems farmers and ranchers in Texas have smeared these pretty little berries on their horses and cattle in order to provide the livestock a little relief from all sort of biting and stinging creatures.

Have you ever flown into Atlanta’s Harstfield-Jackson International Airport and seen the sculptures of the fire ants lining the ceiling out near the baggage claim? Next time in town, look up and you will spy a larger version of my arch nemesis parading along the ceiling and walls. I’ve always thought that instead of the Falcons or the Braves, our sports teams should be the Fire Ants, as that is what seems to be holding the understructure of this state together—one giant red dirt fire ant mound…uggghhh. This should not be news to any of you if you’ve read any of my post regarding my time outside—-simply put, I despise fire ants….I often wonder if it just wasn’t proving to be a really bad day when God made the fire ant—maybe that was after the whole Garden of Eden incident….but I digress….

What a wonderful discovery my time in the woods provided last weekend. I now know a little more than I did before venturing out for my hike. Don’t be surprised if the next time you see me outside, either working in the yard or merely going for a nice walk, if I’m not smeared in a pretty bright purple goo. You’ll just know that I am sporting a little American Beauty…berry.
Take that fire ants!!!

A fetish, sorrow, and the wisdom of Chief Standing Bear

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In recent days I’ve found myself pulling a couple of quotes from some legendary native American Chiefs…Standing Bear and Chief Seattle. There are countless Chiefs whose words I deeply respect…be it those well known names such a Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, or even local favorite Sequoyah. I respect these men, their wisdom, their struggles just as I respect the presidents of our own American past.

My blog is not political nor is it one for hot button topics—I can’t tell others how to live as I’m just trying as best I can to keep things “in the middle of the road” for my own family. You may surmise that I tend to be very conservative in my beliefs as my life’s code is based on the belief in a risen savior….an omnipotent God whose Grace is the reason for my very existence. Believe me, I’m old enough to have made enough mistakes and disasters…I can’t go through this life, as tough and as hard as it can often be, without clinging to that saving Grace—for me, without that Grace–its healing and forgiving power–I wouldn’t be here…but there I go digressing.

I preface this little piece today with the above paragraph because there is something in our American drama that has plagued my heart for many years. To some it may sound like tree hugging liberal mumbo jumbo, to others it may sound like a hidden agenda—it is, however, simply stated, the disgust of the treatment of our Native American brothers and sisters throughout the history of this country.

In 1971 the movie Billy Jack made its debut. Due to an initial poor performance at the box office, it was re-released in 1973—that being the time I made my way to the cinema to see the movie. It was the story about a “half breed” former Vietnam vet who comes back to the reservation…kind of a precursor to Walking Tall and Rambo but with the reality of real life drama on and off the Reservation. The movie is set during a time when Indians and whites are not getting along (my question is have they ever??) The movie sparked in me that “do the right thing” mentality. I was a young teen, impressionable and easily riled up to fight for a just cause—the treatment of Native Americans seemed to be it….

But as life would have it–my fight and die mentality ebbed and flowed into all sorts of areas over those growing years. It wasn’t until sometime in the 1980’s, when I picked up Dee Brown’s book, ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ written in 1970, that those old feelings of injustice began rising up, once again, in my veins. I couldn’t even finish the book. I couldn’t get out of the first chapter! When I read how Christopher Columbus and his men, when first coming to this land, “presented” gifts to the Indians and as to how those “gifts” were blankets infested with the smallpox virus—- I came unglued!

The indians had no immunity to the diseases of the Europeans—smallpox infested blankets, an ancient precursor to chemical warfare, were meant to decimate the tribes…….and these native “americans” thought they were simply welcoming “visitors”—these visitors who came with the intent of finding gold and claiming new land for a Queen and her rising empire…there was no “visiting” in the plan—it was the conquer and claim mentality.

I can’t read about General Custer and the decimation of the buffalo….the “starve them out mentality”…send a species into near extinction in order to “bend a people into submission……my blood pressure is rising just as I type this……

I know, many would argue that many of the Indians were bad—they scalped and murdered countless innocent men, woman and children. You’re right, I agree. There were bad indian tribes and ruthlessness in Native America just as there was and is in “settled” America…..I don’t have any answers to people’s behaviors but we certainly did not help matters by initially trying to wipe them out….didn’t give us the best reputation when our calling card was “here’s a blanket of death”.

I find it almost funny when we all start the debate about immigration—if the truth be told….we are all immigrants—only the Native American Indians are just that, native, and I don’t think they are being yielded to or looked to for any in-put into any of the latest discussion on immigration. But don’t get me wrong–illegal is indeed that.. illegal—so go about things legally and I’m golden…digressing….

On my many adventures I always try to find something to bring back as a reminder of where I’ve been—not some kitchie “Made in China” trinket nor some tee shirt claiming “I climbed”, “I ate”, “I saw”, “I did”……I want something real—that helps to best capture the usual awe and wonder I discover while I’m visiting where ever it is I may be visiting.

When I travel out west, that “something special” is usually a fetish. Being an art teacher I have a real affinity for such as they represent the talents of a person who can carve and capture the personality of, in this case, an animal all within a small stone—as a fetish is just that, a small carving of, most often, an animal out of stone.

These are things that are most typical of the Zuni and Hopi Indians but native American Eskimos are also known to carve fetishes. They are small and are used in various areas of tribal life. It is believed they are indeed of a spiritual nature—the spirit of the animal residing within. When purchasing a fetish it is believed that the fetish picks the buyer, not the buyer picking out a fetish—I have several bears, a rabbit, a raven, known as the trickster, a beaver, which is so up my ally as I always sang the praises of beavers to my students as the most industrious animals in the animal kingdom—good work ethic you know…., and a badger—my personality—tenacious…..

I respect these items because they have a place of honor in the lives of a particular group of people…just as I hope non Christians can respect a cross as it is dear to our worship, just as I can honor a star of David as that is so intrinsic to another group of people….plus, to me, a fetish is also a small beautiful piece of art…..

And then there are those timeless wise words which are left to us all as small gifts intended to enlighten allowing us all to ponder and treasure—those words coming from wizened men who had lived long hard lives—who had great respect for the world around them as it is from that very world from which they drew their strength and very being.

Last year PBS had a special docudrama based on an 1877 legal proceeding against Standing Bear and his people. Standing Bear was chief of the Ponca Nation of Nebraska. They, like all Native American tribes, had been rounded up and forced to a reservation–which most likely was not on or anywhere near their ancestral lands. The Ponca Nation had been relocated in malaria ripened land hundreds of miles away having not been allowed to take anything with them, having to walk on foot the entire journey.

The gist of the story is about Chief Standing Bear’s intent on making an illegal journey back “home” to honor his dying son’s desire of being buried on their sacred homeland. He and his group are intercepted by the Government and are interred. In order to make the Government understand the importance of why he was “breaking” the law and to disrupt the quick decision just to send these people back to the new destitute reservation, Standing Bear, who spoke no english, went to court. It is said that Standing Bear was an eloquent spokesman despite the language barrier and that he won the respect of his captors.

It was Standing Bear who had to prove to the United States Government that an indian was indeed a human being who was also destined to the same inalienable rights guaranteed to all living human beings. He had to connivence a judge that just because he was an indian, a man of a different shade skin tone, he was still a human, as he (and all Indians) was not considered to be a person. Incredulous!!

“My hand is not the same color as yours. If I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you too will feel pain. The blood that flows will be the same color. I am a man. The same God made us both.”

I am including a link to the PBS site with the story and a lovely video. It is this life drama, a father wanting to simply bury his son on the land that had been theirs for hundreds of years, that lead to the acknowledgement by our Government that they, the Indians, are actually human–people….

http://www.pbs.org/program/standing-bears-footsteps/

It is amazing to me that we Americans are not very versed on our Native American History–it is as if it just doesn’t count to our history……maybe some of our states do a better job in sharing their state’s Indian history more so than others. Some of the poorest areas in this country are on the reservations…alcoholism runs rampant as does unemployment. Not a proud life for a once proud people.

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”
Black Elk – Oglala Sioux

Indian Paintbrush

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ Crater Lake, Oregon, 2013)

The following story is taken form the Wildflowers of Texas/ Legends and Folklore Part I
Ladybird Wildflower Center/ Austin Texas/ 2006/ Docent supplement

An Indian legend tells the story of how paintbrushes came
to bloom. There once was a young boy. He wanted more
than anything to be a warrior. But, he was very small and
couldn’t keep up with the bigger boys as they learned the skills necessary to become great fighters.
One day, as he sat outside the family’s tent feeling sorry for himself, his grandfather sat down beside him. “You know,” he said, “Not everyone is meant to be a warrior. You have other skills that make you special. You can draw and paint anything you see. That is your great gift.”
The little boy thought about that for a while and decided that his grandfather was right. From that day forward, he began to draw and paint all that he saw around him.
As a young man, the boy became obsessed with capturing the colors and beauty of the sunset. Although he tried very hard, the colors kept eluding him. One night, as he lay sleeping, an old man and beautiful young woman came to him in a dream. The woman was carrying a pure white deerskin. “This,” she said, “will be the canvas upon which you capture the beauty of the sunset.” And she laid it next to him. The old man leaned in close and whispered, “Go to the hill tomorrow evening and you will find all you need to capture the sunset.”
The next morning the young man awoke and waited all day for evening to come. As the sun began to set, he gathered up the deerskin, his paint, and brushes and made his way up to the top of the hill. When he arrived, he saw brushes of every color of the sunset. He sat down, spread his canvas out, and, as the sun began to set, and using the brushes he found, began to paint the sunset. As he worked, he tossed each brush aside. By the time the sun had set, he had his picture. Proudly, he carried it down to the camp and presented it as a gift to the tribe.
The next morning he awoke. As he walked about the camp, he looked to the hill where he had painted his masterpiece. There, everywhere he had tossed aside a brush, were flowers in every hue of the sunset. And, every Spring, the Great Spirit sends the colors of the sunset to remind us of the little boy who captured the sunset.

There are several legends connected to the Indian Paintbrush, but coming from a retired art teacher—I simply couldn’t resist this one………….

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