When the scuppernongs hang heavy

“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
― Carson McCullers

“The winter will be short, the summer long,
The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot,
Tasting of cider and of scuppernong.”

Elinor Wylie

DSC02510
(wild growing scuppernongs after a morning rain / Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02515
(wild scuppernongs hang high in the trees / Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is your trigger—that certain thing, person or place. . .
when seen, heard or tasted. . .transports you to a different time, a different place?
That single something that magically erases the years and lightens your step?

Is it a smell, a perfume, a scent. . .
Perhaps the sound of bells ringing, children laughing or birds singing. . .
Maybe it’s the sight of a balloon, a leaf gently blowing in the breeze. . .
or maybe, just maybe. . .
it’s the sight of the scuppernongs hanging heavy on the vine. . .

Pour, Bacchus! the remembering wine;
Retrieve the loss of me and mine!
Vine for vine be antidote,
And the grape requite the lote!
Haste to cure the old despair,—
Reason in Nature’s lotus drenched,
The memory of ages quenched;
Give them again to shine;
Let wine repair what this undid;
And where the infection slid,
A dazzling memory revive;
Refresh the faded tints,
Recut the aged prints,
And write my old adventures with the pen
Which on the first day drew,
Upon the tablets blue,
The dancing Pleiads and eternal men.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bacchus
line 50-65

DSC02511
(wild scuppernongs / Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02513
(wild scuppernongs / Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

Nostalgia

“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet”
― Robert Browning

DSCN5471

****this is the post I wanted to share Sunday morning—the morning following our big day.
It was a time of tremendous emotion.
A week long adventure of adrenaline, very little sleep, and a time of relishing in the love of dear family and friends.
Between poor wifi connections, exhaustion and a lack of solitude, time passed too quickly, never allowing for the finishing a private reflection. . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Underneath an ethereal blanket of gossamer grey,
snippets of time– those of one’s past, present and future– wildly and suddenly collide into one. . .
All the while, the heady scent of gardenia swirls sweetly on a southern breeze

He looks first at mom and then over to dad, who’s hearts now tug to and fro-
as his two parents helplessly, yet joyously, watch their little boy oddly fade from their sight.
A dam bursts forth as a flood of tender memories poignantly mix with the reality of time,
gently welcoming this transition of age.

There is a single violin’s rhythmic vibration, lifting upward to a Heavenly Host.
when a girl dressed in white, smiling with delight, offers her love, her life, her all—
The proud young man, whose conviction is firm, in turn promises this girl his world
All as a choir of united hearts gently whisper Amen

Celebratory joy mingles with glistening tears as Commitment is mysteriously at work.
Heads reverently bow as an obligatory hush settles over those gathered close by.
With Life’s transforming grace, serenely dancing under a tightly woven canopy of ancient oaks and moss, a single promised bond, tightly binds willing hearts,
while weaving two lives into one,

The importance of being in the moment

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory..”
― Dr. Seuss

DSCN4709
(little garden friend / Julie Cook / 2014)

Hindsight is 20 / 20
Oh the mantra of many an adult.
Almost anyone over 40 can often be heard to opine and lament over the days that were. Wistfully looking back over the events of our lives—you know the ones–the ones we rushed through in order to hurry on to the other things that seemed oh so terribly important at the time, which now in hindsight, paled in comparison to what we were trying to rush away in the first place.

Those of us with grown children understand all too well the importance of the value of the memorable moments of our lives they have come and gone. . . We were often so busy as young parents that we didn’t pay full attention to the really important little milestones of our children’s growth and development, but rather hurriedly looked past those on to what we imagined to be the more important and much bigger events. . . that we sadly bypassed those real moments for what we falsely presumed to be bigger and better.

We were so busy living a vicious cycle of rushing through life, or rushing from life, to some important meeting, or event, that we often missed out on what really mattered. Now that everyone is grown, we realize that we allowed those other less important moments to rob us of what was actually precious time, which is now sadly all but a memory.

How many older individuals are often heard to mourn “if only I had had more time, made more time, did things differently, cared more, cared less, worked less, played more, enjoyed more, rushed less. . .”
Maybe it’s all just a matter of age and the differences of the generations. . .
The folly of youth with their “devil may care” attitude verses the melancholy nostalgia of older generations.

Perhaps it’s time that we pause for a moment. . .pausing in order to take inventory, to take stock, to reflect—contemplating what really and truly matters in our lives and of the lives of those we love. Doing so before we allow any more precious time to pass us by, leaving us with only the memories and the regret of not having “been in the moment” during the time those memories were of the present.

No one is promised a tomorrow.
Yesterday is over and done.
Today is it.
It’s all we’ve got.

The question of today, of the moment, is “How do you want to spend this one day, the only day, which you know is the only one you’ve really got?
The answer will be of tremendous consequence—not only for today, but for tomorrow, if you’re lucky and have a tomorrow . . .and not only for ourselves but for the ones we love.
So go ahead and ask. . .How do you want to spend this one day?. . . Remember, it’s really all you’ve got.

The good ol days

“In every age “the good old days” were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them. ”
― Brooks Atkinson

DSCN3801
(Troup County, Georgia / Julie Cook ? 2014)

Is it merely human nature to yearn for times past, memories past, experiences past?
Is the present simply too trying, too frightening, too demanding, too challenging, too real?
Is the future too far away, too uncertain, too unknown, too beyond?

It is to that which is surely known, that which was lived, not imagined which is grounding.
It is to that which was experienced and survived which is now oddly comforting.
It is to those persons who have come and gone to whom we turn our hearts.

Missing what was, struggling with what is, looking with trepidation for what will be.
Despite reluctance or resistance, we are creatures always moving forward—such is the nature of life.
We may look back, but may not travel back.
We have but today–yet struggle through it.
We look toward tomorrow hoping for that which is better.
We live in a state of constant flux and motion.
Trashing in the waters of time, fighting against continual currents of the seasons of our lives which sweep us back and forth.

Taking that which is old, dusty and broken. . . mending it and making it new. . .that is the promise, that is the hope, that is the salvation.
It is the expanse of a bridge which leads from then, to now, to what will be.
Sound, sturdy and unbreakable under the flood waters of life.
The life-line has been cast toward you.
It requires only that you reach and take hold.
That which was, remains in the rushing waters–as you cross the bridge to what will be

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Rev 21:5 KJV)

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19 NRSV Catholic Edition

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot

DSCN2889
(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of it all is now but a mere blur. People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—then they departed. Now more people are coming today. . . where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving, eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing sometime next week. Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going, I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas. My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away all before New Year’s eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–boxing up, packing away, hauling up and down steps, carrying out to the trash.. . yet another Christmas. As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down, I become a one woman demolition team. It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating for a holiday. I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree), I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–even as I lugged all of the ornaments boxes, once again, out of the attic, spreading them out all over the floor. I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree. Our tree is a hodge lodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a sunday school class in 1963 when I was a little girl—the ornaments create a bit of a time-line, moving forward through college, on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament. There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries. There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the cherished ornaments from friends. . .

It seems each ornament has a story. There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died. I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas– Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament, gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place in the ornament box— thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”–unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my stepmother recounted trough tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys this past week—thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use. . .

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood. They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees and of my life today. There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads I have to glue back on year after year. There are even the little glass santa snowmen with the goggly eyes that were actually my grandmothers–and the painted easter eggs that belonged to my other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years. As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented. It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts–therefore making each received present truly special and one of a kind. I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in high school. I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me. He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me following the death of my brother. There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand carved birds from Vermont. . .and there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who, at the time, I did not know. She had decided to call it quits mid year in 1982. She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the history teachers. She had decided to leave mid year in order to go back to school at the University of Georgia to further her degree. I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as the replacement. Eventually I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7. One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some lego kits. In order to make some spending money she had him make Christmas ornaments. After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his tongue depressor snowmen. I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy, whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”— I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer. She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much. She departed this life leaving behind her then teenaged sons and their dad, a very distraught husband and father. A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague, her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree. With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me. That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree, I am constantly reminded of what was—for happy or sad. I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story. There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a constant continuum–with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas, there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended for a future tree. These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of drawers and cabinets, gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets, doodads, figures and balls— adding to the continued story of a single family who travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad, inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to be continued by those who follow suit. The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .

southern nostalgia

“Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar…”
― William Faulkner

DSCN1760
(photograph: abandoned house, Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

Driving through the rural areas in our state, be it north or south, the sights all look very similar…fields, cows, crops, and most often, abandoned barns, outbuildings and houses. My husband has often told me I needed to start taking pictures of old barns as they are a dying breed. I’m beginning to think that much of the old rural ways are actually the dying breed.

This country grew up as a nation on the backs of the farmer…the small as well as the larger farms. There is something most satisfying about heading to a farmer’s market or fruit stand to purchase field fresh vegetables and fruits… that is if you don’t have your own garden out back. I think it’s almost humorous, this sudden massive fascination of ours— this huge surge in support for the farm to table movement and the Slow food movement. It’s as if farm fresh food has been suddenly discovered as some new novel idea… as it is now in vogue to eat at restaurants that tout farm fresh and locally sourced foods.

My grandmother, were she still alive, would laugh at this new craze as it was her generation’s way of life. With all of our growing technology, food became “convenient”…packed, wrapped and good to go….when fast food was born, our lives drastically changed as did our tastebuds and health. It’s taken the alarming drastic toll on our health and waistlines for us to finally realize that maybe our convenient flash frozen, quickly fried and biggie sized lives have not been as amazing as we first thought.

Looking at an abandoned old farm house such as the one above does make me a bit wistful and nostalgic for a former time. The cities began calling and off everyone sadly went. But there is something to be said for this long ago far away slower way of life, as life use to be. My humble opinion is that we were a happier people. Family was important and close knit. We interacted with one another, we supported one another. Our parents were our parents and not our friends. If we got in trouble, we got in trouble. Life was seemingly more “real”……

Afternoons, after school, were spent out in the yard or on our bikes. Weekends were spent exploring the woods or the creek. We picked apples off the tree and ate them on the spot as the yellow jackets chased after us. Evenings were spent, after homework, chasing toads, fireflies, counting stars; listening to the crickets, the whippoorwills, telling secrets under the stars and moonlit nights.

There were chores, errands, cleaning..there were repercussions for not doing such. There were beans to snap, cakes to make, oil to change in the car and truck, cats and dogs to feed. We could go outside and we were safe. Mothers didn’t worry if we were gone with the neighboring kids all day long, returning when twilight was falling on the land and names were called out from backdoors, or whistles were blown or bells were rung to come running for supper.

Wistful, nostalgic and even a tad sad…..

I miss that life…I think most of us miss that life.