It’s simply a matter of where you fall

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”
― George Bernard Shaw

RSCN7863
(a lone black oak acorn / Julie Cook / 2014)

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSCN7940
(a small cache of acorns / Julie Cook / 2014)

Consider the lowly acorn.
A tiny little nut wearing a tiny little cap.
Food to squirrels, chipmunks, mice and voles. . .

Think of the massive amount of energy and the tremendous potential for greatness which is neatly stuffed inside a tiny shell underneath a tiny little cap.

Yet this tiny little cap wearing nut is but a majestic oak tree in tiny disguise.
Despite the potential for staggering growth, which is locked inside the humble little acorn, should the acorn fall on anything other than fertile soil, all the potential and all the possibilities are but for naught as the little acorn is simply left to wither, perish and rot.

All of us come into this life, just like a little acorn. . .we come prewired full of massive potential and grand possibilities. . .
Yet, if there is no nourishment, no encouragement, no tending to, no nurturing, no fertile soil to feed the potential— we are left to wither and flounder. . .being lost to what could have been.

On this new morning of this new day to this new week, may we be mindful of the potential that hides within each of us. May we yearn to nurture and to feed the possibilities in not only ourselves but in the lives of those who are around us—for on this new morning of this new week comes to each of us a new time of growth full of endless possibilities and limitless potential for new growth . . .

May this be your day for the new potential and possibilities which is tucked deep inside waiting to be nurtured. . .

A sunny spring day makes most all things bearable

“Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.”
Madeleine L’Engle

DSCN4249

DSCN4251
(aren’t the quince beautiful in bloom? Julie Cook / 2014)

As you may recall, Dad turned 86 last week.
Last’s week’s visit was nice.
I purposely chose to ignore the office, aka, my old bedroom, with the latest stack of mail containing any and all errant bills–those late, those ignored and those cancelled notices of service.
The lights were on, their heat was working, the water was running so I just decided to go with the flow and ignore any pressing business at hand.

The week before that was not such a happy visit.

Upon my arrival, I made my way down the hall, back to “the office,” with Dad hot on my heels following. He was wailing for me “not to go in there,” assuring me that everything was fine in that high pitched voice that signals everything is not fine.
What I discovered upon entering the room was a couple of huge piles of very official looking papers, scattered in chairs, desks and the floor. . .several IRS payment vouchers, a myriad of file folders overflowing with records, along with some very official looking booklets from a tax firm.
UGH–I didn’t know whether I should sigh or cry.
“NO, STOP, DON’T TOUCH ANY OF THAT, YOU’LL MESS IT ALL UP!” he screams

I begin riffling through the stacks, OFFICIAL NOTICE, LATE PAYMENT, PLEASE RESPOND. . .”
“Oh Dad, this is not good” I lament.
“NO, STOP IT, GET OUT!”
“WHAT THE HELL??”
“Dad, there is no reason to curse”
“GET OUT, GET OUT AND JUST GO BACK TO CARROLLTON” he screams before plopping down in the chair droping his head to his chest bearing a huge frown on his face, much like a pouting child.
Gloria immediately admonishes him, telling him to stop acting like a child and attempts to remind him that “Julie has come a long way to help”

I feel the tears filling my eyes, stinging as I fight blinking them back.
I mustn’t lose it.
No, not here, not now.

Long story short.
I called my cousin who told me not to fret.
Yeah right.
I called the tax man, who has yet to return my call.
I drove home rehashing the entire sad episode.
Thinking to myself how I very much wished, how I very much needed for him to still take care of all of this kind of stuff— this was his area of expertise–the finances, he’s always taken care of all of us in that regard and he’s always prided himself on doing it by himself. This is not my strong suit. I still very much needed for him to do all of this as he had yet to teach me how. . . this as the tears flowed down my face.

As I continued driving home, I simply pondered what to do.

Fast forward a week.
I had not spoken to Dad in about 5 days–I admit I was not only hurt, but I was mad at him. I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to him yet.
The phone rings. . .
“Juuuulie”– the familiar warble
“Hi Dad”– I say in my cheeriest voice.
“Julie, are you mad at me?” asks a very child like voice.
“Mad? Why would I be mad Dad? I’m not mad.
I was going to come up tomorrow but they’re saying it’s suppose to pour down rain in the morning.”
“I know, I hope it clears out by the afternoon because we have an appointment with the tax man.”
“Really Dad? That’s great”
WHEW!!! I silently shout.

Today’s visit was luckily short and sweet.
I had a 1PM appointment there in Atlanta so I quickly stopped in for a hurried bite to eat.
As Gloria was busy in the kitchen, she tells me to go in and visit with Dad.
I go plop down on the couch as dad is simply sitting in his chair with the TV muted. He’s rather silent.
“So Dad, how are things?”
“Okay”
“What do you think of all this Crimean business?” –this as he usually keeps Fox News constantly on the television.
“Oh it’s bad.”
“Do you now what I see every morning when I wake up?” he oddly asks.
No Dad, I don’t–what?” Thinking he’s going to say that pair of lamps in the den, the ones he’s told me, in no uncertain terms, to keep in the family after he is gone, I’m floored by what comes out of his mouth.
“Ed dead on that metal table”
“DAD!!
“Oh my God!”
“Dad, Ed’s been dead almost 30 years.”
“Well you know I drove him to kill himself. . .”
‘Oh dear Lord’ I’m silently screaming in my head as I’m asking myself why in the world did Gloria want me to come in here to visit Dad if this is where he’s going today. . .”

He never talks about this kind of stuff in front of Gloria because she always puts him in his place mighty fast.
And once again I start the litany that Ed, (my bother who I wrote about many moons ago “Forgiveness, one step at a time), was very much mentally ill–his death had nothing to do with Dad. . .funny how he fixates on this when all rational common sense and everyone knows, Ed was mentally unstable—Dad’s obsession with Ed’s suicide goes well beyond the normal grief of a parent. Our family doctor had tried for years to work with him, getting him help, but it’s been as if he relished fixating and twisting the tragedy back to himself. . .

I look at my watch, 1PM can’t come fast enough.
More chatter about Ed. UGH
All as I quickly nip the direction of the conversation in the bud, turning back to Crimea and Malaysia– Suicide verses hostile takeovers and hijackings—what an afternoon!

Realizing that he’s not gaining any ground with me, he switches to the topic of Mother, who has also been gone now for almost 30 years.
Can we please talk about something other than death and how it’s all your fault I silently moan in my head.
My head is now starting to hurt.
I get up, going back to the kitchen, seeing if I can help speed Gloria along as the thought of running out the back door screaming seems most appealing.

Finally, its time for me to leave!
I make for my car, promising to come back next week for a longer stay.
“Good, I need for you to get things out of the basement.” Dad warbles.
This as I’m thinking that only large pieces of furniture remain down in the basement—all of which are not going to fit into my car. . .ugh

Finally and thankfully making my way to my appointment (mother of the groom dress thing you know), I marvel at how pretty all of the trees and shrubbery look as things are now starting to fully bloom.
The sky a brilliant blue, the tulip trees, forsythia bushes, cherry trees, the daffodils, the tulips and hyacinth. . . all in their full colorful regalia. It’s a true sensory overload, so much needed.

Old Atlanta, that part of the oh so shrinking the city which still harkens back to my youth, is so very beautiful. . .there is simply nothing as pretty as Atlanta in the Spring. The beautiful young debutante stepping out for her first debut and dance–that’s Atlanta all gussied up for Spring. An army of ancient oaks, which line the Atlanta streets like soldiers at attention, wait patiently under the growing weight of groaning buds ready to signal a new season with a new beginning.

Trying not to dwell on Dad or of our conversations or of his taxes, preferring rather to bask in the glory of blooms and colors which were now offering me a full palette of visual delight, I silently say a prayer, thanking God for blue skies, blooming flowers and the for hope which is lovingly woven into this single moment, the birth of Spring.

Prognosticator, Harbinger or Hoarder

“But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand.”
― Jerome K. Jerome

DSCN2370

As I was attempting to get myself dressed for the day, wondering as to whether it was to be a chilly or mild day. . . debating over long sleeves or not—I was startled when suddenly both cats came running into the closet and immediately jumped up into the window.

Curious as to what they were so intently studying, I made my way to the window as well. Under the large oak tree, just on the other side of the window, was an extremely busy gray squirrel oblivious that anyone was watching his activity.

DSCN2366

DSCN2363

I’ve seen this same squirrel, over the past couple of days, making himself busy as a bee under that tree–gobbling up and making off with as many acorns as he could possibly handle.

DSCN2386

DSCN2381

I’ve always heard that the observation of animals, such as squirrels, as well as birds, who begin a flurry of activity of feeding or excessively gathering food, is a good indicator of a change in the weather and a good predictor of a colder than average winter. Hummmm….

By the looks of the acorns my squirrel is stuffing in his mouth, I’m a little worried we’re in for big trouble.

DSCN2377

Maybe I need to be looking for the sled up in the attic or checking on the heavy coats–do all the gloves have their match? Do I need new boots?! New boots, Oooo new boots, there’s an idea……

DSCN2372

My question however is this—how does a squirrel possibly remember where he has buried those hundreds of acorns??!! If all of this squirrel’s buried acorns actually sprouted, my yard would be a beautiful forest of lovely hardwoods in about another 150 years. What a nice thought….
But I now have more pressing issues at hand, what type of new boots do I need……

DSCN2383
Julie’s busy squirrel friend / 2013

What to do with all those acorns…

Many people are struggling because they have not used what God has given them. God gives you an acorn; you invest it and it will become a tree! Stop praying for trees while acorns are lying all over the ground. God answered your prayer for the tree when He sent you the acorn. Your creative ideas are acorns from which mighty trees emerge. Your talent is given to you to be multiplied.
TD Jakes

DSCN2084

There are three oak trees in our yard–two of great prominence to our house–as we built the house so that the trees would be able to grow and thrive without being impeded by the building of and eventual existing of the house. They in turn showcase our home beautifully.

We almost lost one, a couple of years back, to a tornado. It now has a bit of a distinct lean—not a deadly lean nor a lean noticeable to the causal observer—just enough for us to know things are slightly skewed. The other one, we fear has a leaf blight that will eventually take the tree. Sadly it appears as if the one in the back of the house may also have the blight. I am so sad as I love these trees. I feel as if they are reflections of our home and our lives. I can’t imagine having them removed.

I continue hoping and praying that they, particularly the large one out front, will make it. We have a picture of our then 11 year old son by the tree when we had first bought the property. He’s standing out in what was a pasture spotted with a couple of young oak trees. He and the oak trees are but young saplings. Our son will turn 25 in December. The tree, I could’t say, I just hope that, as our son, who is soon to marry and will eventually start a family of his own, the tree will be here for future grandchildren to pose beneath….

We tend to mark the important events of our own lives by the trees privy enough to be around us. My husband and I visited Portsmouth, New Hampshire a few summers back. We went on a lovely walking tour of this quaint historic seaport colonial city. Upon stopping outside of the Moffat-Ladd home we noted a huge towering tree.

The story is that William Whipple, then resident of the home and New Hampshire’s signer of the Declaration of Independence, had brought back from his trip to Philadelphia a young Horse Chestnut sapling. He planted the young tree in the yard of the home as a reminder of his participation in such a historic event. He wanted Portsmouth to have a tangible link and a constant reminder of the role the city once played in the quest for freedom. The tree, which now towers over the house and is thriving to this day, is a long lasting snapshot of a once very young nation.

Yes trees are such important sentinels to our very lives. I think of the giant redwoods on the West coast of this country who were but young strong growing trees at the same time a young man, who on a different continent, walked the barren lands of Galilee calling out for followers.

I think of what these trees witness, what they protect, what they provide for us, what they mean to us—and yet, sadly, we have not always been kind to their existence or very good stewards to their survival. I’d like to think we live in a symbiotic relationship with trees–unfortunately however,I think it is only to our benefit that this relationship exists—the trees would do fine without us—perhaps that makes us a bit parasitic….

So on this beautiful Saturday morning of a beautiful Autumn weekend, I hope you will have an opportunity to wander outside under and beneath the trees of your life—be they in your yard, in you community or out in this great big country of ours—be thankful and grateful for their existence as they provide so much more for you than you can ever provide for them…..

I fear I am party to a murder most fowl……

“Murder is always a mistake – one should never do anything one cannot talk about after dinner”
Oscar Wilde
DSCN1879

I don’t know if I can talk about this after dinner or at anytime….I feel very badly.

Once again my cliche of a life is rolling along with “the best laid plans…” phrase, again, rearing its ugly head. Meaning that my intentions are indeed truly good and noble with me thinking that I am certainly doing a good thing.. when all of a sudden, those good intentions turn and just as suddenly, head south…..

I have several bird feeders in our front yard dangling from the oak tree. The oak tree is sick, but I don’t want to talk about that. If the oak tree is as sick as I think it may be, it may have to be removed, lest it fall. But I don’t want to talk about that. It’s been losing its leaves all summer as if we live in perpetual Fall…but they don’t turn colors, they simply turn dingy and die. I love the two twin oaks that stand sentinel in front of our house. Our house was built around the two trees…without one of them or even worse, life without both tress, would be terrible….I don’t want to talk about it…..

So these bird feeders that are dangling from the oak tree that I don’t want to talk about, draw a plethora of birds to my world. I love watching the birds. The smaller birds, the various finches and the nuthatches, barely move when I come out to fill up the feeders. The woodpeckers, the bluejays, the mocking birds, the cardinals, the visiting grosbeaks, the wrens, the blue birds, as well of a wealth of out of towners, coupled with my growing bevy of mourning doves, all keep my front yard hopping in a sea of flight and fancy.

Our sweet Peaches, our 4 pound orange fluff ball of a cat, is so docile and accepted by the birds that she can sit in the grass under the tree as the birds feed on and under the tree, giving her a no never mind as they go about the task of eating me out of house and home.

Imagine my alarm as my husband came in last evening from work with the words…
“I just witnessed a murder”
“WHAT?!”
“Yep, you are one bird less”

Once I recover my composure that he was not speaking of some horrendous human sort of crime, I immediately thought of Peaches and how she must have committed the unthinkable against one of her “friends”
“Peaches?” I ask timidly..
“No, the culprit is a hawk”
“WHAT?!”
“I told you that the hawks were eyeing an orange meatball just waiting to swoop down in order to snatch up Peaches!”

But it seems the perpetrator to this horrific crime was not one of the larger hawks, not the red tail nor broad wing which screech and circle overhead as I’m out working in the yard–eyeing both me and my cat. No, this fowl on fowl attack came from a sparrow hawk…the stealthy little dive bombing predator, the Japanese Zero or the German Messerschmitt of the bird world, small, quick, agile and deadly. The predator who is not much bigger than my larger birds in the local community of which he has obviously been eyeing.

My husband was pulling down the driveway when he saw something black quickly dart into the oak tree, the sick, sad oak tree that I don’t want to talk about… and just as suddenly the black dart drops from the tree, like a rock, with deadly speed and force onto one of my unsuspecting mourning doves. My husband reported that the little hawk was not much bigger than the poor victim.

I dash out the backdoor to the yard. There, a few feet beyond the full shadow of the tree, was a strewn pile of feathers. Lots of feathers, more so than I could capture with a single image with my camera. A terrible thing.

I am sad. I feel as if I have aided and abetted this criminal and his horrendous fowl on fowl crime. I lured the victims in with the dangling feeders, filling them up, day after day after day with only the best food my humble money could afford for my fine feathered friends…they felt safe, fed, accepted and home. I set them up. Woe to me.

I have no words.

Take the feeders down you say. But the birds, they bring me such joy. This is the first occurrence of such horrific magnitude. We have endured squirrels, mass flocks of starlings who swoop in en mass like some sort of flash mob, raccoons tearing the feeders down night after night, snakes slithering up the tree to the bird houses–yes that was a bad thing and a crazy thing to watch…a giant rat snake made its way across the driveway, through the yard, up the tree and into the bird house, all as we watched the unthinkable. Thank God, no one was at home.

And now, a usurper has come to the yard, this small unsuspecting Falco Sparverius which sounds so like some Roman Gladiator, has come in, upsetting the fine balance of tranquility and peace… in and under the sad sick oak—I don’t want to talk about it.

I hate this whole balance of nature business, the whole food chain thing, the survival of the fittest, of the quickest of the smartest….I just hate one has to die so that another lives.
It’s just the way things are my husband tells me.
That doesn’t help my feelings…..

I’m sorry birds……
I don’t want to talk about it……