thin black line, 6th Ave Heartache

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

An odd thing happened two nights ago.

Now you need to remember that I was taken off my HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
about 7 weeks ago.
Hormones, I’d been on nearly 30 years.

Sleep has never been great, but take away the hormones and things immediately went
from bad to really really bad in literally a single night’s time.

However two nights ago, despite battling the need to breathe while living
with a sinus infection along with poison ivy, I was actually asleep.

How do I know?
I was flat on my back.

I’m usually a side to stomach sleeper yet at some point or other,
when I’m really asleep, asleep—
I’m always mysteriously flat on my back.

At 1:30 in the morning, I became aware that I was itching.
Groggily I started scratching at my poison ivy now spreading across my torso.
Suddenly in my head, I was hearing a song that I know I had not heard playing that day
as some sort of background music in a store.

Clear as day, playing lyrically in my head.

It was a song I’ve always liked..a 90’s sort of song…Why I’ve always liked it,
I don’t know, but it has always made me feel a bit heavy-hearted and melancholy.
Again, I’m not sure as to why.
Although it’s an older song, it seems to still be quite relevant.

Rousing my brain to full awake mode, I opted to get up and head into the bathroom
in order to slather on some more anti-itch medicine— all the
while that song kept ringing in my head…

“And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in…”

I crawled back into bed now restless as my thoughts were racing.
All the while still itching and listening to non-existent music playing.

Why was this song stuck in my head—especially when I was good and asleep??

The following morning, after grabbing my coffee, I googled the song.

According to Wikipedia , The lyrics are based on Dylan’s (Jakob Dylan)
own experiences while living in New York City, in particular, the story of a homeless man
who would sit outside Dylan’s window and play the same songs every day.
One day, the man was gone, but his things were still there,
until gradually people started taking them.

Well, that seemed to make it all feel even worse…doubly more sad than before.

So I kept digging a bit further.

What did the Bible have to say about a black line??

As I kept looking, I was constantly being redirected to the mark of Cain.

Hummmm.

Remember, being raised a poor illiterate Episcoplain kid, the breadth and depth
of Bible study was never my forte.
But I was now intrigued.

I knew Cain and Abel…really the very first tale of humankind’s lowest moments.
Or actually, that might have been their parents…but either way, we humans weren’t off
to the best of starts.

Choice…we never seem to have mastered choice…but I digress.

Why would God want me to think about all of this at 1:30 in the morning?
I know, I know…time to God is irrelevant but to a woman who hardly ever has deep
sleep, as in REM, I was just a tad frustrated.

There were (are) a lot of articles on the web about the mark of Cain
and many of them have some sort of racist connotation.
Naturally…it always goes back to race.

It seems race has been with us since the beginning of time and we still don’t know how to
deal with it—- gees…!
But again, I digress.

So after reading, I managed to find an interesting article on Bibleodyssey.com
written by Eva Mroxzek, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Indiana University.

She hit on the whole good mark, bad mark thinking…
Cain killed his brother and God marked him for life.
The question…was or is…. was or is the mark a mark of shame or a mark of protection?

Was it leprosy?
A ‘keep your distance’ sort of mark?
Did God turn his skin a darker color?
Did God have a horn grow out of Cain’s head?
Did it have to do with circumcision?
Did God give Cain a dog?
Huh???

Did God have mercy on Cain and forgive him for having killed his brother…the first
recorded murder in human history only to followed by the greatest act of forgiveness??

But wait…was that the greatest act of forgiveness or was that actually
during Good Friday…
digressing again…

So, was the mark a mark of forgiveness…

On and on the so-called wise ones have debated this issue for eons.

And yet oddly here it comes visiting me at 1:30 in the morning by way of a 1996 song.

Ms, Mroczek notes at the end of her article…
“But the most striking interpretations rely on a later meaning of the Hebrew word oth:
a letter of the alphabet.
A midrashic text suggests that God inscribed a letter on Cain’s arm as a mark of protection
(Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 21).
Thus, the mark of Cain becomes a sacred sign.
In another midrash (Tanhuma Genesis 10),
it is the word Sabbath that is inscribed on Cain’s face—after the personified Sabbath day
itself begged God to forgive Cain’s sin.
And a targum—an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—
identifies the mark as the holiest sign of all: God inscribes on Cain
“the great and honorable name of the LORD,” namely the tetragrammaton,
the four-letter name of God (YHWH).

https://www.bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/mark-of-cain

So the jury is still out.

Why the song?
Why the direction toward Cain?
And is this a message of foreboding or passage of forgiveness.

I’ll let you know what happens when the next hot flash rouses me from
what little precious sleep there is…I’m sure God will have His say…
I just wish I was wise enough to figure out where He was taking me.
But if I knew that…there’d be so many answers to so many questions…

Heartbreak does seem to be happeing on all sorts of 6th Avenues across this Nation…

Sirens ring, the shots ring out
A stranger cries, screams out loud
I had my world strapped against my back
I held my hands, never knew how to act
And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in
6th Avenue heartache
Below me was a homeless man
I’m singin’ songs I knew complete
On the steps alone, his guitar in hand
It’s fifty years, stood where he stands
Now walkin’ home on those streets
The river winds move my feet
Subway steam, like silhouettes in dreams
They stood by me, just like moonbeams
Look out the window, down upon that street
And gone like a midnight was that man
But I see his six strings laid against that wall
And all his things, they all look so small
I got my fingers crossed on a shooting star
Just like me just moved on

the sharing season is here…

“Wisdom cannot be imparted.
Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else…
Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom.
One can find it, live it, do wonders through it,
but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha


(black swallowtail caterpillar / Julie Cook / 2020)

Well, I knew it was just a matter of time.

The caterpillars have found the parsley.

There must be at least 15 caterpillars now making the most of my nice pot of parsley.

And so you should know that this lowly creature will…

Become this lovely creature:

And this one…

And this one…

And this one…

Will all become one of these…


(Black swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2020)

These guys, well, I moved one of their caterpillars out from the garage yesterday,
so there are no before images…only the after shots


(Eastern tiger swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2020)


(Eastern tiger swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2020)

And so now, I share…my parsley.

Yet I must confess that sometimes I’m not too keen to share certain things.
I think we all have a bit of the selfish child that remains buried within.

As adults, we know that sharing is a good thing.
And so we can bend our will in order to do what is kind, considerate and decent.
We strive to teach children to do the same.

We must teach them to share as they/we seem to come into this world
hardwired with a distinct “mine” mentality.

When I first started to keep a garden…I would get so mad at the rabbits, the crows,
the other birds, the squirrels, the deer, and yes the caterpillars, who would
all invade, dig up or purge my labors by eating seeds, the tender new shoots
or the actual fruits of said labor, my fruits and vegetables.

And then I figured out that if I planted a little extra or a few distractors, things
that would appease my thieves, I could then strike a delicate balance between
what I knew would be stolen versus what I wanted to be harvested.

And sometimes, despite my best-laid plans, it just came down to who was the fastest
on the scene.

Now granted this was not always the perfect relationship as the deer would seem to
poke their feet in the melons simply to be spiteful…or the birds would jab
each blueberry, leaving the berry on the bush, full of holes.
But if I was going to be successful with a garden…there had to be give,
take and yes, share.

And so speaking of sharing, last week when I had to go to Atlanta to keep the Mayor,
who had contracted the Sheriff’s viral infection from the previous week, the
very notion of sharing took place in the form of “rain.”

And no, I do not refer to the sort of rain that falls from the sky.

If you’ve ever been around a young child who coughs or sneezes or
God forbid, suddenly needs to throw up…well, you know that kids
don’t cover their mouths, turn away, cough into the crook of an arm, or
race to the bathroom when an emergency calls.

To a child, if it comes, whatever it might be, it comes for good or bad…
matters not who might be in its path.

So there was a puny Mayor, who was sitting on my lap last week while we were watching cartoons.
Suddenly she started sneezing…and a spray of mist subsequently blanketed my lap and legs.
Gleeful the Mayor happily announces “RAIN”!!!!

“Yes”, I sardonically noted, “it has rained…”
…as I grabbed a sacred Clorox wipe in order to wipe down my legs and arms.

So should I be surprised that I now have felt like crap for the past two days and find
myself unable to breathe due to such a cloggy nose?

No.
No, I am not surprised.

For a sick child shared her “rain” with me.

And well, despite the shelves being long bare of Clorox wipes…
the sacred canister we had on hand was simply no match for the Mayor.

And so why do we seem so mystified when folks continue getting that
Wuhan flu??? That COVID mess?
Why do we ponder as to how it keeps making the rounds?

Sharing just seems to happen…even when we try being selfish.
No matter the best precautions, the best-laid plans…sharing is going to happen
whether we want it to or not.

Oh and for the record…that poison ivy…well, it keeps sharing too.

Everything seems to want to share…all the wrong sort of things!!!

So regarding the following verse, just know that God did not mean that we should share
our germs…but other more treasured items and deeds….
the germ part is just part and parcel of being alive.

The good and bad.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16

evil lurks in a garden…humm…where have I heard that before?

When confronted with two evils,
a man will always choose the most attractive.

Anonymous


(the quince faded and yet in the summer’s dogdays, are now reving back up / Julie Cook / 2020)

With little to no time to tend to the yard as I would normally do this time of year…sadly,
surreally, this time of year has not been like previous times of year…

So having taken out the garbage the other evening, I glanced once again forlornly,
over to the ever-growing leggy quince, the fledgling maple trees,
and some stubborn resprouting crepe myrtles all dotting the back bank…

Disgusted by what I saw…weeds were thriving amongst that which was treasured.

Neglected entirely too long!

Is this not the current story of our lives?

The negative now flourishing amongst that which we hold dear because of our distractions,
our worries, our heaviness…

So I threw the trash in the bin and grabbed my clippers…enough already!!!!

I went over the quince first.

I wanted to hit the high spots…that obnoxious giant poke salat and those
annoying runners from the crepe myrtle that was cut down years ago and those shoots
from the maple trees…
but as I clipped and yanked with the ire and determination of a woman frustrated with
much more than aggravating weeds…something caught my eye…

WHAT???

Hidden amongst the quice was something rather unkind and most unwelcomed.

Poison Ivy.

Or was it worse..was it the dreaded thunder wood?

I had already clipped and pulled, without my gloves mind you, several of these
“pesky” weeds, before realizing these pesky weeds were much more insidious than shoots,
runners or the blooming plants from random dropped seeds by passing birds.

I dropped my bundle of weeds, along with my clippers, practically running inside to immediately
wash my hands.

The next day I saw this:

Okay I thought, I have prescription cream for such…I’ve got this.

The day after that, two more spots on my shoulder.

Okay, more cream.

The day after that, after itching through much of the night, may we now times these
few red blistery spots by at least 100 that now currently cover my entire torso.

The doctor gave me a steroid shot today and a prednisone pack.

Did I mention the 6 or more hot flashes I’m already experiencing throughout the night
due to stopping the HRT?

Itching, hot flashes…
Sleep?!
HA!

Insomnia is my middle name!
Don’t worry about that twitching eye, it’s trained on the madness raging all around us.

Yet in all of this, I was reminded that where we think beauty and peace reside,
where we believe calm and simplicity rest, our ancient nemesis does not sleep.

Remember this as you ponder the current madness ravaging our nation.


(Christ smashing the head of the serpent in the Garden / The Passion of the Christ)

Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8