put a fork in it!

“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced
events in your life that have made you cry.
So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good,
long session of weeping can often make you feel better,
even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.”

Lemony Snicket, Horseradish


(a festive butter turkey / Julie Cook / 2020)

I trust everyone had a nice Thanksgiving yesterday…
no matter what it may have looked like.

Ours was odd and quiet.

Over the past two weeks, my husband and I have had our fair share of tests that were
both positive and negative.
And since we really didn’t know which way was really up or down, we opted to forego the
annual family adventure to Savannah with both the Mayor and Sherrif.

And so I mourned for a good full day…
stewing in my self-indulgence of pity for not being able to be a family together…

And then, just like that, I picked myself up from wallowing and rolled up my sleeves and started cooking.

I must remember that there are so many who have lost loved ones this year, who have
lost jobs, who have lost a sense of peace and well-being… pandemic or not…
emptiness seems to be spreading itself far and wide.

So when in doubt, cook.

Cooking Thanksgiving for two is comprised of all the same components, just on a
somewhat smaller scale.
Being busy in the kitchen is cathartic…it always has been.

As for picking up this peculiar virus despite all attempts of being careful, has us baffled.
But such is the life for us all during a time of pandemic.
My husband was never really “sick”.
I had a sinus infection, but I can have those with or without a pandemic…
so go figure.

Either way, I knew/know that the Mayor and Sherrif were /are where I want to be…
because anywhere they are, I definitely want to be.

In fact, I bought that butter turkey for the Mayor.
She’s like her grandmother in that she can pick up a ball of butter and
be quite content.

I was looking forward to wandering those Spanish moss-lined streets holding
a little hand or two.
I had actually done some research and had located my great, great, great
grandfather’s house in Savannah.

It still stands and, like many houses in this most historic city, it has been
refurbished and is currently a private residence.
I had wanted us to all go find it together.

Instead, we are here in the midst of an arduous process of packing up house.
Seems there will be a move in our future come mid-January.

Ever since my husband retired, for the past two years, we’ve talked about moving.
“Downsizing” we brilliantly announced to no one but the cats.
We have no family here but the two of us, four if you count the cats, so it seemed
to make sense.

And so I blame our son.
He laid these seeds a few months back when he had us go look at houses.
They want to eventually move…of which I hope they can get out of Atlanta…
I just don’t think he figured we’d go on first…
but what we explained is that time is not so much on our side as it is on his.
So we’d blaze the trail and they could follow suit.

And yet here it is during a pandemic as I now find myself waking up each morning
wondering what in the heck was I thinking!?

Let me just cut my arm open and pour in the salt —as that seems to be pretty much
on par with this self-induced burden.

Aren’t we all seeking security and comfort during these trying times and yet
I’m packing up my world and taking it on the road?

Oh well.

Time to be rolling up my sleeves, again.

Many of us are ready to say good-bye and good ridence to this year of 2020…
but one thing I’ve learned in life…do not be so quick to wish your life away.
Do not assume that 2021 will be better.
We hope it will, we pray it will, but we simply don’t know.

So we must learn to be content with each day as it comes.
We are not guaranteed tomorrow and yesterday has come and gone.
It is simply the here and now that is ours.
And it is up to us how we deal with it.

May we deal well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

the year of the bull….crap

“What’s broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best
than mend it and see the broken places as long as I live…
I’m too old to believe in such sentimentalities as clean slates and starting all over.”

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind


(the running of the bulls in Spain)

I have just about reached my breaking point with this year.
For all sorts of reasons…
And my heart is heavy and is now slightly broken if not totally broken.

But a story has come to my heart…
and I know it is from God…

Long ago there was a young boy who lived in a small Spanish village.
This young boy had come to live with his grandparents when he was but an infant.
This was due to the fact that his parents had both been killed during the civil war.
He’s known no other family but his grandparents.

His grandfather, who was a man larger than life—was a man who this young boy adored.
Each year this grandfather would participate in the local running of the bulls.
It was a long-standing tradition in his village.
It was a rite of passage and a rite of position within the hierarchy of the village.
The grandfather was legendary for his exploits.

Tourists have since begun flocking to participate, but it has been to the local men
who this tradition has truly mattered.

The young boy looked to his grandfather, the only man he’d known in his life
as a father, was the closest thing to a superhero.

Each year in the spring, the grandfather would join the other men of the village
in the annual running of the bulls.
The young boy’s grandmother would simply roll her eyes and dismiss her husband’s foolishness.
She would fuss and cuss her husband’s folly.
But to the man, it spoke of his position in his village.
And yet to the boy, it was not foolishness, it was pure exhilaration and wonderment.
He longed for the day that he could join his grandfather.

The grandfather would tell his grandson of the single strategy for staying one
step ahead of the massive wild animal…
“The bull, the toro,” he would tell his grandson, “runs with fear…
you, you must run with confidence and vision.”

After many more years, the day joyously arrived, the boy would finally be allowed to
join his grandfather and the elders of the village.
He was joining the man he loved, the man who had known many years of wear and tear.
The years of both life and living had taken their toll on the old man…
however, as with every year, he was undeterred, he would run.
And the boy, now a young man, would finally run with his grandfather.

The old man coached his grandson…
“if you hear the pounding hooves, listen for the vibrating sound…
listen with your heart…listen with your ears.
If you hear and feel the sound upon either your left or your right.
If you hear or feel the pounding in your left ear, lean right…if you hear or feel it
from the right, lean toward the left.
If you feel the hot breath on your back, you must run faster, then jump either left or right
because by this time, it matters not, it could be too late.”

When the day finally arrived and the old men and young men were all assembled,
the nervous bulls were brought toward the crowd.
The bulls were always local bulls–well known by the local villagers.
Many were tended by the local farmers.

This year, however, there was a new and different bull brought into the fold of the local animals.
He was unfamiliar and even the local bulls were cautious.
He had a different look in his eye.
There was no familiarity.
He was massive for his size.
His muscles involuntarily reflexed across his back.
He was pure black, almost blue in the light of day but the magic
within this bull was not pure…he was very nervous.

There was an empty coldness found in his eyes.
He had not been nurtured by this village.
He had not been tended to by the local farmers…

He was what was known as a rouge bull.

The city’s bell tower sounded, the signal for the participants to start running
as the animals were released.

In the teeming melee of hundreds of participants, the boy lost track of his grandfather.
The throng of runners moved in a unified mass until the bulls began to penetrate the
mass one by one.
The mass began to diverge.

Bodies peeled to the left while other bodies peeled to the right…
many bodies simply fell upon one another…falling into a heap upon the ancient cobblestone pavers
as tons of massive sinew, muscle and hooves rumbled mercifulness over the mass of lost humanity.

Yet the boy ran.
He was listening, hard.
He sensed.
Bodies would suddenly fall by his side with a sickening thud.
Yet he couldn’t stop to assess the damage, his grandfather had taught him to run.

Suddenly, the boy heard the hooves but he couldn’t determine…
were they left or were they right?

He was running as the sweat poured from his brow.
The salt stung his eyes.
He blinked and inadvertently wiped his face.
He dared not turn his head lest he trip.

Suddenly, there was the sensation of a strange hot steam wafting into his nostrils.
It was both suffocating as well as acridly putrid.

And that is when he felt the jolt.

A searing sharp pain pierced his left flank.
In what seemed to be a moment of slow motion, his chest seemed to simply deflate
as his body was lifted almost magically into the sky.

He was floating, effortlessly.
It seemed like a lifetime…floating, flying, no effort.

And yet the crash was heavy.
There was a shattering thump.
Searing pain flooded his consciousness.
A broken torso.
Disrespected by hundreds of thousands of pounds of hooves…
hooves disregarding what lay underfoot.

The boy lay upon the dirty but cool ancient pavers.
His body now a twisted and contorted mass–unnatural in position.
A dark black liquid pooled against his cheek.

At some point, he remembers not when, he was lifted upon a litter and carried
to the local hospital.

His grandfather, what of his grandfather, he implores with barely an
audible breath.

“Your grandfather is gone.” the medic replied stoicaly.
The toro pierced his heart, in one fell blow…
but it was not before the locals shot the bull to stop his rampage.
It is why you are still here, your grandfather diverted the bull at the
the very moment he attempted to gore you.

The moral of the tale…

Remember, the enemy runs with fear.
We, on the other hand, must run with confidence and vision.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

a needed day in the woods–following the traces–the lowest, not the highest

“I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head and that
you are a member of his body.
He belongs to you as the head belongs to the body.
All that is his is yours: breath, heart, body, soul and all his faculties.
All of these you must use as if they belonged to you,
so that in serving him you may give him praise, love and glory.”

St. John Eudes


(fungi continue to sprout /Julie Cook / 2020)

“Since Jesus has gone to Heaven now,
I can only follow the traces He has left behind.
But how bright these traces are! How fragrant and divine!
I have only to glance at the Gospels;
at once this fragrance from the life of Jesus reaches me,
and I know which way to run:
to the lowest, not the highest place!”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 153-4
An Excerpt From
Story of a Soul

When in the woods, especially this time of year with falling leaves and treasures hidden underfoot,
I have learned to look for the lowest secrets rather than those of the highest and most soaring wonders.
I give thanks for being able to spend time in God’s creation!

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Psalm 33:8

glimpses

“Can there be a more fitting pursuit in youth or a more valuable possession in
old age than a knowledge of Holy Scripture?
In the midst of storms it will preserve you from the dangers of shipwreck
and guide you to the shore of an enchanting paradise and the ever-lasting
bliss of the angels.”

St. Boniface


(the Gulf of Mexico / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Know that our faith is strengthened by the resurrection of Christ.
The passion of Christ represents the misery of our present life,
while the resurrection of Christ gives us a brilliant glimpse of the
happiness of the future life.
Let us apply ourselves energetically in the present life, and hope in the future.
Now is the time for painful struggle; then will come the recompense.
Those who are lazy about carrying out their work will be brazenly impudent
if they expect the recompense.”

St. Augustine, p. 61
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

who you gonna call????

Most Christians don’t hear God’s voice because we’ve already decided
we aren’t going to do what He says.

Aiden Wilson Tozer

I had the best of intentions this morning, during fevered delirium, of writing a funny post
about honeybuns, aka formaldehyde wrapped in plastic…but my enthusiasm and energy have both waned.

Long story…my husband and I have had what we’ve figured to be the crud…
receiving said crud from time spent with a croupy Mayor.

Mine went to my sinuses, which is my typical MO…
But last night, at 3:20 AM, our home security alarm began blaring.
My husband who normally wears hearing aids, can’t hear squat without them…
not even a blaring siren…WOOOOOO WOOOOOO WOOOOOO

We have said system because my husband was in the jewelry business and we live in
the middle of nowhere on 5 acres off the road…
so call it a bit of peace of mind…or not.

So at 3:20 with a blaring alarm, I immediately jumped from the bed,
screaming at my husband that the alarm was going off as I flipped on the lights and ran
to check where the “breach” was located.

In the meantime, my husband scrambles to cut off his alarm clock because,
in his sleepy deaf state, he thinks I’m fussing because his alarm clock is going off.

I ran to the alarm pad—it read that the breach was at the windows in our closet…
the one just off our bedroom.

At that point the phone rings—it’s the alarm company.
The gal states that they have an alarm code breach coming from our home.

Naturally at 3:20 in the morning, when I’m in the middle of a possible break-in, I tend to
be a tad frantic.

My husband grabs his gun (yes he has a license and has had both hunting guns and a gun he
kept at the jewelry store. He was actually shot during an armed robbery a couple of years
before we met, so let’s just say he’s been cautious ever since.)

He proceeds to scope out the closet then walks through the house.
All the while, the girl on the phone asks “do you want me to dispatch the police?”

I practically scream to my husband “SHOULD SHE SEND THE POLICE!?”

See, I’m the kind of person who, when trouble comes calling,
I want the cavalry to come running.
But what with all this defund the police crap, it’s like Charles Barkley said,
“who you gonna call, Ghostbusters???”

But my husband said no…he thinks it was just glitchy wires.
Glitchy wires??!!
And yet I will say that Percy the cat was still nestled in his bed…
had someone been in the house, Percy would have been the first to hide.

We got back into bed and my husband falls readily to sleep.
Who does that?
I, on the other hand, lay there in the dark…listening.
Waiting for a chainsaw massacre psycho to come busting into our bedroom.
Like a little kid, I feel safer if I bury myself in the covers…like
no one can tell I’m in the bed…
eye-rolling obviously.

I keep listening.

Was someone outside?
Were they going to try another window or door?
The dark has a bad way of playing with our fears.
I pray while my ears play tricks on me.

Suddenly, I notice how very cold I am, and how achy I feel.
Great, I was running a fever.
I never run a fever unless it’s serious.

I laid there until daylight.
Balled up in a shivering clump hidden under the covers…just
waiting for daylight to know I was safe…sick, but safe.

At daybreak, I stutter from under the covers, “I think I’m dying.”
“What? says my deaf husband.
I ask my husband if he could please go get me the thermometer…
“And please make certain it’s ours and not the rectal one for the kids!!!”
I didn’t have on my glasses so I took my chances.

101.4

My husband showers and goes to make coffee…forgetting to feed the cats…
Who both proceed to jump on and off the bed until I stumble from bed, feeling like death,
in order to feed them.
He complains I never let him help enough around the house and yet the one morning of
death and dying, when his help would have been so greatly appreciated,
…well, he was sitting in his chair with his warm cup of coffee…
oblivious to 8 legs of bedlam.

I ask him rather indignantly why did he not feed the cats…
“I never saw them” he lazily responds.
“That’s because they were jumping all over me!!!”
Sigh…

I call the ENT’s office at 8.
Telling them of my ailments but would I need a COVID test first?
Oh no, the nurse tells me, we’ll do that here.

Oooo, a one-stop-shop—great!

Long story short…
I had a strep test, a flu test, and a COVID test.
While we waited on those tests to process, they took x-rays…“well you definitely have
a sinus infection”
the PA tells me—
and then blessedly the other tests came back negative.
YAY, I guess, because she said there are both false negatives and false positives…
And I still felt like crap.

Two shots and a prescription later…we still wonder.

And so now when you think you might have a cold, flu, virus…what was once simple and ordinary…
well, it is not so ordinary anymore…rather it is now very complicated.

How could I have gotten it?
I wear my mask at the grocery store…I really don’t go to many other places.

And then it hit me.

My husband’s hunting buddy jokingly handed me a honeybun the other day as my
birthday gift.
He knows I hate those things.
I think they could survive a nuclear bomb.
My dad loved them.
My husband’s buddy thought it was an appropriate and funny gift.
And yet I actually got him something nice and real.

And then two days later, this friend calls to tell us his wife, daughter, son in law, and two little
grandkids have tested positive.

And then it dawns on me…
It was the handoff of the honey bun!

So I’m to the point now that no one seems to know which is what.
Gather, don’t gather…mask, don’t mask…Thanksgiving, no Thanksgiving, false positives,
false negatives…vaccines, no vaccines

So maybe Charles is right…who ya gonna call??? Ghostbusters…??

Nahhh…

My Refuge and My Fortress
Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

it’s never too late, but it might be getting close….

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your life, or how bad you’ve sinned.
I rejected God, but he still knew that I was redeemable.
I was worth saving.
There is no soul anywhere on this earth that is beyond the reach of God.
It’s never too late.

Deborah Lipsky
from Confessions of an Ex-Satanist: A Message of Hope


(mushroom in the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

“The story of Christ’s life and ministry cannot be told without giving due space to Satan’s activity.
The Gospel writers carefully distinguish between cases of mere physical ailments and cases
of a demonic character (both of which Jesus cures).
Jesus frequently refers to the devil in his parables and other teachings,
and the devil himself tempts Jesus in the desert and returns again later to engineer Judas’ betrayal
(cf. Jn 13:2).
This Gospel motif teaches us an undeniable, if uncomfortable lesson: the devil is real,
and he is interested in counteracting the work of grace.
In one sense, accepting this fundamental truth, and keeping it always in the back of our minds,
can comfort us tremendously:
it helps us make sense of all the unpleasant influences at work in and around us.
We are not crazy; we are not failures; we are simply engaged in a spiritual battle.
If we believe in Jesus Christ, we must also believe in the devil—-doomed as he is,
he would love to take as many souls as he can along with him.”

Fr. John Bartunek, p. 350
An Excerpt From
The Better Part

be rich in the next life…

“Since love completes all, makes all hard things soft, and the difficult easy,
let us strive to make all our acts proceed from love.”

St. Arnold Janssen


(a dewy turkey feather /Julie Cook / 2020)

“The Devil didn’t deal out temptations to Our Lord only.
He brings these evil schemes of his to bear on each of Jesus’ servants—-
and not just on the mountain or in the wilderness or when we’re by ourselves.
No, he comes after us in the city as well, in the marketplaces,
in courts of justice.
He tempts us by means of others, even our own relatives.
So what must we do?
We must disbelieve him altogether, and close our ears against him, and hate his flattery.
And when he tries to tempt us further by offering us even more,
then we should shun him all the more…
We aren’t as intent on gaining our own salvation as he is intent on achieving our ruin.
So we must shun him, not with words only, but also with works;
not in mind only, but also in deed.
We must do none of the things that he approves,
for in that way will we do all those things that God approves.
Yes, for the Devil also makes many promises, not so that he may give
them to us, but so that he may take away from us.
He promises plunder, so that he may deprive us of the kingdom of God and
of righteousness.
He sets out treasures in the earth as snares and traps,
so that he may deprive us both of these and of the treasures in heaven.
He would have us be rich in this life, so that we may not be rich in the next.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 152-3
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

Have you ever seen such a terrible sight…

“I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.”
Sophocles


(The very unhappy Mayor and Sheriff with a wary poor Santa)

Have you ever seen such a terrible sight…
…as two miserable Christmas tykes?
(think three blind mice tune)

Given that this year is 2020…
and since we’ve now all learned the hard way, all too often, that if it can go wrong, it will…
my daughter in law got on the ball early and found a most wonderful photographer,
along with his trusty sidekick Santa, for both the Mayor and Sherrif to visit.

And given that none of us really know what visiting Santa will look like this year,
she went ahead and booked a time slot a few weeks back.

I think this Santa / photographer duo was smart in getting a jump start on the season…
what with a global pandemic and the perils of social distancing and, Heavens forbid,
a “shut down” of Santa—and so for our small clan, it was full-on HO HO HO time!

It was time to throw caution to the wind…
Forget Halloween.
Forget Thanksgiving.
Forget Black Friday (yes, please forget Black Friday oh ye consumer-driven)
Heck, forget Labor day…

Santa Claus is coming to town…or so we hope!

Yet despite all the best-laid plans…
The Mayor and Sheriff just weren’t having it.
And Santa was feeling the pain.

However, like many of us this year, I think they each finally resigned themselves that
this too shall pass…or so we hope!

Kudos to both this Santa and photographer…
I heard there had been a set of infant triplets just before our
‘oh so happy’ duo that were absolutely horrified over the whole prospect of visiting Santa!

Yep, this too shall pass

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.

Isaiah 65:17

**(all photos copyrighted)

Lessons from the Blitz and four essential human freedoms

Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is,
and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present,
and from the present, to live better in the future.

William Wordsworth


Blitz damage in Coventry, November 1940 (© IWM)

Throughout much of the past couple of months leading up to last week’s
debacle, I mean election,
I’ve been slowly making my way through my latest read…a book by Erik Larson.

I had read other books by Larson in years past, and I expected this current read to be right
on par with his previous books…books that look back to a past of darker days…
darker than the days of our current time…
As in yes, there have been darker times…if you can imagine such.

The book is titled The Splendid and The Vile:
A Saga of Chruchill, Family, And Defiance During the Blitz

I can’t even begin to do justice here, within my small reflections, as to what it was like
for the British people to live through the nightly bombings of their cities, towns
and villages by the German Luftwaffe.

For 8 long months, every single day—hundreds of German planes filled the skies
over the United Kingdom dropping tons upon tons of explosives and incendiary deceives
indiscriminately over an innocent people–only to leave destruction and death in their wake.

When the bombings stopped, over 32,000 civilians had been killed.
Over 87,000 had been maimed, burned, and injured.
Of those, 7,736 children were killed and 7,622 were seriously injured
while many were left orphaned.

London alone endured 57 straight nights and days of bombings.

The bombings took place predominantly at night but would, at times, happen both day and night.
As in a double whammy of insult and injury.

Sirens would sound, people would run for shelter as their world, bodies
and lives were literally shattered.

In just one single night, November 14, 1940, 16,000 bombs were dropped on the
city of Coventry.
The ancient 14th-century Cathedral in Coventry was just one of many churches
which would take a direct hit


(Death from the skies: An aerial view of the wrecked cathedral / The Mirror)


Winston Churchill and the Mayor Alfred Robert Grindlay visiting the ruins of Coventry Cathedral in September 1941
Horton (Capt)-War Office official photographer-This is photograph H 14250 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum

In London, the fickleness of war was clearly evident when after
London’s worst day of bombing, St. Pauls Cathedral appeared triumphantly and
miraculously to rise up from out of the smoke and ash.


St Paul’s Cathedral survives the Blitz, December 1940 (© IWM)

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33314462

Yet, as with all wars, the human toll is unimaginable.


(Upper Norwood, London, 1944 (© IWM) )

In early 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address.

In his speech, the President spoke of the lend-lease act that he was
going to be presenting to Congress…
a plan intended on assisting the British people without the US technically involving
herself in a war that the United States wasn’t keen on participating in.

“The future and the safety of our country and of our democracy
are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders…”
the President noted.
According to Larson, Roosevelt described a world to come that would be founded upon
“four essential human freedoms” :
speech, worship, and freedom from want and fear

It has been 79 years since Roosevelt’s speech.
Since that time, there have been other wars, police actions, along with a myriad of
perils that have each threatened both our democracy and that of the
pillars of Western Civilization.

And yet throughout it all, those four essential freedoms have stood the test of time…

They stand in part because of the foundation found buried deep in the fortitude
of the human spirit…along with that of determined and clear-minded leadership.

Those were dark and dire days and yet Western Civilization prevailed over the
chokehold of fascism, socialism, and communism.

My hope and prayer for our world today is that none of those past perils shall
be forgotten or tossed aside as today’s leadership and her people seem to be
giddily racing to embrace that which we once fought so hard to defeat.

‘Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this
world of sin and woe.
No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.
Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except
for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…’

Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

Everyone is in favor of free speech.
Hardly a day passes without its being extolled,
but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like,
but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Winston S. Churchill