the sippy spoons

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in
and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better
hour because it is dead.
Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(my grandmother’s silver sippy spoons / Julie Cook /2017)

Our trip to West Palm Beach was long, short, sad and wrenching.
653 miles spent driving down on a Friday…
only to then turn around and drive it all back again on a Monday.

It took about 10 hours, with only one quick stop for gas.
Coupled by a constant flow of bumper to bumper traffic hurling itself,
as if lemmings on some odd unknown mission, to an unforeseen southward destination.

We drove and we drove to what seemed to be the ends of the earth…
but that would have been Key West and that would have required more time with
more stops than our backsides would allow.

The color of the sky changes when one is traveling so far south—
It goes from the more familiar north Georgia’s typical hazy blue sky,
to a faint veiled gauzy cloudy azure blue…
Maybe it’s because the land lays so flat, punctuated only by pencil thin palms
as the soil is more white sand than dirt…
and with the sun so intense, light easily reflects back upon itself.

The heat of day does not dissipate with the waning of a day as it does at home.
It doesn’t back off when the sun finally sets, providing that long awaited
respite of comfort.
There is actually a tremendous heaviness that engulfs one’s whole being…
this being due to the overtly high humidity which makes breathing nearly
impossible.
And I thought our humidity was bad.

Moving from air conditioned buildings, which is essential to survival,
out to the oppressive heat and unrelenting sun leaves glasses fogged over
and skin and clothing feeling sticky and oddly wet even before one has had
proper chance to sufficiently break a true sweat.

This is the place Martha called home for the past 30 years.
A far cry from the years spent in Alexandria, Virginia during the early years of
her marriage.

I now understood why…for despite the apparently tropical beauty,
Martha would always protest…
“no no, let me just come up there”…
And because of that one fact, of her always wanting to come to us as she
would always prefer to venture north,
this was our first visit to West Palm Beach.

Martha would drive or fly up several times during the
year, staying for a couple of weeks at a time,
back to state she still considered home…
or more specifically near the city of her birth and raising….
Atlanta.

I can’t really say all that I should or would like to at this point
about all of this…not yet.
Having lost three of the most important people in my life in the past six months
has simply taken its toll…
As processing the emotions, memories and feelings of such emptiness
will take some time.

One by one… the supports and shorings are now gone…
Those that helped to hold up the life I had always known…
This is part of the transition where I become the shoring to others…
a transition that denotes change, loss, growth and new…
all rolled uncomfortably into one.

My cousin, Martha’s adopted daughter,
had asked that I come to the house the day following the funeral
to see what if anything I would like to carry back home with me.

Martha was an avid antique collector…
and her collections were eclectic at best…
old antique Papier-mâché halloween decorations with a proclivity for pumpkins.
North Carolina’s famous family of folk art pottery, the Meader’s ugly jugs,
along with the primitive pottery of Georgia’s Marie Rogers.
The Ohio Longaberger baskets numbering in the hundreds…
to early vintage RCA radio dogs..
all the way down to antique turkeys of every size and shape.

I was really overwhelmed when we walked into the house and actually saw
the level to which some of the “collecting” had spiraled.
Her house not equipped for the excessive spillover.

My cousin immediately asked if I would like Martha’s sterling silver
flatware set.

Once was a time, long long ago, when every young bride
looked to building her proper entertaining set of silverware.
Receiving the coveted wedding gifts of silver pieces was as common
as the throwing of rice…
That being a particular pattern of sterling silver complete with
utensils and serving pieces.
Everything from teaspoons to seafood forks to butter knives….
As that now all seems to be for a time that was more civilized than
our own today.

But already having my mother’s and great aunt’s sets…and truth be told,
as my world shrinks, entertaining and cooking is now not nearly what it once was,
I tried to instill the importance of her keeping the monogramed set for both her
and her own daughter.

But when she opened the dusty old silver chest, my eyes locked immediately on the
well tarnished bundle of silver drink spoons / straws…
or what we had always referred to as sippy straws or spoons, depending on who
was using them.

While growing up, whenever we visited my grandmother,
we were always served a tall glass of icy cold
Coca Cola complete with a silver sippy straw.

Coke never tasted so good as when sipped through an elegant silver straw.
It provided a seemingly civilized air of savoring verses gulping and quaffing.
Probably Mimi’s way of getting us to slow down, enjoying and not wasting…
as she was a woman who lived during a time when waste was indeed considered sinful.

The straws were always kept in a certain drawer in my grandmother’s kitchen…
inside the 1920s small Atlanta Buckhead home.
A pale wooden light green kitchen cabinet, I can still see clearly in my mind’s eye,
was where the straws, always shiny and polished to perfection, were stored.

In 1989, when my grandmother passed away, Martha and I were the only two left to
the task of sorting and emptying the house for market.
She got the straws.
I had always wanted just one…
just one to remember.

Over the years I’d see other straws at various antique markets and silver stores,
always thinking I’d buy myself just one,
but in the end deciding it just wouldn’t be the same…

It wouldn’t be one of the straws I’d gleefully
retrieve out of the pale green drawer, delightfully anticipating plunging
it into my frosty glass of brown fizzy liquid…
as I’d gently clench the straw between my front teeth,
feeling the cold drawn liquid being pulled up into a parched waiting mouth…
So refreshing because Mimi’s house, back in those days, was not air conditioned…
an icy cold Coke, on a hot Georgia summer’s afternoon,
seemed like the greatest treat a child could have been given…

I asked my cousin if I could have the straws.

She was 10 years younger than I was and did not have the same fond memories
from time spent with our grandmother.
Being so much younger and living so far away, never afforded her much time to
bond with the long widowed woman with the poodles there in Atlanta as I had.

I had been the only grandchild for many years and we only lived 10 minutes away.
Plus Mimi was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother like others and what warmness
there was, faded with her mind as the dementia grew more and more.

My grandmother had lived a hard life.
A life that she had forged alone for herself and her two daughters during
a depression and a World War as a widowed woman…
long before it was common for women to own a business and work outside of
the home.
Both of which she did very successfully for most of her adult life.

My cousin was more than happy to give me the straws and seemed almost
sad that I really didn’t want to take much more as her task is now daunting
as she figures out what to do with years of accumulated treasured stuff.

This as I still have my own years of stuff to sort through at Dad’s.
As both cousins are now left to the task of picking through,
as well as picking up, the pieces—
all of what stays and all of what goes.

My cousin tells me that she wants to sell the house, eventually moving northward
where there are actually seasons, hills and trees…
verses living where the sky meets the ocean coupled by the
oppressive heat, humidity, and an azure blue sky….

I think I’ll polish my straws and then do something I haven’t done in years…
I’ll pour myself a Coke, a real Coke…bottle only mind you,
over a tall glass of ice…and I’ll plunge a straw deep down into the glass of
cold fizzy liquid as I draw up the memories of lives once known but always loved.

someone’s gotta love them…

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Elie Wiesel

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(an heirloom pumpkin / Julie Cook / 2016)

So to take my mind off of my life’s never-ending train wreck…
trying to delve out into something that I use to actually enjoy doing…
I thought I’d force myself to go do something that I once really looked forward to….

Since it is Fall, why not do something fallish…?

You know….
as in a change of season, a change of pace….??

And by the way, it is Fall right?

If it is actually Fall, and actually just a few days away until October….
why am I still wearing shorts, dripping sweat, while the thermometer reads 93?

Why are football games still hot as blazes as players fall out one by one due to
heat related ailments?
Why is it still so dry that my entire yard is now dead?
Why have I not wanted to even ponder the thought of “sweater weather”
let alone putting on something other than shorts,
a tank top and sandals…????

I did however spy the pumpkins arriving at the farmer’s market..
I use to get so excited when the pumpkins began arriving…
That meant Fall…
Cool nights
Crisp days
Warm drinks and the inviting colors of Fall….

I have also noticed that the grocery stores are filling their shelves
with caramel for the apples, Indian corn and all sorts of colorful pumpkins and gourds….

At least somebody is thinking Fall!!!!
It’s just that someone has forgotten to tell this unrelenting Summer that it’s time to GO!

So in the mindset of Fall and doing something that once brought happiness,
I decided I’d go get some pumpkins.
Because once upon a time, I use to like decorating for Fall…

However that whole decorating thing ain’t happening this year…
as I am just not in the mood….
Decorating requires a good bit of movement and time…
two things that are in short supply at the moment.

But pumpkins, I could muster getting a couple of pumpkins…

I found them…
I saw them…
I loved them…
I had to have them…
I bought them…

And in a word, they are…
unique…

Happily I brought them home and lined them up and down the backsteps
and out by the edge of the garage.
All festive like.
I added a couple of those cinnamon scented straw brooms by the back door
and was actually quite pleased that I had made the effort and had succeeded at said effort.

That was until my husband came home wanting to know why I’d bought the ugliest pumpkins
I could obviously find…..
…That surely they can’t really be real pumpkins…
Because who’s ever seen a green lumpy pumpkin or one that looks like it has peanut tumors….??

So much for decorating for Fall…..

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He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;

Daniel 2:21

Nothing from nothing leaves. . .something

“Nothing from nothing leaves nothing,
Ya gotta have something”

Billy Preston (Nothing from Nothing song lyrics)

You have to create something from nothing.
Ralph Lauren

“We can know only that we know nothing.
And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

― Leo Tolstoy

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(a “volunteer pumpkin on the compost pile / Julie Cook / 2015)

We have a growing pile of debris that has risen and fallen over the course of our time living here at this house. It sits right on the edge of the property just at the periphery of woods which surround our property on two adjoining sides. It’s where we usually put all of our clippings from the bushes, any fallen tree limbs, discarded shrubs and spent flowers. I think of it like a rather large compost pile that ebs and flows with the passing seasons.

After this spring’s big yard re-do, the brush pile grew exponentially as the landscapers dumped stumps, stripped grass, and discarded shrubbery lost to the change.

There have been a few past Christmas trees which have found their way to the brush pile, as well as numerous pumpkins that just didn’t seem to survive the Fall, petering out before Thanksgiving.

And it is to these pumpkins that my recent attentions have now turned. . .

The other evening when I was dumping some grass clippings on the pile, I noted a squash-like vine emerging from the debris spreading out in two separate directions. I pleaded with my husband not to mow over the vine because I was exciteed to see what might happen if we left it to grow. . .
He throws in some comment about needing another plant for pollination so it won’t ever come to anything. . . but I countered with a “leave it to the bees and we’ll see. . .”

Low’n’behold, a white pumpkin is now growing from my debris pile.
I remembered back to last Fall when I had bought a multitude of heirloom pumpkins—there were indeed a few white pumpkins in the mix. . .
I am so excited!
A bonus pumpkin, given as a small gift from the compost. . .

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Which brings me around to another sort of thought. . .a real thought about debris, reclaiming, and growth.

Many many years ago when I was a college sophomore, attending a very large state university, I found myself in a familiar situation that a great many young Christians find themselves in when heading off to college—that surreal state of desperately seeking that hidden balance between one’s faith and one’s life while taking in the whole college experience–
Greek life, parities, sports, dates, new friends, new thoughts, new experiences, liberal minded professors and courses, challenges, questions and hidden insidious digs executed from the dark one—all of which are attacks upon a fragile young threatened faith.

I rode the waves.
Sometimes staying on top, wildly riding the monster wave. . .other times, I was falling off the proverbial surf board of life, miserably wiping out while nearly drowning in the crashing waves.

Having come home one weekend, during an away football game no doubt, I found myself sitting in the office of one of my priests from my home church, having a bit of a late afternoon confession session.
I had failed miserably and instinctively knew I needed a good dose of wisdom, tough love, and true Christian absolution.

Patiently he listened. . .
offering a tissue,
while quickly cutting through the crap.
Saying something that has stayed with me all these many years later. . .
“it doesn’t matter what you have done–it doesn’t matter what you still may do, or how bad you may have been or how bad you may yet be—even if you’re covered from head to toe in dog crap, God still wants you, cares for you, loves you. . .nothing you have done is going to separate you from His love as long as you continue to seek His Grace. . .
We call that unconditional love. . .”

It was a never give up on yourself sort of talk.
While being countered with the need for change on my part talk. . .
the stop being a yo-yo Christian sort of talk.

I’ve used that same line of thought with lots of my kids over the years at school and I’ve had to recall it often in my own life.
I’ve fallen lots of times over the years.
I’ve screwed up.
I’ve gotten to that place when I’ve felt as if this time was it. . .as in, it’s all over.
I’ve done it for sure this time, there’s no going back. . .
I’m done, I’m toast, all chances are up, chips are cashed in, there’s no going back. . .

I think we’ve all gotten to that place in our lives when we’ve felt as if we’ve gone too far.
We’ve crossed the line and we just figure there’s no going back. God has washed His hands of us and finally walked away—or at least He should walk away.

We shrug our shoulders, as we toss our spiritual beings on the brush pile out back, believing our relationship with an unseen God is over as we’ve pushed the envelope just one time a little too far.

Yet God has never given up on the junk out back.
There’s life to be had in that compost.
It might be a volunteer pumpkin or it might be a redeemed heart and soul. . .
Either way. . .there’s always HOPE in that which was thought to be nothing. . .

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
1 Peter 1:18-19

Out with the old

“Life moves on and so should we”
Spencer Johnson

God is coming! God is coming! All the element we swim in, this existence, Echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it?”
Walter Wangerin, Jr.

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(remnants of Fall on their way to the compost pile / Julie Cook / 2014)

They were beginning to smell.
They were–
Sunken
Discolored
Half frozen
Smushed
Rotting
Reeking

Several could still be picked up by hand but many had simply turned to mush.
Cold, nearly frozen, mush hiding beneath cracking shells.
Those were scooped up with the old garden spade.

Back in September, they were hopeful.
They were–
bright
colorful
shapely
textural
And they spoke of harvests, waning light and golden days.

For those who were’t paying attention, time, as fickled as she is, has darted forward.
A season is ending and all which claims such as its own, is fading, withering and slowly dying.
Any and all remnants must be sorted out, moved out and eventually thrown out.

A seismic shift is set to take place.
Nature knows this even before we do.
She has set change into motion.
There is much which must take place.
This before the anticipation may truly begin.
Life must first be stripped bare.
All garish excessiveness must be removed.
No distractions are to remain.
Even color must now depart.
For the time of focus is at hand.

So for now all that remains is but the waiting.
For expectancy drifts across the chilling winds.
Watching
Waiting
Hoping
All in anticipation for the season known as Advent.

“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So that, at the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.”
The Book of Common Prayer, published in 1662

and the Angels rejoiced

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”
― George MacDonald

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(the closeup of a gorgeous heirloom pumpkin, pieces of God’s marvelous creative talents / Julie Cook / 2014)

And on the first day, when God went about the task of creating Creation,
The Angels rejoiced.
God waved His hand, suddenly appearing out of the nothingness, there shone a great Light.
The Angels rejoiced.
He raised His head both up and down establishing a vast sky above and an open landscape below.
The Angels rejoiced.
He shed a single tear and immediately vast oceans, seas and waterways filled the landscape.
The Angels rejoiced.
He blew the dust from His hand, which in turn set the stars and the planets in motion, sending them dancing across the heavens.
The Angels rejoiced.
He formed both sun for day and moon for night.
The Angels rejoiced.
He placed his hands on the landscape and pulled his fingers across the surface, all manner of plant and tree sprouted forth from His very touch.
The Angels rejoiced.
He opened up his hand and from his palm poured animals, reptiles, insects and birds of every size, shape and color.
The Angels rejoiced.
He took handfuls of the mud which covered the landscape. The mud was full of the water, bits of the land–it was full of the plants, leaves, pollen, seeds and straw, as well as the dung and droppings of all the animals, reptiles, birds and insects.
He began pushing and pulling the mud, mixed with all the bits and pieces of His new Creation, through His strong yet tender hands.
He smiled contently as He felt the warm, soft, wet mud move and squish through His fingers.
He worked steadily but thoughtfully.
He shaped the muddy mix and moulded it until it was just right.
And there in the palm of His massive hand rested אֲדָמָה, adamah, Adam.
and for now, the Angels Rejoiced.
But God was not finished.
There, in the center of the first Light, the true Light of Light, from the very God of the very God, lay a tiny piece of God’s heart. It beat in unison with God’s heartbeat yet is stayed perfectly suspended in the center of the true Light.
For God knew that Adam was a product of both light and dark.
There would be a time that Adam and his people would prefer life in the darkness.
God knew that in order to bring Adam and his people back to the true Light, He would have to provide Adam and his people with the small beating piece of God’s own heart.
And God proclaimed “I will be his father, and he will be my son (2 Samuel 7:14)
And the Angels Rejoiced.

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(closeup images of gorgeous heirloom pumpkins, pieces of God’s marvelous creative talents / Julie Cook / 2014)

Change is gonna do me good

“It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will”

Sam Cooke

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(the new fall crop of pumpkins and gourds / Julie Cook / 2014)

September 22, 2014
A new day to a new week and the first day of a new season.
Happy Fall!!
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the thermometer.
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the temperature.
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the sun.
Never mind that someone forgot to tell the humidity.

Probably shouldn’t be putting out new pumpkins to sit and bake in 87ᵒ heat.
Did I not read somewhere that this week is going to “cool” down?
Cool down.
Upper 70s.
Oooooo. . .ahhhhhhh

Cool is a relative word is it not?
A state of mind really.
And it is a state that I’m very ready to experience.

Change.
Yes change is good.
Of course any sort of change can be difficult, as well as dreaded- – –
or – – –
It can be anticipated and welcomed.

And in this case I think it is certainly welcome.
So yes, change is a coming and it’s gonna do me good.

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Out with the old, in with the new

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.
Dalai Lama

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(the pumpkins tossed sadly on the compost pile)

With the passing of a single day, all that was is now no more.
Autumn has been ushered out to the compost pile. The casual tossing out of the warm muted tones and the packing away of the drifting leaves, the crisp browns, the deep woods all in order to make way for the rather garish greens, reds and twinkling lights of a magical season for children, young and old, and of the wishes and dreams of both.

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With the turning of a month everything changes. Another transition leaving us feeling as if we are in a constant state of flux, ebbing and flowing with the calendar.
Time is now of the essence. It is a period of expectation, waiting and watching.
A single star shines in a cold clear night’s sky.
Life is about to change.
The world will lose the old self making way for the birth of hope and salvation.

Make certain that you make this time meaningful. Time is of the essence. Go beyond the shopping, the buying, the wrapping, the indulgence, the excess.
Be still.
Be quiet.
Listen.
Watch.
The birth of Hope and Salvation is at hand.