how does anyone know?

“What is happening to me happens to all fruits that grow ripe.
It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker, and my soul quieter.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

(ripening persimons on the tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Ripe: fully grown and developed: mature ripe fruit
:having mature knowledge, understanding, or judgment

Unripe: not fully matured
2. not fully prepared or developed; not ready

How do we know when something is ripe?
All of the above?

Ripe equates with that which is good.
That which is pleasing.
That which is inviting.

Ripe is as good as it gets….

Unripe is bitter, hard, immature, not ready…
unripe is unproductive.

If you profess to being a Christian,
how does the anyone know whether or not you are ripe and ready?

One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.

Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“Figs,” I answered.
“The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”

Then the word of the Lord came to me:
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah,
whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.
My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.
I will build them up and not tear them down;
I will plant them and not uproot them.
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.

Jeremiah 24:2-7

plucking time

“Today one may pluck out one’s very heart and not find it.”
― Franz Kafka

(the first of the season / Julie Cook / 2017)

Simplistic seasonal changes give way to the reaping of small harvests…
As the western world reels from another chaotic and senseless attack.

Caustic comedians are wallowing in sanctimonious apologies
while casting wide nets of blame blanketing the very ones they mock.
As a fallen candidate joins the fray with the same empty mantra…
“Not my fault….”

Madness and hatred are the offerings on tap
while unsuspecting berries ripen on the bush

There’s an old nemesis who seems to be enjoying renewed friction
while the media and press proclaim the sky is falling.
As the dividing line between right and left becomes impossible to bridge.

There’s something comforting in the mindless gathering of ripening fruit
Something seemingly mundane yet blessedly sane…
as the world spins wildly out of control….

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
“Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for
the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.
For it is better, if it is God’s will,
to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

1 Peter 3:13-17

Ripe yet?

Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.
Soren Kierkegaard

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.
Frederick Buechner

(unripened blueberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

By the looks of these blueberries, they still have a ways to go before they’re ripe enough for picking. More time is needed for basking in the warmth of the sun’s rays before they’ll be a deep purplish blue bursting with juicy sweetness. And I must admit, the thought of soon to be syrupy fresh blueberries is a comforting thought.

Life with Dad these days has precipitated any sort of garden this summer, which makes me sad—
yet at the same time life is as it should be—with me being able to travel back and forth, helping to care for him during this particular stage of his life’s journey. . .It makes for long hectic days, with some days being good and some days being not so good. We made a minor crisis run to the doctor’s today, and are waiting on more test results- – but for now, just this minute, it’s “steady as she goes”. . .

So being able to come home with a chance to wander a bit in the yard, checking out the progress of the blueberries, watching the birds dart in and out of their bird boxes, and just relishing in the muffled sounds of a late rural afternoon is a welcomed respite from the worries of a stress filled day.

And as I check on the ripeness of my pale green berries, my thoughts wander to my own sense of ripeness.

Most folks might think that at 55 I’m probably pretty good and ripe, with hints of pruneiness here and there. I’ve had life experiences both good and bad that have worked to shape and mould me into the person I am today.
Painful as well as pleasant, sweet coupled with sorrowful.
Yet one look at my 87 year old dad, pale and feeble, I think to myself “now here is someone who must be ripe–” And yet there are days I think he’s often just rotting on the vine as it were, wasting away with little effort to stop the decay.

I know my dad, I know he’s not where he needs to be, yet–and I doubt, knowing Dad, that he’ll get there in time. Which might mean that none of us are ever fully ripe as perhaps our lives are just one long ripening process. God works throughout our lives deep within our hearts and souls. He lovingly takes us, shifting and shaping, pushing and pulling. He allows the sun of his love to warm us while the rains of our sorrows water us. We are given ample opportunity to fertilize ourselves by His word, yet we don’t always take advantage of His available resources.

Some of us choose, sadly, to wither on the vine, preferring to never allow the Master Gardener the chance to prune, train, trim or nurture–we’ve even been known to actually rebuff His attempts.
A terrible waste of good fruit really.

So many of us spend our lives seeking God with hopes of establishing a deep rooted relationship with Him. Yet such relationships, as well as us each of us individually, are ever changing, growing, shifting and deepening. We scratch the surface finding some sense of satisfaction that only leads us to wanting more. We hunger and thirst for a deep feeding and watering as we long for sustenance that only He can offer. . .just like a tender plant yearns for and needs nourishment to survive. We find ourselves not only needing but wanting more of His time, His attentions, His care, His concern.
This becomes an unquenchable desire which spans the course of a lifetime.

So as I wander aimlessly surveying my tiny green orbs which dot my blueberry bushes like the decorations on a Christmas tree, all with a sense of great anticipation of things to come, I marvel at the fact that I myself am far from ripe—I’m just as green as my berries yet equally hungry for the warmth of His tender nourishment. . .

Prayers are now offered up for a deep feeding. . .
Here’s to His nurturing and our growing. . .


Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.

With the ripening of the fruits in Autumn the leaves begin to wither and the trees, taking up their sap from the earth through the roots, recover themselves and are restored to their former solid texture. But the strong air of winter compresses and solidifies them.



(the ripening fruit of a calamondin tree, wintering in the basement / Julie Cook ? 2014)

Is it ripe yet?
The coloring is not exactly consistent.
It’s neither green nor orange.
Somewhere in between.
Time ran out.
Gone are the days of bright sun, balmy breezes and star filled nights. . .blessed with the perfect amount of humidity.
Winter’s wrath quickly descended, waving its cold barren hand, dismissing all living things.
Life is now banished from the landscape.
However this particular journey of life, that of progression and ripening, is hell bent to continue.
It is a process that cannot be stopped, only unless Death is allowed to take part.
Out of desperation this ripening, this season of growth, is now relegated to a place less than ideal, albeit safe and protected.
A process which began nine months ago on a warm May day.
A day of flowering and bees, a day of the appearance of tiny green orbs.
The day of completion is finally coming to fruition during the empty chill of December–hidden in the depths of an isolated basement.
Drying, light deprived, with the gradual dropping of leaves, this process of life must see itself through.
As some invisible force, unbeknownst to watchful eyes, continues to will the completion of life despite the now forced hardships.

Parallels exist.
Cycles of life, with the beginning, the ripening and eventual decay, each follow along the same paths taken since the beginning of time.

Many years ago a young couple once found themselves forced to take a journey at a time that was less than ideal.
A cycle of life, which had started nine months prior, was quickly coming to fruition, despite the less than desired conditions.
Traveling alone day and night, exposed to both heat and cold, wind and rain, this young couple is compelled by an invisible force to continue moving forward as their own cycle of life is now racing against time.
Sleep deprived with barley any food or water available, anxiety and worry heap insult upon misery. Weary, with the time of delivery at hand, a safe harbor cannot be found.
Desperate and burdened under a heightened sense of urgency, a dark dung pungent stall is hesitantly offered and thankfully received.

No longer does choice fit into the equation.
The ripening of a couple’s young lives had long been set in motion and they were helpless to stop it.
The circuition of life must see itself to completion.
There will always be a beginning, a middle and an end.
The only way in which the process may be broken is if Death intervenes before expected.

Ripening is not easy nor particularly ideal. It is a time consuming act which is most often agonizingly slow. It is a process that sets its own time and parameters. There is no rushing or speeding up the unfolding of events.
Yet it should be noted that the process is only a smaller component to a much larger cycle, a cycle which must see itself through despite any and all surrounding circumstances or events.
The setting is not always ideal.
The circumstances are not always easy.
Yet an unseen force wills each time of ripening to continue to fruition.

May your own time of ripening bear much appreciated and welcomed fruit. . .

Not quite ripe


“Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will lift you for the work and give you strength.”
—Philip Neri

“STOP!!!” My husband slams on the brakes. “What is it??!!” “The blackberries, look at those!! I need to pick them…I can make a pie….I can make YOU a pie” I added that at the end to entice him into affording me some time to get out and pick the ripening blackberries.

“Do you realize we are in the middle of an overgrown section of this property that is infested with ticks, red bugs as well as snakes?? And you want to get out and trudge through that thicket picking berries?? You’re wearing sandals for heaven’s sake! I think not—plus do you know how many you’d need for a pie? More than are on that vine”…and he starts driving again.

He has some property in central west Georgia—an overgrown piece of land that is “recreational”–meaning it’s good to hunt, fish….and that’s about it. I do enjoy taking the Four wheeler or golf cart and simply riding over the trails—overgrown goat trails is more like it. This time of year can prove a bit hazardous if one dares to get off of the Four Wheeler….especially as I was not dressed to do so in the required long pants and boots. The whole snake thing gave me pause to reconsider the whole pie thing.

And anyway, the berries were not all ripe I reasoned with myself. As badly as I hate to admit it, it would take forever for me to forage for enough ripe berries. The place was just too overgrown for me to go rambling through the brambles… least things were “ripe” for picture taking….I had not come prepared nor dressed properly to pick blackberries–there would surly have been consequences had I stubbornly forged ahead with my impulsive and rather reckless desire.

Philip Neri, who today’s quote derives, was a man who lived life rather impulsively but with good results and a driven intent. He lived in Rome during the mid 1500’s. He had experienced a profound conversion when he was a teen, dedicating the remainder of his life to serving God. He did so, however, lightheartedly and always with joy. His teaching ways were often a bit unorthodox as he found humor to be the better teacher.

Brother Neri did not allow himself, or others, to take themselves too seriously. If one was overtly consumed by how he or she was perceived by others and was constantly concerned with the appearance of self, then how did that benefit God and the teaching of the Gospel? He constantly reminded his followers and fellow man that ones’ outward living of life should not be taken so seriously and if that focus remained on self and the empty worry of the perception of others, rather than offering humility before God, then the attempted virtuous life was all for naught. If one was too concerned with what others thought, then surly there was no room for what God thought.

Despite often taking the unorthodox road in his teachings and life examples, his faith and his relationship with God the Father, through prayer, was always taken seriously. He was known to often withdraw to the catacombs alone for prayer, having even lived life as a hermit for quite some time. His joy in living, he was convinced, was just one more way of praising God.

I am very guilty of often taking myself too seriously. It does me good to be reminded that humility, and the road to learning this virtue, is often by way of letting go of self and of the seriousness of self. To me, this can be a painful experience. Learning not to care so much about what others think or how my image may be perceived—a tough task. I need to focus more on my relationship with God, giving little to no regard as to how that may look to others because all that matters, in the long run, is what is between me and God—He has a great deal of work to do within me—sometimes that work is not easy and can be painful—but no matter—the end result will be most sweet—

So on this new morning to a brand new week—be not concerned nor consumed with what the world thinks of you but rather with the thoughts and concerns of your Heavenly Father—-how to best serve Him—because in the long run—His opinion and thoughts will be all that matters as all this other stuff will simply pass away…here is to humility!! Just know that I’m working my way there, stumbling along the way, with you!!

Just a few more weeks…..


“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”
Mother Teresa

Any walk in the woods, or even a ride down a rural road these days, will reveal that in the midsts of the weedy bramble and brush awaits beautiful tiny pink and red jewels which are slowly but surly ripening to a glossy juicy black. In just a few short weeks we will be rewarded by a wealth of blackberries—all ripe and ready for the picking.

Now these are of the wild variety, so they are smaller than their cultivated cousins and perhaps a bit more sour—all you need is to add just the right amount of sugar, a little lemon juice, a dash of cinnamon, a splash of creme de cassis…cook it down slowly and you have a heavenly warm compote worthy of ice-cream or pound cake—-or place this in a small oven proof dish and top with a mixture of flour, sugar, butter, oats…. creating a streusel topping and you have the quintessential crumble or buckle.

This is one of the joys of early summer which harkens back to childhood. Armed with only a bowl, I’d fight bees and red bugs, heat and humidity all the while being very weary of snakes under foot, just to spend hours picking the luscious berries from their thorny vines….two for me, one for the bowl, two for me, one for the bowl……… As the days warm and the temperatures soar, I still look forward to foraging the woods on the hunt for blackberries.

But as I wait for the blackberries and peaches to all come into season, to ripen on the vine or branch, I am reminded, always so aptly by Mother Teresa, that there is one thing that no one need wait upon for ripening…and that is the Love that is readily available from each of us for one another. God’s love, is constantly at our fingertips, always ripe and so ready for our hands to grasp—which in turn is the very love in our own hearts–which is always ready to be offered to those around us who are reaching and in need.

May we remember this the next time we walk past those folks we blindly pass by on the street, the halls of schools, the aisles of the grocery store— those strangers we sit by at the DMV, the doctor’s office, on the bus or subway… those in front of or behind us in line at the theater, the store… many people we encounter each and every day, who may simply need a smile, a kind word, a simple gesture of kindness…. all which equates to a Love that is easily shared with those in need….no need for that to get ripe–it’s already here……..let it begin with you and who knows how far reaching this Love can go….Happy pickings………