Et tu…?

Perhaps the most famous three words uttered in literature,
“Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?)
this expression has come down in history to mean the ultimate betrayal by one’s closest friend.
This scene, in which the conspirators in the Senate assassinate Caesar,
is one of the most dramatic moments on the Shakespearean stage.
The audience has just witnessed the arrogance and hubris of a ruler
who has sought, within a republic, to become a monarch, comparing himself to the gods.
Brutus, a friend of Caesar and yet a man who loves Rome
(and freedom) more, has joined the conspirators in the assassination,
a betrayal which is captured by the three words above in this famous Shakespeare quote.

Julius Caesar (III, i, 77)
enotes.com


(an odd guest / Julie Cook / 2019)

There has been a betrayal…as in an Et tu Brute sort of betrayal…but more about that in a bit…
as our story will twist us back to that moment of utter treachery shortly.

Saturday afternoon, in between laundry loads, I was walking by the kitchen’s backdoor
and instinctively cast a sideways glance out the door…
the door that leads into the garage.

Remember I’ve been gone for a week working at the main Woobooville in Atlanta.
My husband remained behind until late Friday afternoon…
just long enough for a crime to be committed.

Here is an image of a clue…breadcrumbs to a crime scene if you will…
and yes those breadcrumbs look very much like sawdust…hummmmm…

The plot thickens.

But back to Saturday and the backdoor…

“Why is there a pigeon sitting in the garage?” I holler out to my husband who is
perched in his new recliner in the den.

New recliners tend to make husbands want to perch.

He hollers back from the den, “We don’t have pigeons, it’s a dove.”
This coming from someone who has not even looked out the door to said bird of which I speak.

Well, you might want to come look at this dove that is a pigeon” I counter.

To my husband’s credit, we are more rural dwellers rather than city folks…
rural folks who have doves and not city slicker pigeons.

Sure enough, my husband meanders into the kitchen, only to see a dove/ pigeon sitting
in the garage.

“Hummmm” he muses…“that is a pigeon”

“Really?!” I sardonically reply.

We both then wonder aloud as to what has brought a pigeon to our neck of the woods…
rather make that pasture.

“I bet it’s the trees” I sharply snarl.

“I don’t see how the trees have anything to do with a pigeon being in the garage” he bristles back.

Now our plot thickens even more…

You may recall the horrific tree debacle of October 2014.

I wrote a post about it.
I cried over it.
I bemoaned over it.
I mourned over it.

And I’ll admit, I eventually got over it.

Our house was once flanked by two majestic and stately oaks.

We live pretty much smack dab in the middle of what was once a pasture.
There are a few odd trees and a smattering of blasted sweet gums that dot the property.
Not my idea of wonderful trees…albeit for those two oaks.

The oaks began losing their leaves one summer.
Like in losing copious amounts of leaves.
Leaves were everywhere and it was driving my husband crazy because it was the middle
of summer and we were dealing with leaves like it was the end of Fall.

A year passed with a threat…“if those trees do that next year, they’re gone!”

The trees were sick but I didn’t know what to do.
No arborists out in our neck of the woods…uh, pasture.

But my husband knew what to do.

Cut them down.

For you see that seems to be my husband’s answer to everything.
It’s an “Off with their heads” mentality.

The bushes are out of whack, get rid of them.
Something is causing you a problem?
Let it go…as in literally let it go.
As he is a menace with a chainsaw.

The year passed and the trees lost more leaves even faster…
And then the trees were cut.
Afterward it did appear as if they were sickly and most likely would, in time,
probably have fallen.
Possibly falling toward the house.

Plus he constantly groused over the gutters and the mildew on that side of the house
always having to be cleaned…as in it was all the tree’s fault.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I like trees.
I didn’t want to admit that keeping the trees was a pain and a risk.

Fast foward to now.

We have a bank alongside the driveway that has—rather make that had–
two River Birch trees sitting at the top of the slope.

Two large, airy trees that have been home to a myriad of birdhouses, feeders, and nests
all while casting a lovely amount of shade in the summer months.

However, for those of you who do not know River Birches…
these trees need to be by rivers and not the latest greatest landscape answer.

These trees are fast growing trees and they are always shedding something
all four seasons…plus the least little storm, and snap goes their nimble thin branches…
littering the yard and driveway…not to mention clogging the gutters.

But for 20 years I’ve watched what came to me as tiny saplings grow into giants.
Hence why they are often thrown into landscaping—they grow fast and fill in the
blanks quickly.
Only to become monsters in more ways than one.

We use to have three of these trees but my husband had one cut down a few years back
that was precariously close to the house.
It didn’t start out precarious—but the rapidity of growth made it precarious.

Off with its head.
And it was gone.

Next, he threatened to whack down the remaining two.

Only to be countered with my begging and imploring wails of
NOthey are home to my birds.
They offer delightful summer shade…

So enter this past week.
I was conveniently out of town.
The plot was now hatched.

When the cat is away the mouse opts to cause havoc.

Well, I suppose this is where I should confess tell you…that maybe…
just maybe, a while back during the summer,
I might have mentioned to him–
“please, if you must cut them, do it in the winter.”

But I wouldn’t use that in a court of law because I will plead the 5th.

So Thursday evening when my husband called to check in on the Mayor and me,
he made a quick mention that the tree men were coming the next morning, bright and early,
to cut down those trees.

WHAT?! I practically scream into the phone.

“Yep. I told you I was cutting them down and you had told me to do it in the winter…and
well it’s winter”

I never recall such I frantically wail.

But I knew my pleas were futile.
His mind was made up and there would be no compromising or changing his
“off with their heads” mindset.

I then quickly responded rather definitely…“well then, you better go out and
find some other type trees and have them planted and fix that mess pronto,
and I mean it!

I wasn’t even there to see it but I knew there’d be a mess.

And sure enough, I braced myself for what would greet me when I pulled into the driveway Saturday morning.
Or make that, what wouldn’t be there greeting me!

As this is all that remains…well make that two of these is all that remains…

So the moral to this little tree tale you might be asking…

Pigeons will erroneously show up when you cut down trees as they now think they’re
in the city and never…never ever leave a newly retired husband home alone…
especially during the winter…a husband who thinks
he needs to be about some major sort of project particularly when there’s nothing else he
can be doing when it’s dreary and cold.

A landscape guy will be out tomorrow to recommend a more compact type of tree!

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

all full up

Never trust anyone completely but God. Love people,
but put your full trust only in God.

Lawrence Welk


(doorway in Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)

As I’ve shared before, I was city born and bred, but moved west and met a country boy.
35 years ago in fact.

And so I am certainly old enough to remember things like meat and three and blue plate specials.
This is long before cutting-edge chefs found it chic to offer such on their menus.

Recently, on our little jaunt to Nashville, I overheard someone trying to explain the
concept of a meat and three to an out-of-towner.

They explained that a meat and three was just what it said.
A customer would have a choice of a meat, usually fried chicken, country steak or meatloaf
and then they had a choice to add three vegetables…choosing from a host of options…
vegetables such as fried okra (may I just say yum?!), collard greens, squash casserole,
green beans, mac-n-cheese…

At which time this fellow offering the explanation stopped to further explain that in the South,
mac-n-cheese (aka macaroni and cheese) actually passes as a vegetable.
At which point, some other woman overhearing the conversation hollered
“CAN I GET AN AMEN?!”

I suppose that’s one of those quirky little things about us Southerners

I’m also old enough to remember when Atlanta was closely surrounded by cows and chickens
as well as open pasture land.
In fact, not a mile from my elementary school folks still had horses idyllically grazing
in open fields…

However today, long gone are the horses and fields…
they’ve all been replaced by multimillion-dollar homes, multimillion-dollar subdivisions,
an Orthodox Jewish Temple, a state of the art Jewish school, an Episcopal Community
Center–and yet my circa 1958 elementary school keeps on keeping on.

Nowadays it’s few and far between that one can find a cow within 50 miles of the city…
not unless it is one of those grammatically challenged Chick-Fil-A cows…
but I digress.

Now my dad’s parents had a nice home in Atlanta on a nice quiet street.
My grandfather, who had graduated from GA Tech in 1919 with an Electrical Engineering degree,
started his own electrical business that consistently grew with the times.

Yet my grandmother had been a country girl….proper none the less, but country all the same.
Country as in open land, horses, farm to table food long before such was trending…

She had however graduated from what was LaGrange Women’s College down in LaGrange, Georgia
and did a bold thing for a woman in 1917…
She moved nothrward to the big city…striking out on her own.

And it was in the big city where she met my grandfather…riding on a trolly.

I’ve shared this story before but it’s simply just too funny not to offer it again.

There was my grandmother, dressed to the nines for a Victorian type young woman standing on the
cusp of those roaring 20’s, riding the trolly bound for work when my grandfather and his brother
jumped on the same trolly bound for who knows where.

My grandfather spied my grandmother sitting a few rows away and brazenly jumped up from his
seat making his way over to the empty seat beside her and plops down.

He boldly and most likely rather cheekily introduced himself.
An introduction complete with a large wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth.

My grandmother (a girl from the country who no doubt was accustomed to those chewing tobacco)
indignantly turned her head away from him remarking that she did not talk to boys who
chewed tobacco.

Well, desperate times call for desperate measures…
and so he had no other option…he swallowed the tobacco wad in one hard gulp.

He then proceeded to correct her, explaining that he never had tobacco in his mouth and would
she then be interested in getting a Coca-Cola…

The rest of the story is history for my family tree.

Yet the love of country always remained in my grandmother and so at some point long before
I ever came along, they bought a farm with some land and horses north of the city.
A place they could go to escape the madness of city life on weekends and holidays…
and it was later the place where us city grandkids would run and play till our heart’s content.

I say all of this as I recall during one of the elections when Barak Obama was campaigning
that he made mention that people were now, more than ever before, living in cities.
I don’t remember if it was his first or second run.
But he made the point that it would be the urbanites who would become the determining
factors charting the course of election outcomes….in turn determining our red vs blue states.

Inwardly I took issue with this.

I felt that he was basically dismissing those Americans who were living across this
Nation in places other than metro cities. Those who lived, filling in the spaces between all
the major metropolitan cities.

And whereas I’ve not studied any recent census numbers or polls…I suppose there is some truth
to his words.
That our cities are filling up…and are… well, as those here in the South are often heard
to say…they are simply all full.

And so therefore, obviously on the flip side, that sadly means our suburbs and rural areas must be shrinking in population.

Yet here I am, in a rural west Georgia city…
a place where the cows, goats, horses, and sheep continue spilling over into the multi-million
dollar golf courses, homes, and subdivisions as the luxury equally continues spilling
over on while gobbling up the remaining farmland…
we reamin a hodgepodge of rural and urban all rolled into one…

And folks around these parts…just as with their city counterparts —
are equally diligent when it comes to concern for the Nation and voting …
As in we all have a voice…

And whereas our cities may be full and our rural areas perhaps less full…
the true matter in all of this urban, city vs rural, suburban is not really where we live,
or even to what level we live but what matters most is actually what exists within our hearts—-
what is it that fills these hearts of ours.

It’s not so much a matter of where we live but rather it’s a matter of how we opt to fill up
our hearts…or in some case…how we choose to empty them.

St John of the Cross reminds us of this very fact.

“God does not fit in an occupied heart.”
St. John of the Cross

And so as we continue to fix our sights on our political mayhem, our elections, our government
our contention, our divisions, our Supreme Court…our cities and our dwindling rural
forgotten towns, it would behoove all of us to recall St John’s words…

God cannot fit into a space that is already all full up.

nothing more to give…

“He that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds,
his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications,
by fasts and penitential rigours, offers to Him a part of himself and of what
belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will,
by obedience, gives to Him all that he has,
and can say:
Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 191
AN Excerpt From
The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguiori


(city mural /Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)

The ins and out in and out of a city…as seen in the lives of the fortunate and unfortunate.


(sign posted within a doorway near an area known for the homeless/ Julie Cook / Nashville/ 2018)


(two images of a bird with a broken wing just off the park where the homeless congrugate
in Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a very sick dove sits out amongst the throng of 4th of July revalers, over looked and
basicaly ingnored by the enormous crowd / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a couple of wild turkeys and a squirrel resting during a heatwave on the grounds of
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a squirrel pays no attention to the tourists gathered by it’s side at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage/
Julie Cook / 2018)

“But there must be a real giving up of the self.
You must throw it away
“blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality:
but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.
As long as your own personality
is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all.
The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether.
Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His)
will not come as long as you are looking for it.
It will come when you are looking for Him.
Does that sound strange?
The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters.
Even in social life,
you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort
of impression you are making.
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original:
whereas if you simply try to tell the truth
(without caring twopence how often it has been told before)
you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self,
and you will find your real self.
Lose your life and you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death
of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and
you will find eternal life.
Keep back nothing.
Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred,
loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.
But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

running around like a….

When you are at home,
even if the chicken is a little burnt,
what’s the big deal?
Relax.
Jacques Pepin

DSCN3178
(The Bunratty rooster, a copy of a photo from the property)

I was city born and bred…
yet I’ve been country ever since—-
or maybe we should just say more rural than urban,
as I wouldn’t exactly call my small Georgia town country.

We are quite modern actually.
Hospital, factories, plants, large grocery chains, shopping centers, a college, a technical college…
But we do have a sale barn where farmers head every Monday morning to buy and sell their animals.
We have farmland 5 minutes from the downtown square.
We have wild animals lurking about…
fox, deer, turkey, coyotes, snakes, rabbits, armadillos, possums,
raccoons, snakes…did I mention the snakes?
Rattlesnakes, copperheads, black racers, rat snakes, corn snakes, garden snakes…..

Growing up meat and chicken was something we purchased from a grocery store…
much like I still do today.
Nice and neat in its shrink wrapped packaging.
Same with eggs, milk, hamburgers…you name it—it came from the store.
I never thought much about the “before the store” aspect….

My grandmothers grew up on farms.
They were the original farm to table girls.
Tales of butchering hogs, cows, chickens, etc. rang throughout the stories I heard as a child.

I personally love animals too much to raise them only to turn around and kill butcher them for food.
But I get it.
Living off the land as it were.
I like the idea of living off the land.
Just as I like the idea of getting my meat from a store all nice, neat and shrink wrapped.
For even though I love animals, I am truly a meat and potato girl.

I do have a chicken coop however, all ready for the day when I will have my own girls offering up fresh eggs…
yet my time for chickens, let alone much of anything else, is terribly limited these days.
Hence why I often feel as if I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off…

They say that when a farmer butchers, slaughters, chops a chicken by first waking off its head, the body will jump up in the air and actually take off running—as if for dear life—
not exactly realizing dear life is sufficiently over.

Reflexes the experts tell us.

Shades of Tim Burton, Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette all rolled into one.

So maybe my willy nilly running about like the proverbial chicken with my head cut off–running wildly and madly here and there all helter skelter could be chalked up to mere reflexes—the reflexes of being overwhelmed and over stressed.

Time to slow down, regroup and refocus….
and most importantly, time to seek God’s words….
Words of comfort, teaching, instruction and assurance….

You are righteous, Lord,
and your laws are right.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.
My zeal wears me out,
for my enemies ignore your words.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live.

Psalm 119:137-144

Ode to a sweet peach

“A Georgia peach, a real Georgia peach, a backyard great-grandmother’s orchard peach, is as thickly furred as a sweater, and so fluent and sweet that once you bite through the flannel, it brings tears to your eyes.”
Melissa Fay Greene, ‘Praying for Sheetrock’

DSCN5685

DSCN5687
(Peaches /Julie Cook / 2014)

Shhh don’t tell, but these are South Carolina Peaches.
There is nothing more splendid than a summer’s ripe peach. . .

““““““““““` ““““““““““ ““““““““

Visiting cousins, who lived on a small rural farm in mid eastern Georgia, a young city girl, no more than 7, always made an immediate bee line for the orchard.
Standing small before a bountiful quest, yellow jackets zipping from tree to tree, she saw the challenge and heard the call.

Hand over hand–lifting each leg up a tad higher, tender limb upon limb, this little girl would climb higher and further until reaching the tallest branch.
Here hung the largest, the sweetest and ripest fruit.
Peach trees are not tall trees, but to a little girl, they might as well have been giants.

Haphazardly and full of trepidation, she’d unsteadily reach out with one free hand while clinging desperately to the tree with the other small hand.
Barely yet triumphantly grasping the fuzzy prize.

Settling back in the crook of the tree, yellow jackets vying for the first bite,
the young girl held the furry ball to her nose breathing in the heady fragrance.
Savoring the nano second before taking the giant juicy bite, she eagerly bites through the fuzzy outer layer, releasing a flood of sweet nectar which trickles down her chin.

As summers long past come flooding sweetly back with the sight of a single peach . . .

Have you found what you’re looking for?

“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.”
Albert Camus
DSCN3135
(image of a dilapidated abandoned farm house in rural west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

“But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for”

Lyric refrain from the song “I still haven’t’ found what I’m looking for”
by U2

Certainly not being one to claim some sort of privileged knowledge about the inception of the 1987 song, nor of its meaning,“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by the Irish rock band, U2– the one thing I do know, however, is how I find the lyrics most applicable to my humble observations of the world in which we live.

My understanding is that the tune/ melody is steeped in the band’s front man Bono and lead guitarist Edge and their equal appreciation for American music genres. Bono supposedly has claimed the song to be a quasi piece of gospel mixed with a smattering of Bob Dylan influence. And who among us, of a particular age, can’t say that there isn’t a little bit of Bob Dylan, with that avant guard philosophical musical view of life of his, hiding deep down in us all?

Not that I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan by any stretch of the imagination, but the older I become, the more I find I have a deep appreciation for the method behind his madness. Bob Dylan can write a mean set of lyrics and he is tremendously musically gifted, despite the fact that I never thought he could sing. That garbled, almost unintelligible, nasal voice of his with his folksy bluesy sound was, when I was younger, not my cup of tea. I was a pure member of Beatle Mania coupled by a love of early Motown. Little did I know, at the time, of the tremendous impact Bob Dylan had had on the lives of those musicians whom I loved!

And so it goes as new generations of music makers continue to tap into and weave the poetic mastery of Bob Dylan into their own current take on music–with the boys from Dublin being no exception.

But back to the song. . .

As I look out upon a landscape, which seems to be more like the song Helter Skelter rather than the peace and tranquility of songs such as What a Wonderful World, I am almost overwhelmed by the madness.
Life is indeed colorful.
Life is indeed loud.

Life is full of the flashy gadgetry of the off the chart growth and hunger for all things electronic with the roots deep in technology, which this brave new world of ours seems to crave. Demand can’t keep up with the insatiable appetite. That new IPhone of yours, the one you just bought last month, its already obsolete as a new one will be out shortly—oh the frustration of keeping up!

We are now living in a country where more people currently live in large urban centers rather than the rural countryside. Songs from distant childhoods such as “This Land is Your Land” once painted a picture of a quilted country with a sweeping landscape which was stitched together by a population of residence spread out far and wide, dotting the land from coast to coast. Today it seems that most of those dots, that population of ours, is crammed in on either coast with a few remaining clusters bridging the gaping empty landscape in-between.

Our news, which is really no longer news but rather extensions of what we consider entertainment, is laced with so many stories of those who have fallen from grace it’s almost difficult to keep up. “Stars,” whose lives are splashed across our eyeballs, often against our will, along with their endeavors and exploits appear on almost every magazine cover in grocery stores, drug stores, television programs, computer screens, commercials, movie screens and even the air waves. We couldn’t escape them if we wanted to. Arrests, heroin overdoses, sex scandals, explosive public temper tantrums, bad boy and bad girl behavior run amuck—the list goes on and on.

My question: why does any of this, of what those folks do, matter to me?

Interlace Hollywood with our politicians and Government officials, whose behavior is proving equally as disturbing from the lurid sexting scandals, numerous affairs, drugs, alcohol, bribery, chronic pleading of the 5th. . .as I suppose we could say it all boils down to a sick sort of entertainment.

I for one, however, find it all terribly sad.

It seems as if Society, as a whole, is the one singing the lyrics of U2’s song— as it is our overall Society which seems to be so empty and in search of something that it just can’t seem to find.

Fulfillment
Contentment
Security
Love
Happiness
Acceptance
Success

Those seem to be the key words in which most people, famous or not, continually seek. And the seeking seems to be at a non stop pace with many of the end results coming up empty.

The drugs don’t work.
The sex doesn’t work.
The arrests don’t help.
The re-hab doesn’t help.
The endless affairs don’t work
The insatiable shopping and buying doesn’t work
The binge eating and drinking doesn’t work
The obsession with weight and looks don’t work.
The constant quest for youth doesn’t work.
The anger, the resentment, the hatred, the denial, the isolation. . .none of it works.

So everyone goes on singing.
“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”

There is but one thing that works.
It will, however, require a great deal from an individual.
It requires a death.
It is not a physical death per se.
But it is a dying of self.

Giving up me in order to gain a life lived with the Creator of the Universe.
Giving up me to have a relationship with an only Son who died so I could have that relationship.
Giving up me to receive a mystical gift of Grace known as the Holy Spirit.
That is the only thing that will work.

But nobody seems too interested in hearing that.
Dying unto self just doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as the news these days.

My favorite psalm—Psalm 139: 1-18– Words which humble me, reassure me, touch me deeply— especially as an adopted child who knows not form whence I come. . .

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.