Not a pretty picture

“If you believe what you like in the gospels,
and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe,
but yourself.”

St. Augustine


(leaf-footed bugs, both adults and nymphs, feast upon the dregs of the tomatoes / Julie Cook / 2017)

Coreidae are a family of sap sucking insects.
In North America these insects are called leaf-footed because of the leaf-like
structures on their back legs.

They are a growing nuisance and attack
or feast upon, depending on one’s perspective,
various plants and fruits by sucking out the juices.

Here in my neck of the woods, these leaf-footers predominately “attack” tomatoes.
A tomato that has been visited by the leaf-foot bugs will have what appears to be
a severe case of the measles…or rather a massive covering of tiny discolored spots.

Not very appealing nor appetizing…
and in essence, seeing a fruit or vegetable covered with a hoard of
sap sucking insects is not a pretty picture….
something akin to a science fiction movie.

Looking at the sad end of a season, with those few reaming dying tomatoes
clinging to the brown and withering vines…
all the while as the leaf-foot insects literally cover the fruit,
sucking out the residual living juices…
I can’t help but think of the current situation of our world.

For the season is quickly fading while only a few straggling fruit remain…
All the while a scourge descends upon the land.
We’ve grown weary, even weak…while there are those who wish to use our
vulnerability to their benefit as they work to take our remaining resolve.

But we are busy, too busy fighting amongst ourselves…
fighting over things of no consequence, things that
have no bearing, things that only have us using our
remaining energies needlessly…the minutia of what is.

While a legion of vermin wait to feast upon our remains.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be preoccupied by
a limited vision as an infestation is taking place.
Before we know it, we’re covered by those who wish
to cause harm before discarding us, leaving us to wither on the vine.

If we persist on reaming within this current season, our
demise, which in essence will be by our own hands, while those who wait to
take advantage of our distraction will feast upon what remains,
will only be a matter of fading time….

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke,
and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching,
but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers
to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth
and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

“and when my life is over….”

“Where there is love there is life.”
Mahatma Gandhi


(coconut palms at The Breakers, Palm Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

There are days when suddenly, for no apparent reason…
a song, a thought, a memory
pops into the forefront of consciousness.

While we are often left wondering why…from whence, from where and for what?

Sometimes… the whys are not to be understood.

My life is currently a herky jerky roller coaster full of emotions…
The days are punctuated by smiles and accented by endless tears.
Wandering about mostly lost.

And then a song from the recesses of time percolates to the current..
bridging a time that was to the time which is now…
That a random tune from a different season
triggers a memory, a feeling, a thought…
existing now to help assuage the current moment….

“A Song For You”

I’ve been so many places in my life and time
I’ve sung a lot of songs, I’ve made some bad rhymes
I’ve acted out my love on stages
With 10,000 people watching
But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song to you

I know your image of me is what I hope to be
I treated you unkindly, but darling can’t you see
There’s no one more important to me
Darling can’t you please see through me
‘Cause we’re alone now and I’m singing this song to you

You taught me precious secrets
Of the truth, withholding nothing
You came out in front and I was hiding
But now, I’m so much better
And if my words don’t come together
Listen to the melody, ’cause my love’s in there hiding

I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song to you

But I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song for you
We were alone and I was singing this song for you
We were alone and I was singing my song
Singing this song for you

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

Resurrections

“God is what he is;
Yahweh is who he is.”

Alec Motyer

The first thing the Cross does is cross out the world’s word by a Wholly-Other Word,
a Word that the world does not want to hear at any price.
For the world wants to live and rise again before it dies,
while the love of Christ wants to die in order to rise again in the form of God on the
other side of death, indeed, IN death.”

― Hans Urs von Balthasar


(a surprise resurrection blooming peony / Julie Cook /2017)

Late last Spring, early summer, I found myself wandering through the garden center of Lowes.
Whenever I’m feeling ‘less then’, blah or downright sad I often find myself wandering
the garden center.
Rows and rows of color, vibrancy and simply life…
abundant in the scents and sights of fullness, always seems to lift my spirits.

I either wander aimlessly, seeking some hidden sense of solace…
or I wander with a purpose…as in I come with the intent of purchasing something
to plant…
as in, there is a reason and a need for the wandering.

Last planting season I was seeking a few shrubs that were deer resistant but plants
that had more umph than some sort of boxwood or holly.
Something that could survive the full relentless Georgia sun.
A summer either baking and dry or sticky and humid…
Last summer it was hot and dry with a long lasting and oh so deadly drought.

I am a fan of the old fashioned sort of plants found in gardens that harken
to another time…a lovely sort of English cottage garden…
Those gardens that call to mind the thoughts and memories of those who have gone before.

So imagine my piqued interest when I spied a potted peony.
Peonies remind me of old world stateliness…soft while elegant.
Not flashy, not cutting edge, not loud nor garish.
A very southern old-time staple.

I am not a green thumb queen like our friend Natalie over on Sacred Touches
(https://sacredtouches.com)
I do however enjoy planting and working in the yard,
as it is extremely therapeutic for me…
It’s just that I don’t always have success and I don’t always know what I’m doing.

After checking out the price tag on the peony, I had a bit of sticker shock.
It was very expensive.
I asked one of the garden center folks if the peony could survive full sun.
She told me yes and that that was the last peony for the season…that she had already bought
one of the others despite it being a big splurge…she was just excited to get one.

Seeing that I was in the midst of the growing difficult life with Dad’s declining health
and the beginnings of his increasing needs as the life I had known had ceased…
I wanted, no I needed, something to bring me a bit of joy…
I figured a blooming peony could do just that.
So I too splurged and bought the potted peony.

Long story short.
I planted it.
I cared for it.
But we had a deadly drought.
Baking heat and a drought…

This is what the peony looked like come early Fall…

Dejected and sad I text Natalie the pictures.
Knowing her to be the queen of flowers, I shared my loss with her.
Natalie does indeed know a thing or two about flowers and plants
as well as a thing or two about heat and drought as she hails from Texas…
She told me not to dig up the plant…
“Just leave it, because come Spring, you might just be surprised.”
“Peonies are of a hardy stock.”
I suppose a Texas southerner knows a thing or two about hardy stock.

So as the winter came and my life grew more grey and difficult, I forgot all about the peony.

Fast forward to now…as I wander about in the wake of losing Dad,
going through the motions these last couple of weeks while trying to pick up the pieces of
what all he’s left behind,
I’ve been working slowly to bring some semblance of order back into my world.

Wandering about the yard, seeking newness and fullness, I caught my breath when I noticed
a little tuft of fresh greenery emerging from the recently replaced pine straw.
Cautiously over the past week, I’ve watched the little tuft get fuller and taller.
Then Sunday afternoon I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was a bloom.

A real resurrection of sorts….

And how timely that this garden resurrection should manifest itself during this most
Holy of weeks…

The weightiness and heaviness of this world…with its pain and overwhelming sorrow…
It is both frightening while at the same time complacent as it lulls us into feeling
that it is our home, our only home.
Dirty and broken, hot and dry…it clutches us, smothering us as it holds our
face in it’s grip convincing us that this world is all we could ever want or need.

Yet in that brokeness and loneliness of our empty hearts and souls…we yearn
for more.
While we shrink in the dryness…
we are spent…

So on that hot dry day of loss…
as a head drops to the chest and the last breath is released…
while the sky darkens and all hope leaves with that drying…

A promise is not forgotten…
and soon our world will change forever…
for the better…..

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:
Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses,
the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Luke 24:44

Holy discontent

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
― Ray Bradbury

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Spring has sprung a bit early…so it seems
Temperatures are running 15 to 20 degrees above the average for this time of year…
Early March is feeling a lot like late May…
It is an unexpected delight…yet troubling just the same.

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(shots of the blooming cherry trees complete with bees and ladybugs / Julie Cook / 2016)

We aren’t much for being the creatures of the unexpected…we humans…
we grow alarmed and anxious when things, especially in nature, step out of sync.
We prefer the expected…
The tried and true…
that of the habitual habit…
We know our times, our seasons, our rhythms of life,
and we like for them to be, well, predictable.

The same holds true for our spiritual nature…
Our need to have a relationship with that which is Greater than ourselves.
As created beings we long, most often subconsciously, for our Creator…
For it seems that the need to have a relationship with that God of all Creation is truly hardwired within.

There are those who would argue that point…
As they do not see the correlation between man’s constant discontent and to his quest, nay need, to be made whole…

Those who eschew God for God’s sake, those who defiantly say…
“there is no God”
or
“I have no need for a God” …
Try in vain to fill the void, the empty abyss, with any and all sorts of need filling balms and placebos…

Be it addictions…
Those maddening and seemingly uncontrollable urges which gobble up all manner of ill in a frantic, albeit vain, need to stave the endless hunger of the spiritual void…

Or it might be the endless, yet empty, quest of searching and seeking after any and all things to worship…the longing to put something, anything, at the center of validation and justification of simply… being…
From demons to fatted calves, from nature to man himself…
humankind yearns to put something at the center of its very existence…

As man seeks, yearns, needs to hold something, anything, at the heart of his existence…
his insatiable need goes back to that very moment when God first breathed life into the lungs of the dust created Adam…

And it is to this day…
That we, me, you, us, long to breathe, once again, in rhythm with our Creator…
Seeking, longing, aching to fill the discontent with the rhythmic beating as one…
Restored within the relationship to…
God the Almighty…
The Father…
And Maker of both Heaven and Earth…

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Well seasoned

“Accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”

― Kahlil Gibran

“What an abundant harvest has been collected in autumn! The earth has now fulfilled its design for this year, and is going to repose for a short time. Thus nature is continually employed during the greatest part of the year: even in her rest she is active: and in silence prepares a new creation.”
― Christoph Christian Sturm

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(bits of the remains of a farm in Teileann, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There is a rhythm and certain cadence to life,
as well as to living that life.
Divided amongst the four seasons…
A time to reap and a time to sow
A time to make merry and a time to grow…

In December, the weather is to be cold.
The trees, both twiggy and dormant, are to stand as Winter’s lone sentinels.
Yet what an odd sight when those sleeping trees, which are to wake up and bud in March, are alarmingly budding now.
Odder still…a single remaining tomato plant continues to persevere offering up small ripening fruit.

Where are the freezing temps, the chilly days and colder nights?
Forthcoming they say…
Why do the crickets still sing at dusk,
when they should be fast asleep for the winter?
Ode to our seasons being out of sync and out of step.

For we are rhythmic beings.
Our bodies
Our seasons
Our time
Our earth
Our universe

We have been created to live a seasonal and rhythmic life.
Our very breath rises and falls as our heart beats rhythmically along—both in sync
Any glitch, such as an illness or accident, creates havoc to life’s ebb and flow.
And when one component of our being falls out of tempo with the rest, everything within and without, seems to follow suit.

Disruption
Distraction
Disjunction
Disconnection
Disorder…

We are also spiritual beings.
Who are inextricably linked to the One who set all that is into motion…
Linked endlessly to the One who has given us our being, our rhythm, our life.
Yet long ago, having chosen disobedience over obedience, chaos over order, darkness over light, we placed into jeopardy the very essence of that rhythmic relationship.
The harmony of Life’s seasons was turned upside down and despite our best efforts, remains hopelessly out of sync and out of balance to this day.

So as we find ourselves in the waning days of yet another year,
in the midst the final season of a time which was…
A time of transition…
from cool to cold,
from colorful to bland,
from bright to bleak,
from life to death,
from light to dark….
a time and a season of longing and expectation…
A time that has us wondering, watching, waiting…

A time that is to offer renewing Light…
As in a living Light.
A Light which will bring life giving warmth as it banishes the darkness of colorless death…

There will be those who we will long for this light…
as there will be others who will remain unaware, dismissive and stubbornly unaccepting.
Yet this living Light thankfully comes regardless of the wants and whims of man…
It comes despite the poor choices and refusals…
It comes to offer both Hope and Redemption for any and all…as it will finally set the captives free, as the blind will finally see and those who have been silenced will find their long awaited song.
The Light which will restore the very cadence and rhythm…
to our relationship of One…

Reminders and Remembrance

“There are moments when we have real fun because, just for the moment, we don’t think about things and then–we remember–and the remembering is worse than thinking of it all the time would have been.”
― L.M. Montgomery

“What you remember saves you.”
― W.S. Merwin

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(a collection of shells found at Orange Beach, Al / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have two small, rather faded and mostly brittle, sea shells riding
along on the console of my dash—actually along the outcropping for my car’s navigation screen.
The shells slide from one side to the other should I ever make a sudden turn or swerve.
They bother my husband.
He’s afraid they’re going to scratch the Nav’s screen.
They aren’t.
Every time he gets in my car to ride with me, he always asks the same question:
“Why do you have those shells up there?”
Followed by “They’re going to scratch the glass.”

I always answer the same. . .
“Those were two shells I found in the car when I was cleaning it out, after our long weekend trip back in September, to the beach.”
Which means they have been riding in my car now for 8 months.
Back and forth during the change of seasons, in the depths of winter’s chill. . .Halloween, Christmas, Easter—over to Atlanta, to the airport, to the mall, to the grocery store, to meetings, to the lawyer’s office, to the hospital, to the doctor’s office, to the dentist’s office, to the church, to a myriad of places to eat, to the beach again, to the home of friends, to wedding’s, to funerals, to parties, to Dad’s–
For miles and miles, and even more miles. . . those little shells have been my tiny passengers. . .

I put them on the dash as a reminder. . .

Reminding me of those more peaceful carefree moments spent simply basking in the wonderment of creation, as in my case, at the ocean’s shores.
Reminders of treasured moments when one affords oneself the luxury of enjoyment, contentment and release.
When one slows down long enough, stoping while bending over,
to pick up a small piece of Creation. . . marveling in or at something that is intriguing,
eye catching, simple, plain, pretty, interesting, unusual—pocketing the minuscule as a treasured keepsake. . .a wee reminder that nothingness, and yet everything,
can be treasured, special, sacred. . .

Reminders of a time when nothing pulled at, called upon, pressed down on, worried, frightened or troubled mind, body or soul.

It’s important that I can hold on to the reminders and the memories of such. . .

We all have similar little mementoes tucked away someplace. . .those tiny scrapes of paper, pretty little rocks, bits of glass, old buttons, frayed ribbons, tattered photos, long forgotten keys all the tiny tangible pieces of our peace, our happiness, our treasured moments of time savored and found in a long forgotten little pieces of this or that. . .

For me, many of those tiny treasures are natural items that I pick up along my journeys outward. . .
Walks along the beach, a trek into the woods, a hike in the mountains, the precarious forging of a creek or stream. . .bits and pieces, tangible particles, of the natural wonders. . .the tiny parts offered to the created by the Master Creator Himself. . .

I pocket them, holding on to them, putting them where I can see them. . .in order to recall, to remember, to reclaim, to hold on to. . .the fact that God has given me a tiny token of Himself and His wonderment, in order for me to carry, to actually touch, to feel and to hold. . .reminding me that He is greater than myself and my various little journeys to here and there—I am reminded of the one significant fact—that when life is overwhelming and I’m feeling as if I’ve reached a breaking point. . .I’m sweetly, gently reminded that He is bigger, greater, grander. . .while at the same time and most poignantly reminded that He can be both gently thoughtful and touching. . .simply reminding me always of His presence in my often frantic and manic world. . .