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.

casting light

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

Plato


(a misty moonlit evening in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Who among us, no matter where on the planet we may be, doesn’t glance
upward in the nighttime sky gazing almost longingly toward a full moon.

It’s as if that illuminated orb, in that vast inky night sky,
beckons hypnotically for our attention.
Calling all nighttime wanderers to cast their gaze heavenward as thoughts
hauntingly wonder, as well as wander, under the spell of melancholy mixed with awe.

For it is in the darkness that we innately yearn for the comfort of light.
Welcoming light
Guiding light
Directing light
Reassuring light

We have been called, each of us, to be that same comforting light cast outward,
illuminating a frighteningly dark world.
As we are left to ask ourselves…
are we casting only more darkness in an already darkened world,
or are we reflecting the welcoming light of Salvation…

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5

parched

I am the vessel.
The draft is God’s.
And God is the thirsty one.

Dag Hammarskjold

dscn4640
(It is so dangerously dry as we have had no rain since the first of June that even the springs and creek beds, deep in the woods which are always full of flowing waters, are dry and empty / Julie Cook / 2016)

Dry and dusty are the muffled cries of the earth…
which now aches and groans.

The Creator has spoken and yet man’s ears have grown deaf
All the while the faithful are left to wonder…

Man readily dismisses any sign, any reminder of God’s sacred word..

Are the waters now dry?
Do the rocks quiver and shake?
Have the seas overtaken the land?
Are the stars falling from the sky?
Have the storms blotted out the sun…
As man turns away from his God?

May my longing and my thirst,
that only seems to increase during these waning days,
be quenched by You and You alone oh Lord…

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire.
O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing;
I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.
Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’
Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up
from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

A.W. Tozer

Sailors delight eh….

“He replied,
“When evening comes, you say,
‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning,
‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:2-3

DSCN4194
(a view from the driveway on a sultry August Georgia evening / Julie Cook / 2016)

Red sky at night,
sailors delight….

Getting out of the car, at sunset, after a very, very long day
ferrying dad between this doctor and that doctor,
this lab facility and that medical center….
then spending almost 3 hours in traffic fighting to get home….
I look back, over my shoulder, toward the western sky.

The air is thick and heavy with the humidity of August.
Exactly how I’m feeling…weighted down and heavy ladened.

I sigh…

The evening is quiet.
A far cry from where I had just come.

Our son and daughter-n-law will be moving soon..
moving to the city I never seem to miss when I leave it.
But I can’t think about helping with packing and moving…
not yet…

I often think it not wise to write when life is so heavy
or…maybe that’s exactly when one should…write…
pouring out thoughts and feelings…
searching to match the right words with the right feelings…
sorting and making sense of the senseless…

A body that is tired and hurting
joining thoughts with feelings that now are swirling…
I look toward the red western sky…
as if seeking some sort of reassurance…

Surgery on Friday for dad…
the tumor too large to remove…
but trying to shore things up while buying some time…
Time…
another heavy thought…open-ended
full of uncertainty…

A red sky.

Signals a sailor’s delight…

In other words,
smooth sailing…

Hummm….

Again, a sigh…before heading inside…

Signs of the time…

As I am reminded, while looking at the sky…
in the midst of all the madness and heaviness,
That the Master of the sky…
and of the clouds,
and of the stars,
and of the land
and of the sea…
remains….

forever…

DSCN4193

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope
Jeremiah 29:11

Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise can mean that a high pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.

(courtesy the Library of Congress, Fun Science Facts)

harmony

“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves,
words that other men could not hear,
and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.”

Gustave Flaubert

DSCN3458
(evening Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2016)

The debate will rage on no doubt until the end of time…
that Science and Religion cannot and will not ever mix…
particularly with the religion of the Christian faith.

As there are indeed many entrenched and ardent supporters in both camps, on both sides of the fence, who cautiously eye their enemy—that enemy being one another.

There are those who say that there is neither room nor space for one another.
As some have gone so far as to attempt to disprove and discount each opposing team.
Calling one another names and simply dismissing the other as being less than.

Pity that…
for was it not God who gave both the heavens and the earth to His created…
As well as the stars and the sea?
Did He not provide for man the beasts of the field, the fowl of the sky and the fish in the vast oceans deep?

Yet sadly man, in his exuberance and quest for all things knowledgable, has deemed that he and he alone is to have the final word and it is he who can now, and most certainly should, erase the very presence of the Creator.

We cannot say for certain what happened that fateful day that both Adam and Eve were cast forth from the Garden, as the gate to Eden was slammed shut behind them, sealing it from sight to this very day.

We cannot say what God’s concept of time was nor what it should be…for God is beyond space,
time as well as dimension.

God cannot be placed neatly under a microscope not contemplated by an equation.
For there is no litmus test for God’s being, His nature nor His presence…

for His being is without beginning or end.

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know.
During the period when the principles of modern science were under development–revelation and reason were linked. Sir Isaac Newton grasped this connection and “explicitly stated that he was investigating God’s creation, which was a religious duty because nature reflects the creativity of its maker.”
Newton was reaching back into the Middle Ages, a time that has pilloried as anti-science but that actually represents a more highly integrated approach to philosophy, theology, and the study of the workings of nature. In fact it was the “natural philosophers” of the Middle Ages (the term scientist wasn’t coined until 1833) who made modern science possible. Without “their central belief that nature was created by God and so worthy of their attention,” writes James Hannam, “modern science would simply not have happened.”

Excerpt from God & Churchill
Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley
with footnotes from James Hannam, God’s Philosophers

May we as Christians never shut the door on the sciences for they allow us to explore the creation God has put before us….and may those of Science always remain open to that which is beyond their comprehension…not simply dismissing what cannot be seen or fully grasped…and therefore deciding that if it cannot be seen nor measured, it cannot nor does not exist….

Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:16-18

No bounds

“When we say God is infinite we mean that He knows no bounds”
A.W. Tozer

DSCN0984
(Off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook /
2015)

Grace…
Boundlessness
Endless
Without ceasing
No limits
Beyond
Ad infinitum

Love
Forgiveness
Healing
Hope
I AM…

“Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.”
Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind. However sin may abound it still has its limit, for it is the product of finite minds and hearts; but God’s “much more” introduces us to infinitude. Against our deep creature-sickness stand God’s infinite ability to cure.

A.W. Tozer

Consistencies

Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties.
Charlotte Bronte

Part of courage is simple consistency.
Peggy Noonan

“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!”
― John Wesley

DSCN1613
(worn weary cross, Sligo Abbey / County Sligo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As much as we…
try
arrange
rearrange
plot and plan
inconsistencies will forever be a constant.
For there is nothing in our lives that will remain without glitch, hiccup, accident, or
bedevilment

Not family
Not friends
Not health
Not government
Not weather
Not land
Not sea
Not sky

The only consistent aspect of our lives is our relationship with God
Void of any and all inconsistencies…
He alone is the only one true constant any of us will ever know…
Forever was
Forever is
Forever will be…

And so He comes….

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
1 Colossians 1:15-17