when mothballs make me cry

“There’s a tear in my beer
Cause I’m cryin for you, dear
You are on my lonely mind”

Hank Williams


(a sack of bat deterrent, aka mothballs, Julie Cook / 2017)

When mothballs make me cry…

No, I’m not writing a new country song, not about mothballs anyway…
I’m literally talking about real mothballs.

You may recall that I’ve had problems before with bats wanting to roost under
the awning on my back deck…
and since this is where my cat Percy spends most of his daylight hours…
well, I can’t have bats hanging out where we and the cats hang out.

I tried stuffing dryer sheets up in their little crevices,
I tried squirting them with hornet spray…
I tried poking them with a broom…
but they kept coming back—

So I had a brilliant idea.
I’d hang up mothballs.

Well, I suppose I can’t take full credit, I think I read somewhere on
a critter catcher’s website that mothballs were a low tech deterrent.
I wanted to try something humane as I know and appreciate how beneficial bats
are in the yard and poking them with a broom just made them squeak at me and
spraying them with hornet spray is probably not
exactly good for them.

Back early in the Spring, I ventured to Home Depot and bought a box of mothballs.
Once home I hung up two bags on opposite ends of the deck, just under each corner
of the awning, where the bats had hunkered down to spend their days napping.


(my little neighbor who needed to move / Julie Cook / 2016)

Here it is late July and I’ve had nary a bat.
Conclusion….
the mothballs work.

Mothballs are meant to be in sealed-up containers where things like old books
or sweaters are stored as they are actually a pesticide for what else…
sweater eating moths and paper eating silverfish.

The smell is, well, toxic.
Hence why they’re suppose to be in bins and boxes and not necessarily
out for breathing.

But I figure we’re safe as I’ve hung the bags up high and downwind from where we sit.
and in just the right spot to fumigate the hiding nooks of bats.

Mothballs, like dry ice, dissipate over time when exposed to air.
So yesterday I noticed my little mothball sacks were now empty.
Meaning my mothballs had evaporated and I needed some refills.

Another trip to Home Depot and I returned ready to rehang bags of balls.

As I opened the box I was suddenly hit with an overwhelmingly pungent and
most familiar odor.

They say that scent, odor or smell is one of the most powerful triggers for memory.

Suddenly, I was a little girl rummaging back into the deep recesses of my
grandmother’s closet.
She had mothballs strewn all on the floor, in the way back, of her old cavernous
closet. I was immediately informed right fast not to touch the poisonous mothballs.
This being in the home where my mom and her sister Martha had grown up.
My mom and Martha.

Martha….

sigh…..

Seems I can’t even hang up some mothballs without remembering this heavy
heart of mine.


(Mother,the not so happy bride along with her not so happy 13 year old maid of honor..
seems Martha had been obnoxiously silly, embarrassing Mother the night before at the rehearsal dinner, so they weren’t speaking this otherwise joyous June day 1953…sisters….)

Time to que the country music…..

Lord, I’ve tried and I’ve tried
But my tears I can’t hide
You are on my lonely mind.
All these blues that I’ve found
Have really got me down
You are on my lonely mind

Hank Williams

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Gone home….


(a table in my son’s home—his tribute to his grandfather)

Dad passed away last night—it was 11:42 when I was called.
We’d spent the day with him and my son was with him last around 9:30 PM
His earthly journey complete…his pain and suffering no more.
As I drove back over for the second time that day, just past midnight,
I was swept over by a sense of calm knowing Dad was finally
with Mother.

I had written the following post after sitting with him yesterday.
I think it still important to share…
But just know that death has once again been overcome by
Life!

Edward Dale Nichols
March 10, 1928—March 19, 2017

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support….

it’s never like the movies

“The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until
the party is over,
and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind,
which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things”

Lemony Snicket

Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back for its ability to create
iconic and memorable snippets of life…
With some of the most captivating moments being those dramatic scenes of both death and dying.

A quick little Google search of iconic death scenes and you get anything from Alien
to Bambi, while my generation most likely thinks Love Story…
with it’s now immortalized tag line,
“love is never having to say your sorry….”

But anyone who has ever been involved in any sort of real life relationship knows that that
particular little Hollywood dribble is just a bunch of crap…
but of course, I digress….

No matter what overtly dramatized film moment you may happen to recall when thinking
classic death / dying scene…
be it an endearing tearjerker like in Titanic or a graphically
gory melee of any epic war picture,
nothing quite compares to the real life drama found in the balance between
true living and dying

Take the above image of the coffee filter filled with fresh dark roasted coffee beans…

Your brain registers that you’re looking at a coffee filter filled with coffee beans…
and because of what you know about coffee beans,
you’re pretty safe assuming that there is a strong aroma associated with the beans…
However you can’t actually smell them.

Captured images just don’t processes a smell-o-rama capability.

You see the beans….
you know they have a very strong enticing smell…
but….
because they’re sitting on a screen, you only experience them with just one sense…
that of sight.

Now Hollywood works hard on a viewer’s senses of both sight and sound in order to
coax out a physical reaction…they’ll happily surmise that they’ve been succeessful if
they think that they’ve made a viewer “feel”…
be it a physical reaction from laughing to crying to even nausea….

Yet for all their special effects, they lack the sense of smell.
And the truth be told, they lack reality.

Because whereas art tries to imitate life, it will always fall short.

Now you know with your eyes and brain that the two images here of,
first the coffee beans and now a fresh bouquet of flowers,
each have a distinct aroma or smell….
but…
you can’t actually smell them by looking at them on your screen.

You can’t touch them or hear them or smell them.

You’re just working off your previous associations…

Nothing can prepare you for reality…but reality.
The nitty gritty touch, taste, hearing, seeing, smell, feel of raw reality.

Dad’s room is now filled with coffee filters filled with coffee beans.
Not because he ever greatly appreciated coffee…
but because the Hospice nurse told us it would help with the smell.

The overwhelming smell of decay because oddly the body will fall apart quite frankly
before we’re exactly finished using it.
As in the body will begin to simply erode, decay and die while we’re still hanging on…
with the end result not being a pretty picture.

Dying is so much worse then what we see in the movies.

For there is much more to it then a Hollywood script…
For it has graphic sights as well as unpleasant sounds and sickening scents…
things that never should be imitated because the reality it simply too overwhelming.

Yet in all of this….
what I know to be true is that our bodies are merely borrowed earthly vessels in which
our souls reside before we are freed from them in order to go home as it were.

Yes I believe this.

It is nearly impossible to watch and be a part of…this eroding, this wasting…
what with the sounds, sights and smells….
because our human brains and emotions are so limited…

This body is all we have known….it is what we have seen age over the years.
It is has come to represent what and who we love, who we cherish, who we hold on to,
who we cling to…who we associate our very beings with….

It is the tangible while our God is not tangible.
It only makes sense that we anguish over its demise.

And yet, in the graphic sights, sounds and smells there remains something far greater
then the decay of age or disease..

For there once was a body that had been so grossly damaged, so horrifically abused as
it had died a slow and agonizing death.
Later it was to be washed and cleaned…
anointed with sweet oils, aloes and spices before being
wrapped in freshly woven flaxen linens.

Yet following three days, more spices were brought to be added to the tomb—
a tomb that was by now assumed to be filled with the overwhelming
stench of human decay and rot…

However, that was not the case….

For within that dark enclosure—a seismic shift of time occurred…
where once life had simply slipped away and become death….
here in this dark enclosure, death had become life…

And so now we wait amongst the coffee beans…for death, to become, life….

“No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of
Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem.
Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship.
Thank God, we have an empty tomb. The glorious fact that the empty tomb
proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes.
Death is not a wall, but a door.”

Peter Marshall

Catching the scent

“In the aftermath of Gethsemane, we catch the fragrance of Eden”
Alister E. McGrath
excerpt from In Light of Victory

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(the beginning of the hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2016)

Not all things that bloom have a scent…
And some blooming plants and flowers actually have a repugnant smell.

Yet I think we may safely surmise that Eden, the birth place of all gardens, had what can only be imagined to be the most heavenly of scents.
An endless cascading array of flowers and blooms, given by the Creator to the created…
All to be savored and enjoyed…
Just as a Lover would shower his beloved with abundant bouquets of beautiful flowers…
equal only to the beauty of the one who holds his affections…so God bestowed upon man…

Yet the story does not end with the gift of the fragrant bouquet…

“Jesus was betrayed within the garden of Gethsemane, in order to undo the disobedience of human nature within the garden of Eden.
Alister E. McGrath
In Light of Victory

How appropriate that as it was a garden, which was the scene of the greatest blow to humankind, should in turn be the scene to the beginning of the greatest act of Love ever extended to humankind.

And so…
He comes once again…
bringing you the fragrant scent of the saving grace of Love Divine…

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God
among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing

2 Corinthians 2:15

More than

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
― Augustine of Hippo

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.

Mother Teresa

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
― C.S. Lewis

“The harder the conflict,
the more glorious the triumph.”

Thomas Paine

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(remnants of Cong Abbey , County Mayo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It whispers across a cool morning breeze…

Do you hear it?

It’s the sound of a thousand and one voices drifting endlessly across the ages.
It’s the mournful cry of a dove at dawn.
It’s the melodic symphony of an unseen orchestra of crickets on a warm summer’s night.

It rides along the ocean’s waves…

Do you see it?

It’s the wonderment you feel as you gaze upon the night sky awash in a million twinkling lights.
It’s the brilliance of color bathed endlessly across a skylit canvas as the sun offers a joyful good morning.
It’s the overwhelming eruption and dazzling display of a myriad of blooming wildflowers in a quiet hidden meadow…

It’s a familiar scent wafting upwards from somewhere unexpectedly…

Do you smell it?

It’s the fresh scent of grass from a newly mowed lawn
It’s the heavy smell of rain riding in on the winds before a storm.
It’s a long lost memory catching you off guard as you suddenly capture a whiff of your grandmother’s home

It races from touch to touch…

Do you feel it?

It’s caught up in the soothing memories from a now distant childhood.
It’s the sudden chill you feel as the sun dips out of sight on a cool fall’s night.
It’s the welcoming comfort found in an offered smile.

It’s much more than ancient history or the crumbling bits of mortar and stone now abandoned and long forgotten…

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(crumbling remains hidden away deep within Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s really more like the bits of sand found in your shoe after a walk along the beach…small and tiny, yet largely distracting,
rather uncomfortable and most difficult to ignore

The curious and the tourist alike each pick their way through the labyrinth of time long past, as they wander about pondering and musing what it all meant and wondering where it all went.

Yet you know don’t you….?

You know it never went anywhere.

It’s been here all along.

Buried deep within your heart.

But it was never meant to stay buried or forgotten.

Never meant to be for tourists or the curious to gawk and pick.

It was never meant to crumble nor decay

For it is living and breathing and yearns to be shared

It’s the gnawing ache felt in each beating heart.

It’s that nagging feeling of being out of sorts as your spirit seems lost in the fray.

It’s in the melancholy and sorrow that shadows a seemingly empty day

It’s the longing for home when you’re already there.

A Spirit most holy yet hidden, longs to hide no more.

A Spirit Loving yet concealed, longs to be revealed.

A Spirit Mighty and Great, longs to be proclaimed

You know It don’t you….?

Because It knows you….

A curative for the wintertime blues

Patience is the best remedy for every trouble.
Plautus

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”
― Sinclair Lewis

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”

― Claude Monet

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(the varying stages of a hyacinth bloom / Julie Cook / 2015

Do you smell that?
Oh. . .
no. . .
I’m sorry, I forgot. . .
sadly you cannot.
Hummm. . . lets see. . . what to do. . .
Wait!
I know. . .
Quick!
You must get thee to some sort of store, shop or greenhouse, post haste. . .
Some place which has flowers blooming!!
Yes, I know it’s the dead of Winter.
Yes, I know some of those varmints out there, aka groundhogs, saw their shadows, but here’s the thing. . . there’s a bit of a dispute brewing because some of their kin claim to have seen no shadow.
Talk about an axis shifting conundrum!!
For some of us, Winter is not about to let up. . .
Snow
Nor’easters
Rain
Sleet
Ice
Grey
Cold
Mist
Drizzle
Fog. . .
You get the picture right?
It’s almost enough to drive the most winter hearty of us over the edge. . .unless you are part yeti or abominable snowman.

abominable-snowman-520169
(you remember this guy right, form the 1964 classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?? The dreaded Bumble)

So therefore, the only recourse you have is to quickly find a flower sporting some much needed pop of color accompanied by a bouquet of fragrance.. .It’ll be just the thing to chase away those winter blues—you’ve got to trust me on this. . .
You must stand before said blooming flower, closing your eyes, never mind what those around may be thinking, trust me, they’ll join in soon enough.
Now bending over ever so gently, get as close as possible, just until you feel the slightest twitch to your nose. .
There, hold that pose!
Now you must breathe, breathing in deeply of the heady floral aroma. . .
Light, exotic, flavorful.. .drinking in the intoxicating scent which speaks of far away lands, or perhaps conjures up the sweetest of memories from times long past. . .
Now there, exhale. . .
with a long audible drawn out soul refreshing, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh”
. . . you’re now feeling better aren’t you?
Just what the doctor ordered for every sense deprived winter overloaded soul out there in need!

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.”

Job 12:7-10

Sense of scent

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

― Patrick Süskind

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(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome. When I first opened the jar, in order to use it, I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany. Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume, hair permanents, and medicine, but the smell of sudden nearness. A palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom. I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party– a grandmother and both of her granddaughters. It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory was so strong. Not only did I smell the smells, I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind. The white cabinets, the double sinks. . .

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle. Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff, I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent. Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic, to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s. I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a new store that sells candles. On a round brown table in the center of the store, I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top, my dad at time had a blue bug. I loved the smell, sweet and light, being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug– I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to the growing eclectic treasures of teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs, not even knowing if they still made those things. I had brought home a box of old papers and what nots form Dad’s. I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling of the minisucule critters that were already doing damage to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin, a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in Mimi’s closet, my mom’s mom. Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s. It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom. I was playing hide and seek. Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes, shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner, I’m consumed with a smell that to this day reminds me of my grandmother. Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting, are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s. To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s, but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory. The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents, smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus, the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose, which are caught by the olfactory receptors, allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with those initials smells from childhood, the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells. Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting, processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching, that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume, specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly” just prior to the time of death or immediately following. It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt, followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead. There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus. There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene, who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus. It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body yet some believe it symbolizes his bringing the grace of forgiveness into an unforgiving world. This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day, there is indeed a change in the air. Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm of crackling fires. . . I can smell its presence in the air. As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind, those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift, sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life, waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing . . .

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.
2 Corinthians 2: 14-16

I am no man’s man

“They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.”
― Edgar Rice Burroughs

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Ralph Ellison

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( Alamo Square / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I am no man’s man

When I was born,
Hope was born,
Potential was born,
Possibilities were born.
The world was beautiful with vibrant color.
The stars above were endless and bright.

Was there love in my world?
Did my birth bring anyone joy?
Was I a happy child?
Did I coo as a baby?
Did I laugh easily?
Did I thrive and develop?

As my years increased, I think the stars grew dim.
Hope eerily languished.
Potential suffered slowly and painfully before dying.
Possibilities vanished.
Love was lost.
Color was no more
My world was black and white
I become no one.

When did I come to this park?
When did this bench become my bed?
When did I, as a person, no longer matter?
When did I become a non entity?
When did my light grow dull?

The throngs of tourists, the business people and the children
they all simply see through me, past me, beyond me.
I do not exist, yet I am here.
You who do see me, secretly wish I was invisible.
I am a trouble to your conscience.
I should simply cease being
I am no man’s man.

I am dirty
I smell
I am lost
I have nothing
I own nothing
I am not productive
I am your eyesore
Your burden
The being you wish would disappear

I do drink when I can
I do smoke when I can
I mostly beg
I am dishonest to you but more so to myself.

The days roll one into the next
The time matters not
I cough
Is that blood?
I smoke things to forget
I drink things to take me to different places
Days merge into night
the night will not stop
Is this all there is?

I close my eyes,
If they open again,
It is all the same
I am still the same empty specter you despise
I am the nothing which bothers you, irritates you
You wish I would vanish
You wish I did not exist, not like this
You blame me
You blame others
That would make all of this much neater
You wouldn’t have to be troubled

This is a messy situation
This is an uncomfortable issue
This is a troublesome thing
To you, I am:
unsightly
ugly
bad
I am a nobody
I am no man’s man

I am no man’s man.
and it all begins again. . .

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

Mother Teresa