A void and the Junk Guys

“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
Antonio Porchia

Mephistopheles: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.”

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus


(circa 1985 readers / Julie Cook / 2018)

What you see here is a pair of very dated readers…a pair of reading glasses that date
back to, oh say, about 1985 or thereabouts.

I found them yesterday in an equally dated Etienne Aigner cordovan leather purse.

Etienne Aigner was just one of “the” purses to own back in the late 70’s and 80’s.
It was a designer purse that didn’t totally blow the whole wad such as say a Louis Vuitton
or Gucci bag would have…

It was the type of bag middle American ladies could afford and still feel fashionable
without sinking a small fortune into a bag whose staying power would end by the following
fashion season.
Aigner bags were a bit timeless at this particular time.

It was the type of bag a woman like my mom would have had.

In fact, it was the bag my mom had.

I had something similar as well.
Mine, however, has long since vanished…Mom’s…not so much.

This past week, while I was up in Atlanta keeping a sickly Mayor, who by the way
has graciously shared her sickness with me–her chief aide, I arranged for
The Junk Guys to come to empty out, as much as they could in one day, the basement
to the house, the Mayor calls home.

A house and home that became my house and home in 1962.
I was almost 3 years old when my parents bought the 4-year-old 1958 stately
ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the boomtime of America’s urban sprawl.

Up until then, we had lived in an apartment.
An old-school sort of apartment complex that still stands to this day in Buckhead…
a word that is now synonymous with all that equates to being uber chic and trendy
in Atlanta…a once upon a time simple place that was just merely a junction of a couple
of divergent roadways with a buck’s head mounted on a local watering hole.

It’s an apartment complex that is probably on the National Registry of Historic Places
as the complex has been around a very long time…

Whereas I can vaguely remember the apartment I can, however, remember almost every
nook and cranny of the house.
Recollections of the house that was…not so much of the house that is now.

In 1967, my grandfather died suddenly from an artery surgery gone wrong.
The company he started in the early 1930’s…a business he owned and operated
until his death, was then quickly sold by my dad, the company’s lone salesman.

On a hot humid June day in 1967, a huge Mayflower moving tractor-trailer truck
pulled up outside of our house as men quickly worked moving the contents of a nearly
40-year-old company to our basement.

When they were finished and the basement door was shut behind them,
time immediately stood still in that large section of our basement.
A visible physical reminder of death.

Large wooden desks, metal filing cabinets, metal chairs, leather rolling chairs,
wooden cabinets… all still chocked full of file folders, Rolodexes, business cards,
staplers, gem clips, tacks, hand stamps, mailers, postage stamps, pencils, writing pads,
office signs…all sat still and quiet, in the back half of a dimly lit basement,
collecting dust and cobwebs.

That was until this past Saturday.

Along with that collection of office equipment, a plethora of dinged up and dilapidated
antique chairs, one formal victorian sofa, a couple of vintage dining room tables,
a vast array of rusting tools, circa 1960 metal cabinets filled with
glassware and figurines in various conditions, stacks of vinyl albums dating to the 1940’s,
various beds, Dad’s childhood wormwood bedroom suit, boxes filled with musty books of all
sizes and subject matter, photos and pictures, early computer equipment with heavy monitors and
dial-up modems, cameras, jackets, boxes galore filled with a variety of junk and unsundries,
complete with two giant plywood model train sets had all come to call this basement home.

One family had slowly faded…two by death and one by choice as the lone owner remained…
eventually bringing in a new wife, a new life and new junk to this precarious keeper
of time.

Years, lives and the leftovers of family’s…families who had come and gone,
and all of their forgotten stuff…stuff stuffed down into a dark cavernous basement
left to sit…
But for what reason?

Sentimentality?
Hoarding?
Identity?
Moving?
Life?
Death?

Well, that was until Saturday.

With a new baby on the way…the much-needed purging of previous lives had finally arrived.

When one shuts a door to such a basement…what is in that basement is usually quickly forgotten.
The shutting of a door closes away that which is… as the ‘it’ suddenly becomes what was…
as in the proverbial ‘out of sight, out of mind’ sort of mentality.

Unused space being a prime example of a law found in physics…
a void will eventually be filled…or so it seems.

Before the Junk Guys arrived, I needed to look through a few things…actually a lot of things.
Yet time, this past week, was not my friend as I was needed to tend to a sick baby.
No time to rummage in a cobweb infested musty overflowing time capsule.

On one quick trip down the rickety steep stairway, down just long enough to find a somewhat
hidden away Lord & Taylor box, sitting out of sight in a long since sealed cabinet.
Lifting off that signature colorful box top, I found a box filled with letters.
Letters still in their original envelopes, all addressed to two parents,
who each now seems long gone, were written by their eldest child.
Letters that were written home from college…
written from me to them.

I quickly put the top back on the box.

Mother had saved those letters, yet I wasn’t ready to read over a bunch of trite angst-filled
letters that were written by a shallow self-absorbed younger and more foolish self.
Not yet.

In another cabinet, I pulled out a small box filled full of “do-dads”…
small trinkets that Mother had gathered over the years which had filled her ‘what-not’ shelf
that graced a wall in the kitchen.
Trinkets that were once considered tiny treasures.

As the cleaning committee arrived complete with heavy-duty gloves and boots,
I found the pocket-book.
That same cordovan Aigner bag that I immediately recalled seeing on her shoulder.

It was shoved back on a top shelf of one of those metal cabinets.
Dad had obviously brought it down here to the place where things came to stay,
not necessarily die, but to stay… caught in an odd passage of time and space.
A purgatory of such.
All being oddly caught in a sad surreal stoppage of time.

Everything remained inside, albeit for a wallet— untouched, just as it was on the day dad
rushed her to the hospital that 25th day of July 1986—

And yet she never came home to claim her purse.

I quickly brought the bag upstairs to the light of day, leaving behind the small army
of purgers in that overflowing basement.
I wanted to dump the contents out onto a table where I could actually look at what
a life stopped in time looked like.

Yellowed and faded bank statements, tuition notices for my brother, grocery lists and receipts,
a sterling silver tortoiseshell comb which was a wedding present from dad back in 1953 along
with a couple of pennies, two tubes of lipsticks and a small bottle of Tylenol
all came tumbling out…along with that pair of reading glasses.

Funny, I never remember Mother wearing glasses…only sunglasses.

Quickly I pushed aside the glasses, the comb, a couple of the bank statements and one
grocery receipt before throwing away everything else while carrying the bag back downstairs
to join the host of junk being hauled out to the two moving trucks that were eagerly
ready and waiting to carry away the remnants of the various previous lives that had all
called this house theirs, leaving open space for new lives taking shape.

It would behoove each of us to remember that our lives here on this earth are finite.
Lives that may be painfully short or generously long…
yet each life, regardless of allocated time, is limited…meaning that each of our lives
will be eventually ending…whether we like it or not.

We hold onto things in an odd twisted attempt to keep that which was.
All the stuff becomes the tangible to that which we have lost…
of which is simply fleeting and finite.

Dad’s basement is and was testament of that.
It was the filling of the void.
The proof of resting in purgatory.
Be it good…
Be it bad…
Be it sad…
Be it happy…
or…
Be it simply bittersweet…

All that we have and all that we are will pass away or perhaps worse, simply be discarded…


(a mere portion of the purging basement / Julie Cook / 2018)

Left to being eventually thrown away by The Junk Guys…

What, therefore, you ask, lasts… as we are a people who yearn to last…

Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
C.S. Lewis

weedling it out

“Awake! arise! the hour is late!
Angels are knocking at thy door!
They are in haste and cannot wait,
And once departed come no more.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(weeds found amongst the rocks / Julie Cook / 2018)

The word weedling has a variety of meanings and uses…
all of which are more or less of the urban slang variety versus that of the Queen’s
English variety.

I use it when talking about sorting through things…

A cross between, digging, weeding, sorting, discarding that which is non-essential
cluttering junk as compared to that which is essential and necessary.

A task of tossing or keeping.

And as I scan our headlines, our world events, our markings and our recognitions…
I’m beginning to feel as if we must be about the task of weedling when it comes
to what is real, what is really important and all of that which is not.

I’m having to play a drastic game of catch up with my viewing of Anglican Unscripted…
that of our dear friend and favorite rouge Anglican bishop, Gavin Ashenden and host
Kevin Clausen as they meet weekly to discuss the latest in the way of Anglicanism and that
of the Chruch as well as life for Christians in general within our Western Civilization.

I’ve just now gotten to watch the episode from the Tuesday of Holy Week.

And what an enlightening episode is has been.

Bishop Ashenden explains to Kevin a little about his online ministry and his initial
reluctance to actually “offer a homily” online.
It is only a small portion of the good Bishop’s current clerical duties but he felt very
much that God had spoken to him about offering such a service to interested Christians
out there somewhere on the internet.

He speaks of the awkwardness of “preaching” into a camera of a faceless audience but
that God had been very specific in His demand.
And who are we to disagree when God speaks or demands??

It has been slowly revealed to the good bishop that the faithful are demonstrating
an almost monastic need for direct worship as Christianity–
that of the true Christian faithful…those who are very much wanting,
if not needing clerical guidance and ministering–is becoming alarmingly apparent
due to the sensed pressure of having to go more and more underground with the
practice of their (our) faith.

And why you may wonder are Christians feeling the need to head underground?

Well this is where we stop and take a look at how our Western Society and Culture
is currently dealing with Christianity and the Chruch and its take on sin versus
that of choice by the masses.
While we watch the body of Christ slowly being squeezed more and more by a polarizing
Marxist leftist society and a radically liberal culture.

The good Bishop admits that he believes true Christians…
those Christians who believe in God’s word as sacred will be literally driven
underground in the near future. As freedom to worship God according to God’s word
will be a crime because our society does not like the notion of sin, sinfulness
or culpability for that sin.

This as we see more and more Christians being labeled homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic
all because they, they being you and me, believe God has been very specific in what He has
stated as a sinful lifestyle as well as that which runs counter to Holy Scripture.

Living life as a true Christian will soon be deemed living life as a true hate crime violator.
As disagreeing with Homosexuality, Transgenderism or anything of the LGBTQ communities
is indeed considered very much a hate crime.
Of which will push true Christians further away from what will become a “state”
sanctioned church.

We are actually already seeing this take place in our mainstream denominations…
Should a minister or priest say anything publically against or to the negative
about homosexuality or even refuse to conduct same-sex marriage…
that minister/priest is ostracized, demoted or even relieved of his duties.

And whereas the notion of moving underground may all sound rather Orwellian or paranoid…
I for one clearly see the writing on the wall.

Bishop Ashenden recalls a time when he was actually smuggling Bibles into the
then Soviet Union as well as theological books into what is today the Czech Republic,
all before the fall of Communism.

This was because the Communist Regime in the Czech Republic had decided that the best way to
crush the Chruch and Christianity would be to simply ban all clerical ordinations…while
destroying seminaries and all theological books of study.
As the thought was that by doing so, the Chruch would shrivel up and die within a
generation’s time.

This was very much the mindset of Nazi Germany in Poland during WWII—as I am reminded of
a young Karol Wojtyla studying for the priesthood in a very clandestine fashion as
ordinations within the Catholic church were strictly forbidden under Nazi rule.
He would literally meet in the basement of a building under the cloak of darkness to study for
his ordination…
Should he or the priest who was conducting the lessons been discovered,
both men would have been immediately shot for treason against the state.

Bishop Ashenden believes that our very own state-sanctioned authorities will begin to weed out
people before they have a chance to be ordained because of the state demanding like-minded
folks preaching their idea of the gospel of all-inclusiveness versus the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As any sort of belief system or gospel will be prevented from containing the notion of sin
or of sin’s repercussions but rather the said gospel of self-rule, along with a belief that all
things, all lifestyles, are to be deemed acceptable, will be the only tolerable view.

And so if you think all of this sounds utterly far-fetched or perhaps even over the top in our
most modern civilized society…
I would caution you to think again.

This as I am once again reminded of Mark’s comment from the other day about when a
generation is silenced, God will indeed have the stones cry out…
(Luke 19:40)

Anglican Unscripted…Gavin Ashenden

redeemed from paradox

“Without the Way, there is no going,
Without the Truth, there is no knowing,
Without the Life, there is no living.

Thomas à Kempis


(a persistent strangler of fall hangs on / Julie Cook / 2017)

“But he never said to people, ‘Come as you are and stay as you are.’
His promise was always that all were welcome –
but that they would be radically changed.
All need to be reborn.
Jesus does not affirm us in our lifestyles.
He redeems us from them.”

David Robertson

There is really so much to say.

Too much really…about so very much.

About all of this really.

As in…there is so very much that needs sorting, weeding out and pruning…

Such as those overt ‘he said, she said’ issues taking place daily….

The egregious name calling of those we do not see eye to eye with….
nor actually even see…yet everyone feels free and safe to use all manner
of vile ugliness, rather gleefully and clandestinely, behind these screens of ours
as we joyously lash out…..

There is tolerance of the intolerant and intolerance of the tolerant.

One no longer knows which one is best to be…tolerant or intolerant…
perhaps just both.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear about a spike in crime…
often violent crime.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear of what seems to be an escalation
in the sorrowful and tragic…that of accidents, death, fights, wrecks,
abuse, overdoses, fires…etc

Yet why is it that “at this time of year” we actually can witness a softer,
kinder, more generous and giving world….

A paradox found in the juxtaposition of man.

All the while there is some sort of misnomer running around out there that if
you don’t open your arms to embrace everyone and everything….
then there is something terribly wrong with you and you are made
to wear the Scarlet letter P….

P because you are phobic… homophobic…or maybe transphobic.

P because you’re just paranoid…you think that the Right and Left are
collectively out to get you…and maybe they are….

P because you’re just proud…a little too proud…as a good many of the
proud and arrogant have suddenly tumbled from their thrones.

P because you’re just pissed off,
mad as hell at all the fake news, lies, angry rhetoric, news outlets turned
tabloid junkies, anarchists burning down the towns…
mad at the progressive left who want nothing more than to destroy you and
your little corner of the world….
so no, you’re not going to take it any longer…

And right when someone hears or reads that you’ve just said as much,
you are now brandished as an extremist who should be locked up…

Maybe you should be locked up because you cracked and own a gun…
never mind all the uncracked folks out there who own guns….

Maybe you want to celebrate Christmas but since it is Christmas, you can’t call it
Christmas….
Yet you are repeatedly told to buy, buy, buy….for Christmas.
The same Christmas you’re not allowed to call Christmas.

Maybe you want to celebrate Hanukah because you’re Jewish…but a lot of folks
out there blame Jews for everything so maybe it’s best not to light the candles.

So now it is P because it is all so precarious…
especially since our vision is no longer clear.

It’s difficult crossing the narrow log spanning the deep chasm when
one’s vision is clouded…clouded by the upside down lies being offered
as what is true.

Yet how is one to know truth verse lie…
Or do we simply believe the loudest voice?

Across the chasm on the far side, across the narrow log, a tiny lone light
is lit…
And you know deep down that it is a light offering clarity to the obscured….

For from out of all of our darkness, a great Light has shone…

All that was, all that you have known, will be no more…
You cannot exist in the paradox and juxtaposition…
caught in the cycle of in and out, yes and no, left and right, up and down…
nor can you abide in the acceptance of what you know to be false yet
are constantly told that this false is absolutley true.

As all the little truths are merely by-products of the fickleness of the times…

Yet the question is asked of you….
Will you be able to ford the chasm on the narrow log, pressing ahead
toward the lone light offering clear vision or do you prefer to remain where
you are in a world turned upside down and mad upon itself?

Are you happy with what you are hearing and seeing day in and day out
as everything you once knew and thought is now turned inside out?

We are living a paradox and conundrum yet yearn for the clarity and light…

And I don’t see why the choice needs to be so difficult.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
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.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband’s will,
but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 9:14)

There are no accidents

“In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences”
Pope John Paul II


(a two legged okra? / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tuesday I spent the day doing something that needed doing.
It needed doing ages ago.

I pulled out two step ladders along with a box of dusting clothes and proceeded
to take everything off my bookshelves—

These bookshelves were builtin cabinetry, on either side of the fireplace,
and it was the thing about the house that I loved most when we moved in
20 years ago…
Because I always wanted a place to properly put my books.
And did I mention my book collection, within that twenty year time, has
only grown.

But it wasn’t just books that had since found homes on the shelves.
Maybe it’s the art teacher in me but these where mini display shelves of
design and creativity….they held my “treasures” from trips,
they held memories.

However to the causal observer, I feared, they held chaos.
Hopefully organized chaos, but chaos none the less.
And as I age, I think I’m finally understanding…less is more.

I took down every last book, picture, knick knack, souvenir, treasure…
emptying all shelves as if preparing to pack up, box up and move…
which mind you I do consider constantly as I hear the ocean often call
my name..but then I’ll hear the mountains call out as well…
so to keep things quiet…
I just ignore them and stay put….

I climbed up and down, balancing precariously on the cabinet edge, in order to get
everything moved, off and down.

I next proceeded to dust.

Finally I had a clean slate.

I spent the remainder of the day sorting.

What should be boxed for Goodwill.
What should be boxed and stored.
What should be moved elsewhere.
What should be allowed to stay.

We had brought back 9 very old decoy ducks that had been Martha’s.
Beautifully old decoys of various species, sizes, shapes, ages and colors…
with one being a giant rustic fish and one being a giant sitting turkey hen.
All now having come home to roost with the 4 I already had.
My flock of 4 sits on the fireplace—
what would I now do with Martha’s flock of 9???

It all started for me when I inherited my grandmother’s very old wood carved decoy
of a male canvas back duck named Henry…Henry is now nearing 100.
In her last years of life, as the dementia set in, Mimi named the decoy Henry
and he sat at the foot of the bed as if it were a pet…and I believe
in Mimi’s mind, Henry was real and was indeed her pet….

Eventually I decided to strategically place the decoys up on my shelves—
sitting a couple on top of books, while others were flanked by a few books.
I threw in few antique plates, a framed photo or two…
Poked and placed until I got something that I think to be tastefully presentable…
rather than stuffed to the gills full.

But all of this rearranging is not the point of this post.
Nor are the ducks or books or dust or junk…

As I was sorting through the wealth of books that I’ve acquired over the years–
with the bulk being based on Christianity, the Saints, Monasticism, Prayer,
the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, European history and lots of Art history…
one little book literally fell out amongst the hoard…
resting at my feet on the floor.

Most of my books are hardback, some are large and lovely, some are old and rare..
but this little paperback book simply seemed to fall out of nowhere….

It’s a book I remember ordering years ago.

There Are No Accidents
In All Things Trust God

by Fr Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R
with John Bishop

I remember that I never finished reading the book for whatever reason,
which I do remember starting while I was still teaching.
Time then was never on my side…not that it is now,
but these days I try to be more diligent with both my time and reading.

The book is based on an interview with Fr. Benedict..
as he was known by his first name and not his last.
He was a Franciscan monk, teacher and retreat leader who died in 2014.

He was also a monk who was hit by a car while crossing the street at the
busy Orlando Airport in 2004.
His survival was very questionable.
He was an older gentleman who sustained some very serious injuries.
Both broken bones and severe head trauma.

There were surgeries, long stints in ICU, ventilators, physical therapy….
He never walked again without assistance nor could he raise his right arm
but yet he survived and he persevered.
For he had a mission.
And that was to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The doctors warned that if he lived, he’d never talk again,
never think again as he most likely would be severely brain damaged.
They also said he wouldn’t walk let alone dance…
but he was ok with not dancing
because he never liked to dance anyway.

I’m beginning the book anew.

For I too believe there are no accidents—
for behind every accident, every incident, be they minor or devastating…
it is there our Omnipotent God resides…

There are blessings to be wrestled over but we do not like nor do we
want to wrestle.

And therein lies our challenge…
our challenge to comprehend, to sort and to accept.

We stand as a lost child feeling overwhelmed and frozen by fear, pain
sorrow, horror, devastation, disbelief, greif.
Our thoughts, our faith, our being… rocked all to the foundation,
as we are left to rile with unbridled anger.

Because this God of ours is not reacting…
this God of ours is not playing the role…
this God of our is not doing things the way we would have Him do…
and therefore we decide we don’t need, don’t want, don’t like this God
as we assume ourselves to be the better god….

And there rests our trouble….

“There are no accidents.
Evil things occur because of bad will or stupidity or fatigue,
yet whatever the cause, God will bring good out of it if we let Him”

Fr Benedict

“even when we do not choose evil, we choose the good so half heartedly
and with so many qualifications that mediocrity becomes our canonized statis quo.”

Fr Benedict