respect the gifted who are hidden

“Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You’re not born this way, you get this way.”

Seth Godin


(Green Lynx spider hiding amongst the chives / Julie Cook / 2019)

Those of you who know me, know I have an inordinate fear of spiders.
Yet…
that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a healthy respect for them
nor does that mean that I don’t give them credit where credit is due…

And so I was poking around in the yard yesterday…
Poking is about all I’ve done all summer because it’s just been too miserably hot
to do anything else.

We’ve had 78 days of temperatures on or above 90 degrees…
add to that very little to no rain.

Things are both dry and hot.
Normally this time of year our high temps are in the low 80’s…
But we seem to now enjoy an average of 95…
who knew?!

Note that the calendar tells us that it is mid-September…

Since it’s hot and dry, everything is sadly shriveling up.
Heck, I am shriveling up!
Air quality is poor, schools are canceling or rescheduling after school practice
times for sports…it’s just pretty much miserable and has been for months.

But this is Georgia, we’re used to hot, right?
Well yes and no.
This time of year we’re usually tasting small snippets of fall.
Yet there have been no snippets thus far this year…

So I’ve pretty much given up the fight for the yard.
The fight to water and keep things alive…
I water when absolutely necessary but I’m no longer fanatical about it…
What’s the point?!

So when I was checking out what was and what wasn’t living, I was inspecting a pot of chives.
The chives are going to seed and upon a closer inspection, I noticed that I was not the
only one checking out the chives.


(green lynx spider / Julie Cook / 2019)

The spider, a green lynx spider, had blended in so well, I barely saw him…or her…

And what a pretty spider it was…
However, I doubt the bee or fly the spider was dining on would agree…

They are amazing are they not…

If I can keep them at a safe distance, I’m good…

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

fervent determination

People often ask me:
What should we do?
When division threatens, it is necessary to strengthen unity.
This has nothing to do with a team spirit as it exists in the world.
The unity of the Church has its source in the heart of Jesus Christ.
We must stay close to it, in it.
This heart that was pierced by the lance so that we might be able to take refuge
there will be our house.
The unity of the Church rests on four columns.
Prayer, Catholic doctrine***, love for Peter, and mutual charity
must become the priorities of our soul and of all our activities.

Cardinal Robert Sarah
from The Day Is Now Far Spent


(detail of the intricacies of a web /Julie Cook / 2019)


(the intricacies of the spider /Julie Cook / 2019)

Given the surge of sins in the ranks of the Church,
we are tempted to try to take things into our own hands.
We are tempted to try to purify the Church by our own strength.
That would be a mistake.
What would we do?
Form a party?
A movement?
That is the most serious temptation: the showy disguise of division.
Under the pretext of doing good, people become divided, they criticize each other,
they tear each other apart.

And the devil snickers.

He has succeeded in tempting good people under the appearance of good.
We do not reform the Church by division and hatred.
We reform the Church when we start by changing ourselves!
Let us not hesitate, each one in his place, to denounce sin, starting with our own.

Cardinal Robert Sarah
from The Day Is Now Far Spent

****Whereas Cardinal Sarah (1945 Guinea) is a prominent
Catholic prelate, as a non-Catholic, I can still read and take heart in his words.
In this case, I consider ‘Catholic’ to mean the global Christian family, just
as I consider ‘the Chruch’ to mean the collective Christian family…

live to see another day

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.
Voltaire


(a young bear scales the tip top of the trees in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

We’ve come up to Tennessee, to Cades Cove for a couple of days.
It is by far one of my most favorite places on earth…as I have seen some mighty grand and
lovely places on this planet. But Cades Cove is special.

I’ve written about Cades Cove before so I won’t go into all of that all over again
but just know that it remains a small remnant of who and what settled this great
land of ours.

Today in the Cove (an 11-mile one-way loop around what was once an early 19th-century
mountain valley settlement and centuries-old Indian territory)
we actually came upon two bears climbing like nimble footed acrobats
to the tip-top branches of the trees…
there were berries.

Cars had stopped as everyone got out, careening necks upward while staring in amazement,
watching these two big black bears acting more like squirrels.

As the day waned, we made our way back to the cabin where we were staying and
decided to go hike some of the nearby trails.
We had been told upon check-in that there was a bear on the property so just be
vigilant when out and about.

Making our way up a narrow trail, my husband leading the way with his long spider stick
waving precariously in front of him like some sort of crazy conductor’s baton
(a stick or twig used to knock down all the webs that are prolific this time of year)
all the while as I lagged slightly behind with my camera snapping pictures of the various
mushrooms and toadstools and yes, spider webs…

Suddenly my husband stops dead in his tracks and urgently announces BEAR.

I freeze.

About 20 feet in front of us, at the bend in the trail, lumbers a very large mother
black bear with two tiny cubs in tow.

I threw my camera up as fast as I thought I had life left to do so in order to snap a shot,
a shot I didn’t even have time to focus, when mom and babies nonchalantly kept
walking around the curve in the path….
all the while as we prayed she wouldn’t turn and charge at us.

We just stood there as she rounded the turn and disappeared.
Then boldly, or brazenly I’m not sure which, we opted to take a few steps forward just
to see which way they were headed when suddenly one of the cubs pops back around
the corner to take a gander at us before he circles back to mom.

At which point we turned and took another trail.

Once back down to the main road we spied a maintenance worker who we decided should
hear our report of seeing a mama bear with cubs on the retreat’s property.

He casually replies “yeah…they’ve been around awhile, best to keep your distance
but that’s nothing…
two weeks ago I was standing right over there when a mountain lion came
out of nowhere and crossed the path right in front of me…
but these darn spiders…now they’re what really bothers me”

We opted to leave him our spider stick for protection.

The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,

Isaiah 43:20

Mortal enemy

“You remind us that how you treat somebody defines who we are”
Quote by Col William Percival regarding his meeting with Gunter Grawe
a former German POW who was interred in Washington St at what is now
Joint Base Lewis-McChord— who, some 70 odd years later, returned at age
91 to visit the camp)


(a spotted orb weaver just outside my closet window—too close / Julie Cook / 2017)

He was mad at his ex mother-n-law and that’s why he did it.
Makes sense right?

No, I didn’t think so either….

But more on that in a bit….first the spider…

Those of you who know me know that I am quite terrified of spiders.
And much to the chagrin of my husband and daughter-n-law, my son seems to
have inherited this fanatical fear.
Some call it a phobia, I call it a state of paralyzing terror ….

Dealing with any kind of snake, any sort of reptile…is a piece of cake…..
but let an arachnid show up— and it’s all over but the screaming!

So when I opened the shutters the other morning in my closet, I was greeted
with the sight of this orb weaver having set up camp right outside my window.
It was all I could do to take the picture without perishing.

Yet don’t they say facing one’s fear is how to best beat it??

Well personally I think stomping, swatting, smashing or simply running away
screaming works just as well.

So you would think that I consider the spider to be my mortal enemy right?

Well, yes and no.

Now whereas a spider can indeed kill a person, chances are that is not going
happen, not unless you live in say Australia where their spiders are truly lethal.

But here in Georgia we have just a couple of “deadly” spiders.
We have the Black widow, the brown widow and the brown recluse—
with each one causing terrible reactions when one is bitten…
and if bitten just in the right spot, a bite could actually lead to death—-
Yet those odds are not as great as just suffering form severe tissue loss
at the site of the wound.

And whereas I do “fear” spiders, they are not my true mortal enemy.

My true mortal enemy however does walk this earth.
He is very much, and for the loss of a better association of words,
alive and well.

I’m talking about that which comprises all evil…

Satan, a dark and sinister ironic bearer of light.

On Sunday our Nation witnessed another unimaginable horror.
The senseless and tragic mass shooting of a church congregation.

Just like most everyone else, a peaceful fall November Sunday was suddenly
punctuated by Breaking News…with word coming out of a tiny town in Texas that
a gunman had gone into an equally tiny Baptist Church shooting, killing and
wounding almost the entire congregation present during that morning’s service.

I sat glued to the television as I kept checking my phone and computer for the latest
updates. Like Newtown’s Sandy Hook…it seemed as if madness had once again,
crossed that imaginary uncrossable line.

Not that each time we have a mass tragedy it isn’t madness…it’s just that we,
as humans, seem to believe that some things are off limits when it comes to
that which is horrible….
yet sadly we are learning that nothing, absolutely nothing, remains “off limits” to
that which is Evil.

I was perplexed, as I was reading the updates, as they were laced with the personal observations of those who immediately began calling for the banning of guns or that
this had somehow been Trump’s fault…
on and on went the litany of blame.

Because that’s how we now seem to be as a people—it’s how we seem to deal with
things—
We don’t even wait for full details.
We don’t allow for shock which gives way to grief and sorrow…
Rather we immediately seek a reason, a rationale, an answer—
because, by God, there has to be an answer…otherwise we have no option but to
acknowledge that there are just some things totally beyond us and beyond our control…
and we just can’t handle that idea…

I posted a comment the other day on a fellow blogger’s site with much the same
sentiment—as person after person kept asking how and why…
I knew how and I knew why.

People were pointing accusatory fingers…”this is the fault of the NRA,
“it’s the fault of the Republicans”,
“this is the fault of those who support the President”
“this is the fault of white America”….on and on went the ugly banter….

Was it President Clinton’s fault for Columbine?
Was it President Obama’s fault for Sandy Hook?
No.
Just like this is not the fault of President Trump.

A man who claimed he had issues with his former in-law’s.
A man who had actually filed legally for the application to possess
a gun license despite having a criminal past.
A man who had been courtmartialed.
A man who had been held in Military detainment for a year.
A man who had beaten his wife and fractured his stepson’s skull.
A man who had assaulted his own dog…
A man who had been dishonorably discharged from the AirForce….
…this man walks into his former in-law’s church and destroyed as much life
as he possibly could….as the in-laws weren’t even present.

There are no reasons…
because anything remotely attempting to be a reason
would merely be an excuse—because simply put, there are no reasons for this.

It would not have mattered if all the guns were gone.

I heard last night some stats to the effect that if all the guns were banned right
this very moment, there would still be 5 million out there.
So then you’d have those folks going door to door collecting—

You can collect all the guns you want but when you have Evil intent on evil,
it matters not if there are guns, or trucks, or bombs, or hatchets, or
planes or poison—
Evil will destroy everything in its wake when it so desires…
that is what Evil does.

And so we now consider the opening quote I chose to use this morning…

I follow a terrific blog—Pacific Paratrooper—a great blog about the history
of WWII with the specifics being confined to the fighting on the Pacific front.
The history lessons are excellent as well as the stories of those brave men
and women who fought and served, yet are leaving us daily due to time and age…

Yesterday’s story was about a former German POW who was interred actually here in the States for three years until the War’s end.
It seems that 4000 or so German prisoners of war were actually held here in the
states…
Their experience here being a far cry from those prisoners who were held in the
Death Camps of Nazi Germany and even later, those held in the Gulags of the USSR.

Herr Grawe, at 91, wanted to come back to visit the US camp,
wanting to see one last time, the place that he has long admitted actually
saved him.

He declared his capture by the Americans at the age of 18 was “his luckiest day,”
“No guard called us nasty names. I had a better life as a prisoner than
my mother and sister back home in Germany.”

On the flip side we have seen those former surviving prisoners who have returned,
albeit reluctantly or be it defiantly, to view the German death camps…
camps they survived but places in which left them permanently damaged.

A contrast of human survival…survival at the hands of fellow human beings.

Col. Percival reminds us that we are defined by how we treat others.

So in the upcoming days, weeks and months we as a Nation will be judged by a world
who looks intently at how we will react to our latest sorrow.

But in all of this, it would behoove each of us to remember who the real enemy is….
and that is Satan…..
the master of all lies and deception, the creator of all hate and division.
Our mortal enemy…..

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.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.
On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2017/11/06/wwii-german-pow-returns-to-say-thanks-intermission-story-27/

a tisket a tasket, pears in a basket…or the tale of misplaced desire

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

Epicurus


(a basket of wild “wood” pears / Julie Cook / 2017)

Late September, here in Georgia, is no more reminiscent of what Fall should be
than that of a palm tree currently living and thriving in Alaska.

It just isn’t happening.

Granted the weather gods are telling us that “it’s going to feel like Fall
come tomorrow, yet they preface that with,
but we are still well above the typical highs and lows this time of year….

Sigh….

Throw in the recent sightings of rabid foxes in our county,
the continued proliferation of the fire ants,
this being the most active time of year for yellow jackets, along with the increased chances of running into a copperhead or rattlesnake while working in the yard and most
sane folks would continue hunkering down indoors hoping that
October may be more of a welcoming month for outdoor adventure.

My husband, I know, would have told me “no, don’t do it.”
He would have said stay out of those woods, especially wearing those sandals,
not unless you want to be covered in ticks and bit by a snake.

But he wasn’t home to say those things so it was an out of sight out of mind sort
of moment.

I had to get outside and start the process of digging up and removing the dead,
dried up remnants of summer.
I had to cut back, dead head, and just rid my visible world of the reminders
of what was once vibrancy and color…all of which is now just hot dried up death.

Living on what was once mostly pasture land surrounded by woods, I usually haul my
“debris,” aka cut back dead things, to the woods….to a “compost” pile that never
composts like it should. My husband calls it a brush pile. I like to be cutting edge…
hence, a compost pile…

I also happen to know that there is a lone pear tree deep in those woods
that, this time of year, usually bears pears…albeit every other year—
but I was pretty certain this was the year.

Leaving the safety of my yellow wheelbarrow perched along the edge of the woods,
I gingerly picked my way into the woods….very conscious of the recent tale of
rabid foxes, active snakes and hungry ticks.
As my shorts, tank top and chaco sandals would be no match for the briars let alone
rabies, deadly venom or Lyme disease.
Did I mention the giant spiders?

Spiders who seem to think fall is the season to built profuse webs spanning the entire
expanse of woods so you can walk right into a web and have a full web and spider
stuck on your face.

The sun was cutting down through the trees, light glaring down upon the wood’s
floor, as I turned my head upward searching the overhead branches.
Squinting with my hand held over my eyes, I scanned the heavens
for the objects of my desire.

And there they were.

Giant heavy brown orbs hanging low amongst the leaves.
The tree was ladened with “wood” pears.

I’ve written about wood pears before.
They are wild pears that grow obviously, in the woods….
hence why I call them wood pears.
That is not a scientific name mind you, just an observational name.
They are as hard as rocks, never ripening like a normal pear would
and even the deer and squirrels won’t eat the wood pears.

I did read once that some folks will stew them down in an attempt to make jam,
but my husband has minced no words when quickly telling me not to bother
because he’s not about to eat something that even the wild animals find
disdain over.

Yet the pears beckoned.

I looked around on the wood’s thick debris covered floor, careful as I pushed aside accumulated leaves with my mostly exposed feet as I searched for any early
fallen pears.
The remnants of an old barbed wire fence sinisterly peeked out here and there as
I was careful to avoid adding tetanus to my list of wood worries.
A few pears had indeed fallen as the ants had also found those pears.

Finding a stick I attempted hitting at some of the lower branches,
knocking a few pears to the ground—being very careful that they didn’t hit me
on the head as they would probably have knocked me out as they are that hard.

I gathered about 10.
But the tree was loaded.

I knew I was going to have to find something else that was both long and tall in which
to knock down those low hanging pears on the branches closest to my reach, yet frustratingly out of reach for my stick.

Obviously not satisfied with a bucket of 10 or so pears,
I trapsed back to the house to gather a long rake.
I kept hearing the admonishment of my husband ringing in my head,
as I was wondering what I would do if a copperhead bit my foot while my cell phone
was back at the house.

But the tree was loaded, beckoning for me to get more.
Decorative purposes only, yet I wanted more pears.

And that’s the thing…

These pears serve absolutely no purpose other than being decorative.
And here I was willing to risk life and limb in order to gather them up.

Yet what of a quest of faith?

What lengths would we go to seek God?

Would we risk life or limb to seek Him who has called us by name?
Would we strategize and scrutinize what was needed in order to procure
Him as our own?

Perhaps it’s time we all rethink our desires….

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.

Amos 8:11

the warp and weft of Nature’s master weavers

Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
Chief Seattle

RSCN6876
(images of both male and female green lynx spiders which blend in beautifully with the coral geraniums / Julie Cook / 2014—remember, I’m terribly fearful of spiders but the colors were such a draw, almost mesmerizing)

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“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

― Corrie ten Boom

No wimps or chickens here

“I hate and fear snakes, because if you look into the eyes of any snake you will see that it knows all and more of the mystery of man’s fall, and that it feels all the contempt that the Devil felt when Adam was evicted from Eden. Besides which its bite is generally fatal, and it twists up trouser legs.”
― Rudyard Kipling

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(a garter snake / Julie Cook / 2014)

“There’s a snake lurking in the grass.”
Virgil

I am certainly no wimp nor chicken when it comes to the things one finds lurking, crawling, slithering, digging, hiding, burrowing, perching, out in the wilds of one’s yard.
However, I think I’ve previously shared with you that I do not care for spiders.
Not the large varieties nor the shiny spindly legged ones.
None of those wolf spiders, black widows, brown recluses, and certainly no tarantulas—which thankfully for me, do not live in this neck of the woods!!

Oh, and I don’t do scorpions. Despite being, what those into astrology would call, a Scorpio, I’m not a fan. They look too much like a wicked spider of sorts. And while I’m thinking about it, have you ever noticed an odd resemblance between scorpions, and say, lobsters?? I really can’t ponder over that thought very long as I love love lobster. Yet if I look at them long enough, I begin to get terribly creeped out. Oh, and what about king crabs, which I also love love, resembling gigantic spiders. . .? Really a meal breaker if you think about it too long! Nope, mustn’t ponder over such or my seafood loving days could be short lived!

Now snakes, on the other hand, don’t bother me. Granted I have a very healthy respect for snakes, I just don’t feel the need to go whack off their heads when I happen upon one, say, cruising by in my yard. It is indeed, however, the poisonous ones which give me great cause for concern—especially the rattlesnakes which do indeed call this area home, as do cottonmouths and copperheads—and I will say that the scene in Indiana Jones, when he fell into that pit full of snakes, was most disconcerting–one or two out in the yard is ok, a den of them would be a different story. . .but luckily that situation is highly unlikely here.

And yet I don’t feel the need to whack off the heads of the poisonous ones either.
I simply stay out of their way.
I try not to go looking for trouble.

So on this oh so hot and humid afternoon, as I spied the mailman out by the mailbox, I quickly bound out the door, making my way down the front steps when suddenly something stopped me dead in my tracks. What resembled about a 2 foot long cord of black and yellow rope was shooting down the walkway right in front of me.

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And just a quickly as I saw it, it vanished.
Hummmm. . .
Just as quickly, I peer over the flower pot it shot past, expecting to find perhaps a small hole in the ground.
Nothing.
I gently tilt back the cement planter only to discover the black and yellow cord now balled up with a red rapid fire tongue quickly gauging the air. Lowering the planter gently back down, I bound back inside the house in search of the camera. The camera is never in tow when needed.

Back outside I again gently lift the planter allowing myself to get a few quick shots before leaving my little visitor alone to resume making his way to wherever it was he was going when I unintentionally interrupted his journey.

Calling my husband and describing the snake, my woodsman spouse tells me it’s probably a small king or garter snake but he’ll need to look at the pictures I took. He continues to explain that a King Snake will and can kill a rattlesnake. Which I suppose earns him the name of King. On the other hand a Garter snake will eat slugs, frogs, toads, bugs, roadkill, etc. —a bit of a patrolman of the yard I suppose.

And as it would turn out, my black and yellow cord looking friend is indeed an Eastern Garter Snake.
And whereas he is certainly harmless to me and the cats, he may not be so to some of my other little critters that call my yard home. All of which may mean that I’ll need to keep an eye out for our friend Mr. Toad. . .
otherwise, watching where one steps while barefoot may be in order—don’t want to accidently step on any black and yellow slithering cords!