Stormy Weather

“I like to hear a storm at night. It is so cosy to snuggle down among the blankets and feel that it can’t get at you.”
― L.M. Montgomery

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do.
Golda Meir

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(ominous clouds as tornado sirens howl on a stormy Sunday Georgia morning / Julie Cook / 2015)

“. . .Life is bare
gloom and misery every where
Stormy weather
Just can’t get my poor self together
I’m weary all the time
The time
So weary all the time”

2nd stanza / Stormy Weather

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There’s nothing like listening to that beautifully melodic and mesmerizing voice of the one and only Lena Horne.
I loved / love Lena. . .
Ms Horne was born to a generation of singers who sadly have come and gone.
Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James. . .
Soulful storytellers whose beauty and life’s trials, as well as their gift of song, could stir the deepest of emotions in even the most casual of listeners.

Lena Horne defined both class and grace.
Although being born in Brooklyn and spending most of her life in New York and Pennsylvania, Ms Horne spent a good bit of her childhood living in Fort Valley, Georgia—of which I suppose lead her to acquire that markedly distinct sultry southernesque drawl she’d call upon for wooing audiences and movie producers alike.

Today’s weather is a fitting tribute to the woeful lament Ms. Horne made famous, Stormy Weather.
First performed at the famous New York Cotton Club in 1933 yet a song made immortal when performed by Ms Horne in 1943 in the movie of the same name. . .

“. . .don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky. . .
Stormy Weather. . .”

I didn’t need Ms Horne however, to remind me of the current weather condition as the early morning wail of the tornado sirens was sign enough.
The sirens wailed, the phones buzzed with alerts and the television was rife with the warnings of impending doom. . .as in “SEEK SHELTER NOW!!!”

Luckily the “rotation” the doppler radar was indicating was remanning up in the clouds and thankfully had not descended to the ground.

It was to be on this tumultuous Sunday morning, as it is on many Sunday mornings, my husband was to treat me to breakfast out. As in I wasn’t going to have to cook it. It’s the only morning he’s not at work. As in he’s actually home. And of all the little treats in life. . . it’s breakfast out that I enjoy most. There’s just something special about heading out on a lazy stress free morning to some inviting little restaurant or tiny cafe, as the heady scent of bacon mingling with fresh coffee greets all at the door.

And so it was on this stormy, springtime morning I was to be treated to a nice breakfast out. The only problem was that an impending tornado was in the middle of my path to bacon and pancakes.
UGH!

The weatherman on the news was zooming in on a fierce looking storm hovering about 5 miles south down the road from our house. It’s amazing how they can pinpoint storms with such vivid accuracy. A Tornado Warning had been issued, the sirens were wailing and my stomach was growling.
We waited.
I peered out the windows.
The rain beat down.
No lightning thank goodness.
I hate lightning.
No winds.
Just black skies with torrential rains.

All of which got me thinking. . .
How often in life are we excited, full of anticipation, looking forward to something special, when suddenly, out of the blue, we get blindsided, we’re thrown a curve ball, we hit the proverbial bump in the road, we hit the wall? There’s a glitch that rears its ugly head in our best laid plans. Our assumptions for a complete follow-through are not what we had expected or anticipated.

Rather than savoring the smooth sailing toward a treat, a reward, a trip, a special event, a magnanimous moment we’re faced with an impending storm, a train wreck, a disaster, a detour. Our attentions shift, our guard gets up, plan B must be implemented, and we hunker down.
We wait.

And as it so happens with the worst of storms–the rains fall, the clouds lighten, the winds shift, the energies exhaust and the dangers pass.
With or without repercussions.
At which time we emerge bleary eyed, nerves shaken, but resolve in tact.
We’re ready to proceed, to continue, forward.
Maybe we have to pick up a few pieces along the way, maybe our plans are delayed. . .
yet nevertheless our eyes remain fixed. . .fixed on our hopes and dreams which remain down the road where we had yearned to travel in the first place.

So on this new morning to this new week, may you keep your eyes on the prize. . .
whatever that prize may be for you. . .
May you remain prepared for what life may throw in the middle of your travels
And may you remember that we all have stormy weather at some point in our lives
but that the storms will always, eventually, pass. . .

Change is in the air

Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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(these “wood” eaters seem to enjoy nectar as well / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a seasonal carpenter bee has returned for “spring work” / Julie Cook / 2015)

They’reeeeee baaaaacckkkk. . .
Those pesky seasonal hungry wood rats, I mean carpenter bees, those true harbingers, I mean heralders of Spring.
I caught this one in mid bore, hanging upside down on a post out on the back deck.
They eat right into the wood of decks, porches, siding, eves. . .anything wooden that’s a part of a house. . .be it painted or not, stained or not. . .they eat, chew, drill, bore. . .
creating nesting sites.

They can sting but usually don’t as they prefer the art of intimidation. They will “buzz” toward anyone who enters their “space” or territory, usually hovering in place until you swat at them, only to quickly return to bother you some more. It is the males who tend to be a bit more aggressive then the females with regard to the whole dance of intimidation. You can recognize them by the yellow dot on their head—right between the eyes.

The only way I know that they sting is when my cat finds it fun and adventuresome to jump on the hovering pests, grabbing said bee up in his mouth while attempting to run inside with his “catch” in order to “gift” me with his latest accomplishment. Most of the time he won’t make it inside as the bee will have stung the inside of his mouth, forcing him to open and drop as he begins swatting frantically at his mouth. One would think that one experience, maybe two, with the bees would be incentive enough to leave them alone—sadly the idea of a prize seems greater than the pain. . .

All of this talk of bees and of this busy time of newness and growth naturally brings the whole concept of being ready, being prepared, being mindful front and center to my thought process.

Spring is a time of great transition.
Not only are things greening up, budding, blooming, buzzing, pollinating. . .
Spring becomes a time of doing. . .renovations, cleaning, planting, tiling, changing. . .
It’s time to discard the old and bring in the new. . .as in clean, fresh, bright. . .

Spring is also a time when there is literally change in the air, or more precisely, the winds.
Winter’s cold winds are pushed aside for the warming lilt of Spring. Jet streams lift and revert.
Yet it is this very pushing of winds, the time of warm meeting cold, which becomes most problematic.

Our incoming warmer days and nights can exact a heavy price producing tumultuous Springtime storms. Skies can grow angry quickly, as air masses fight for dominance. Thunderstorms with their wicked lightening strikes and spawned tornadoes make Spring one of the deadliest times of year as far as Mother Nature is concerned.

Living in the proverbial tornado alley swarth, which cuts through the mid and southern tier of our United States, dictates caution while keeping one eye directed to the sky at all times.
Joining with the rest of humanity as we transition from a wicked winter that overstayed its welcome to a feisty new tempestuous Spring, with giddy exuberance and joy, I do so not with reckless abandon but rather with a bit of cautious yet hopeful optimism.

As we journey now, a bit worse for the wear, toward the end of Lent. . .with Palm Sunday, Passover and Easter all knocking on the door—may we rejoice in this new birthing of Nature as well as the birth of renewal within our spiritual selves. May we marvel in the busyness of the bees, the jittery darting and dashing of the myriad of birds who are hurriedly toiling building their nests. May those of us who suffer grievously from seasonal allergies find relief, and may we all remain vigilant when the warming skies decide to turn ominous and dark . . .

Here’s to Spring,
Here’s to life,
Here’s to new,
Here’s to change. . .

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.”
Zephaniah 3:9

Lessons from a garden

The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon

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(the remnants of a strong gusty wind and thunderstorm–blown over corn stalks / Julie Cook / 2014)

Calamity!
Or so it appeared.
Just when I thought I had successfully, yet wearily, finished one apparent battle, vanquishing the hidden foes; I am suddenly blindsided by a more ominous battle unleashed by Mother Nature.
No rest for the weary. . .

Saturday afternoon a rather nasty little thunderstorm blew up. Strong gusty winds swept in from the Northwest as the sky overhead darkened to an ominous heavy grey.
We received about a 30 minute gushing rain, which I was happy to receive, as the yard and garden were all in need of some ample watering. It wasn’t until Sunday morning, when I actually realized how the strong winds of Saturday had ushered in a near catastrophe on Sunday.

My corn stalks had proved to be no match for the wind.
When they were just young tender shoots, I had spent a full day hand packing dirt up around their bases. . . all for this very reason–all in preparation for the tempests of summer.
Yet my best laid plans were simply no match for Mother Nature.

I spent the better part of the day, this hot Sunday, trying to salvage the stalks– propping them back up and repacking bases. Hoping for the best–that my bent and blown stalks will straighten back up and will not have suffered too terribly.

Moments such as these, as I spend hours in 90 degree heat, bent over, scrapping up fresh soil to pack around the bases of a multitude of corn stalks, gives me great pause.
A humbling pause.

I am reminded of the fragility of life and strangely of my simple place in this massive universe we call home.

I am reminded of those individuals, living in the heartland of this Nation, who are currently recovering from the deadly destructive and ferocious winds of tornados from this past week. Imagine those midwestern corn fields if a mere afternoon thunderstorm could lay waste to my own corn stalks! Not to mention the homes and business now totally destroyed or even gone. . .

I am reminded of the hardships of those first settles who originally claimed this Nation of ours as a new home. The sweat and toiled labor of clearing land, building communities from the ground up with only simple tools and determination, growing food for basic survival. . .
They did not have the luxury of, if the home garden failed, of running to the Farmer’s Market or grocery store to supplement disaster and failure. Their’s was truly a feast or famine existence.

I am reminded of a time in this Nation when the word “dustbowl” was one of the most frightening and destructive words known to a farmer. Faded black and white images capture a snapshot in time of the barren wasteland known as the Midwest– as the Nation fell into a grave time of hardship. Collapse of crops coupled with the collapse of financial institutions delivered a one two punch to the entire Country. How ignorantly smug we’ve grown today with our technology, global resources and imagined infallibility. Do we think we are immune to widespread disaster?

I am made most mindful of the small, yet important, lessons rendered from time spent working and reworking in a garden. Not merely from the reaping of the literal fruits of one’s labors but more importantly the reaping of the more intrinsic fruits of a life lived with reflection and intent.

1. Patience—as in “have they sprouted yet, bloomed yet, turned the right color yet?
Are they ready yet??!?
The answer for the longest time will be NO—
not until suddenly, on one single day, it’s all ready at once.

2. Perseverance—as in when the varmints sneak in when no one is looking,
and in one single dinning experience, can wipe out months of work and tending.

3. Awareness—as in if it looks cute, pretty, or odd it is either poisonous,
hungry or both. Don’t touch.

4. Preparedness—as in if you walk through the tall clover and grass
before the yard is cut wearing chacos (sandals),
a bee will sting you or fire ants will attack you.

5. Sharing—as in “we can’t eat all of this, who wants some or needs some??”

6. Timeliness, as well as, “there is no time like the present”–
as in it’s too bad if it’s hot, if it’s wet, if the bugs are out–
one must may hay while the sun shines–
as in get busy now!

7. Establishing and maintaining the importance of a good Work ethic–
as in working with ones’ hands, as in dirty manual labor is not beneath anyone
and is good for the soul—
plus you’ve got to “get at it” despite soreness, heat, and not feeling like it. . .

8. Life is cyclical—as in things wither and die, but in turn things sprout and grow

9. Frugality, Innovation, Thankfulness—as in “do not be wasteful and that water is essential to life”—be prepared to preserve and care for the bigger picture of our environment–as this is critical because nothing is guaranteed to last forever–make use of what you have and sometimes you must be innovative

10.Mystery and Awe—as in life, as well as death, there remains awe and mystery. As I am always reminded every day that I am the created and not the Creator. I am a steward of what has been given to me–I must care for it as the precious gift that it is and be thankful for the small as well as the large blessings helping those who may be hurting now, as we will all need help at some point in our lives.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
John 12:24

from green to eventually blue

“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”

Robert Frost
Blueberries

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This may not be Mortenson’s pasture Mr. Brown—just Julie’s yard.
And I can’t claim that the blueberries are exactly yet blue or as large as one’s thumb–
But trust me—all in good time, they too, will soon be bursting with color, flavor and the juice of a summer yet to have been lived.

Heartfelt prayers for all those affected by the recent tumultuous storms– from the deadly tornados to the historic flooding.
Here’s to dreaming of warmer, sunnier, drier and calmer days to come for all of us!!

You are both God of tempest storm and peaceful calm

My heart is in anguish within me,
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
And horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
“Behold, I would wander far away,
I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah.
“I would hasten to my place of refuge
From the stormy wind and tempest.”

(Psalm 55 5-8)

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(the native azalea survived Winter’s fury / Julie Cook / 2014)

For you are the God of both tempest storm and peaceful calm.
You see us and know of the terror caused by a blackened sky
We neither sleep nor rest as the winds howl all around us
Our nights are filled with anguish and dread, for in the darkness hides an unforgiving twisting wind.
The rains cause the creeks and rivers to flow from their banks, taking away what is ours
The hail assaults our dwelling place and causes damage to all things exposed

When we emerge from the shelter of the pit,
Our eyes stare in disbelief at the destruction.
Lives now scattered like fallen leaves.
No identifying markers reamin.
We are helpless to stop the storm
It chooses neither rich nor poor, young nor old.
It discriminates not as it sets a random course.

Our eyes are swollen with dried up tears
As our tongues stick to a dry and tasteless mouth
Missing now are pets, friends, neighbors, schools, homes, cars, businesses.
Nothing remains
Neither grass nor leaf, flower nor bird.

And yet You hear our cries.
You know of our broken lives.
You are not absent in the wind
You know of each lightening strike as you count each and every drop of rain.
We cry out to You and You are there.

As skies darken for a third straight day, draw close to us as we look up in fear
Bring peace to the raging storm
Quiet the fierce winds
Spare us oh God, for you are merciful and You alone know of our distress.

And should the storms descend upon our lives, scattering all that we cherish,
Be with us as we pick up the debris of our lives.
Help us to rebuild and make new what was taken.
Grant us strength in the face of our weakness.
We need not fear for it is only in You that we have already overcome Death.