how does anyone know?

“What is happening to me happens to all fruits that grow ripe.
It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker, and my soul quieter.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


(ripening persimons on the tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Ripe: fully grown and developed: mature ripe fruit
:having mature knowledge, understanding, or judgment

Unripe: not fully matured
2. not fully prepared or developed; not ready

How do we know when something is ripe?
Color?
Touch?
Taste?
All of the above?

Ripe equates with that which is good.
That which is pleasing.
That which is inviting.

Ripe is as good as it gets….

Unripe is bitter, hard, immature, not ready…
unripe is unproductive.

If you profess to being a Christian,
how does the anyone know whether or not you are ripe and ready?

One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.

Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“Figs,” I answered.
“The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”

Then the word of the Lord came to me:
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah,
whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians.
My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.
I will build them up and not tear them down;
I will plant them and not uproot them.
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.

Jeremiah 24:2-7

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

heightened senses….

“Memory believes before knowing remembers.
William Faulkner

23f7b44700000578-2869918-image-a-218_1418300218540
(Victorian Christmas Greeting card)

Every memory seems more keen.
Every sight seems more bright.
Every tear seems more heavy.
Every scent seems more strong.
Every sound seems more bold.
Every heartache seems more piercing.
Every loss seems more painful.
Every joy seems more complete.
Every touch seems more dear…

Each year, finding ourselves standing before what makes Christmas just that,
Christmas…
Our senses,
our thoughts,
our tastes,
our recollections…
seem hopelessly more intense, more sharp, more profound…

Be that a blessing
or
be that a curse.

Pain is greater.
Suffering is more fierce.
Joy is more contagious.
While satisfaction hangs precariously in the balance.

There are those who gravitate toward this more mystical and magical time
full of giddiness and glee…
while others wish to close their eyes,
not openning them again until mid January.

The sensory overload can be overtly overwhelming or palpably underwhelming.

And yet it is in that overload, be it over or under,
that we actually become more….
raw…
more open…
and even more vulnerable.

And it is in that vulnerability that the ego slightly abates….
the guard slips ever so quietly,
While pretense evaporates as the dew in first light…
As we are splayed wide open.

And it is in that moment of pure raw vulnerability that
the heart finally realigns,
beating rhythmically for the first time since the tragic Fall,
as it is once again, albeit briefly, in sync with all of Creation…

For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:37

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

DSCN1586
(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…

DSCN0374
(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….

For the love of wood

No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.
Oscar Wilde

DSC02024
(fresh strawberries on a walnut trivet / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02020
(a walnut trivet topped with a couple of fried squash / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I first started this little blog of mine, or as my husband lovingly (cough cough) references as that “blob”, I was truly wet behind the ears not having a clue as to what I was doing.
I’d never “blogged” before nor was I any sort of computer guru, “thecie” or wizened journalist.
I was just a newly retired teacher who still had some “teach” left in me.

I started posting some pictures I’d taken, some words I’d written, some recipes I’d cooked and little by little I had some folks stopping in for a “visit”— eventually some of the visitors decided they liked what they saw, or read, or both, and wanted to hang around a while. . .

One of those early visitors happened to be a man named Michael.
Michael, who is also retired, lives in the neighboring state of South Carolina. Michael loves to cook, garden and enjoys living on “the mountain” as he lovingly refers to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It seems that Michael has channeled those retired energies into his wood shop—as in he makes things.
All sorts of beautiful wooden things.

As a former art teacher, I greatly appreciate the gift of talent when I see it.
Michael has the gift—the gift of “eye” and talent in that he can see in a piece of lumber something beautiful.

His creations are not sculptures or decorative pieces of art but rather functional and utilitarian natural pieces of wonder.

Perusing his blog, where he shares his talent, I was amazed by what I saw. And lucky for me, for us, he sells these pieces of functional beauty.

https://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

A couple of Christmases back, I wrote a post about Michael’s work–espousing the difference between what makes art art verses the functionality of utilitarian objects—as well as how we may have the rare opportunity of finding both in one object.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/functional-or-decorative-or-both/

Over the past couple of years, I have been blessed to call Michael my friend.
I am also fortunate in that I have several of Michael’s cutting boards gracing my kitchen, a beautiful hand turned step stool, an ice-cream paddle and a handful of hand cut honey wands—I have given Michael’s pieces as both Christmas and wedding gifts.

There is just something very special about the tactile quality, coupled by the visual beauty, of a piece of wood that through both the vision and talent of a human being can take on a life of its own.
Michael is that gifted.

I want to share a few shots of an absolutely beautiful piece of burl wood that Michael has cut, sanded, finished and crafted into a cutting board like no other. Sadly a computer image cannot do justice to the tactile relationship we have with wood. To feel its weight, the smooth sanded core coupled by the rough bark exterior. . .to see the rich warm colors brought out by the lightly oiled surface is certainly best experienced in person. . . however these few pictures will simply have to do—not unless you too decide to wander on over to Michael’s blog where you might want to just try this all out first hand with your own board, birdhouse, honey wand, ice cream paddle or chopping block. . .

Thank you Michael!

DSC02005
(16 x 10 at widest burl cutting board / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02007

DSC02006

DSC02014

DSC02016

Along with the cutting board, I received yesterday two walnut trivets / coasters which will match my soon to be table chargers—of which I can’t wait for them to arrive as they will accent my kitchen so beautifully

DSC02025

DSC02011

DSC02013

DSC02018

Beyond

Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.
Voltaire

DSC00997
(the changing glimpse of beyond before the storm / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s all beyond us really. . .
As in elsewhere
As in bigger, greater, grander
As in far away and much more than ourselves.

What of this place, Beyond?
That which is beyond the trees,
The clouds,
The sky. . .

What is this that is Beyond?

Is it what is there and simply not here?
That which is further rather than closer
That which is big not small?

Those whose sights remain small and inward
may never know the vast richness of Beyond.
Those whose heads are fixed ever downward,
Whose worlds are stationary and static,
Will not know Beyond

Beyond is more. . .
There is endlessness in Beyond

Humankind is not endless, we rather, are finite
As in consisting of a beginning and an ending
As in small and limited
For even our time is limited, as well as unknown

What of this Beyond?
Where does it start?
Where does it end?

One must look upward,
Outward,
Forward. . .

For Beyond is certainly in front, not behind
Beyond is not beneath nor under

Beyond is beyond touch,
Reach
Comprehension

Beyond is not of this time,
Your time or mine.
It goes much further than time
Much further than past or present
It is actually closer to future.

Beyond is beyond what is known
Beyond is beyond this place,
this space,
this dimension

Beyond is. . .simply. . .

Beyond

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Hidden treasure

The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.
Johannes Kepler

IMG_0953
(hidden little green shield bug nestled among the baby meyer lemons / Julie Cook / 2014)

Go forth with eyes wide open.
With a mind clear and wanting,
Seeking always,
Expecting nothing less than fascinating.
With a heart deep and cavernous,
Anticipate the extraordinary.
Touch gently
Feel softly
Step lightly, yet determined
Breathe in deeply
Smell joyously
Examine meticulously
hidden treasures are waiting. . .