senses put in order

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order.”

John Burroughs


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)

That quote by John Burroughs is so true is it not?
After any walk outside, out in nature…be it in the woods, through a meadow,
a ragged shoreline or a challenging mountain top…I always find myself at peace…
All worry and fret subsides…as that which is so much bigger, so much grander
than my mere self, has an enormous way of healing that which currently ailes my soul.

God is good like that.
Offering me the vast glory of His creation…

So it is no surprise that I love wandering in the woods especially this time of year…
It’s a time when I am not bothered by such things as spiders, snakes, or ticks.

No fears, no immediate worry as I can walk unimpeded—not fretting about where
I put my foot, as long as I avoid any and all stump holes—
those rotted out places in the ground, holes left gaping which are the remains of a dead tree…
such holes can be readily covered by the freshly fallen leaves and not immediately detected
by a mere glance downward.

Many a sprained ankle or even a break can happen when falling into such a hole.
I should know…thankful nothing ever broken…just usually sore and bruised.

And so I can hunt for those small wonders that still wait to be uncovered…
wonders that are not hibernating or buried deep within the ground waiting for Spring.

Shelf fungus and mushrooms are always a favorite to find as their shape, size, and colors
are usually most eye-catching.

Here are just a few from the other day…


(mildewed shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(mushrooms, mushrooming out from under the crevis of a wooden bridge/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully,
he can learn more than what is in books,
for they speak with the voice of God.

George Washington Carver

reflecting on love and beauty

Love does not make unnecessary the fulfillment of God’s commandments,
but is their deepest form of fulfillment.
The commandments are not external prescriptions,
which promise reward to those who fulfill them and threaten punishment to those who
fail to observe them.
Instead, they are the revelation of God’s salvific design,
indicating to us the way of his love.

Gerhard Cardinal Müller
from The Power of Truth


(a late November reflection offered by a creek—doesn’t it look as if the trees are
upsdie down reflected by the deep blue sky? / Julie Cook/ 2019)

Only a few colorful leaves remain dangling in the trees,
the majority of the multitudes have turned brown, or more aptly turned
loose, providing a freshly muted carpet covering the forest floor.

There is a vast quietness once the leaves fall and are damp underfoot.
No rustling of the wind through the trees and no crinkling underfoot.

But that doesn’t mean that beauty is now hidden…quite the contrary…
her reflection waits for the lucky ones who pass by…


(a late November reflection offerd by a creek/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(a late November reflection found in a creek / Julie Cook / 2019)

Who has not heard Dostoyevsky’s oft-quoted remark: ‘Beauty will save us’?
Usually people forget to mention, however, that by redeeming beauty Dostoyevsky
means Christ. He it is whom we must learn to see.
If we cease to know him only through words but are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty,
then we will truly come to know him and will no longer merely know about him secondhand.
Then we will have encountered the beauty of truth, of redeeming truth.
Nothing can bring us into contact with the beauty of Christ himself more than
the world of beauty created by faith and the light that shines upon
the faces of the saints, through which his own light becomes visible.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
from On the Way to Jesus Christ

in pursuit

“Among the strange things of this world,
nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right
and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer.”

John Jay


(some of norht Georgia’s finest…Arkansas Blacks and Winesaps / Julie Cook / 2019)

The rains had departed, the clouds were racing off, chasing the latest weather front,
and now the air was actually, delightfully, a bit chilled.

This was to be a short-lived moment as the weather folks were telling us that the
temperatures would be rising this week while the rains would be returning by Tuesday with a vengeance.
Bad weather in the South, no matter what the time of year, is something to be wary of…

So if we wanted to seek out a single colored leaf, now was our moment.

And thus we got into our vehicle Sunday morning and decided to point the truck following
the compass arrow pointing north…or so said the dashboard readings…north.

It’s just about a 2-hour drive from the house to reach North Georgia’s apple capital–
Elijay and her fellow communities of Blue Ridge, Cherry Log, etc…

We almost thought we’d move up this way about a year ago…
but that’s another story for another day.

As the truck’s compass continued pointing north, north-east, we drove on, passing
various polestars pointing towards various destinations…

I must confess, I’ve never been to, let alone seen, Rock City.
Have you?

It was always my understanding, since I was a little girl back in the day,
that farmers were paid to paint the famous “See Rock City” on the sides or roofs
of their barns but I can’t say for certain…
However I always did want a Rock City birdhouse…but I digress

Finally, just before noon, we found the ‘apple barns’ selling the fruits of their labors and harvest.

There were fried apple pies, preserves of every shape and description along with pumpkins for sale.
However, we had come for apples and apples it would be.

There were Grannysmiths, Jonagolds, Pink ladies, Honey crips, Winesaps, Arkansas Blacks, Ozark Gold, Romes,
Fujis…any variety you’d like to purchase is most likely found by the bag or bushel.

I opted for the tried and true Winesaps and a bag of Arkansas Blacks—
an apple variety that I’m told does best if it is stored chilled in a root cellar for a few months—
Since I don’t have a root cellar, I’ll opt for the fridge in the basement.

After gathering our apples, we continued northward toward a stop in the quaint mountain
town of Blue Ridge…the home of the North Georgia Railway offering train rides up through
the north Georgia mountains.

Blue Ridge is such a dog-friendly little town.
Some of the public parking lot’s proceeds go toward the local animal shelters.
We saw every kind of dog on holiday with “their people.”

We stopped for lunch at a lovely spot on the crowded downtown strip, Harvest on Main,
a place we’ve enjoyed on previous visits.
I had the tastiest drink sporting some local bee pollen…go figure!


(The Harvest / Julie Cook / 2019)

As the afternoon was beginning to wane, we opted to head back toward the more flatlands of home
rather than continuing eastward over the northern part of the state towards Blairsville, Helen
and Georgia’s gold capital of Dalonagha…

Sadly, however, we were more than aware that we had yet to really see any colorful foliage,
as our Fall is struggling from our having had one more extreme record hot and dry Summer.

We retraced our steps back towards Elijay, opting to take Hwy 52 / 2, a road that would carry us over
Fort Mountain back towards Chatsworth, Ga. and Hwy 411 South.

I’ve lived in Georgia all of my life, less than two hours away from Fort Mountian,
and yet I had never heard of this “mountain” nor of the state park of the same name.

“Mystery shrouds the ancient stone wall of Fort Mountain State Park,
located near the Cohutta Wilderness, offering you a look back in time to the previous inhabitants,
as you discover 60 miles of recreational trails and majestic overlooks.”
A scenic drive on Highway 52 near the Cohutta Wilderness leads visitors
to this mountain getaway.
Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders will find some of the most beautiful trails in Georgia,
winding through hardwood forest and blueberry thickets,
crossing streams and circling a pretty lake.
Hikers can also explore a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
and an ancient rock wall that stands on the highest point of the mountain.
The mysterious 855-foot-long wall is thought to have been built by early Indians
as fortification against more hostile Indians or for ancient ceremonies.

During summer, visitors can cool off on a lakeside beach.
Park guests may stay overnight in fully equipped cottages, a campground or backpacking campsites.

Fort Mountain State Park History

Fort Mountain State Park sits at the southwestern end of the Cohutta Mountains
near the Cohutta Wilderness. Sitting at 2,850 ft above sea level, Fort Mountain
is a great destination for hiking and history lessons alike.
The area in and around the park was home to the Cherokee Indians for hundreds of years,
and their legacy is still felt throughout North Georgia today.

We stopped at an overlook, just before reaching the state park, that was actually the pinnacle of this
“mountain”— hoping to catch a touch of color.
The vistas pointed toward both Tennessee and North Carolina.

There was a couple with their dog who had also climbed up to the outlook.
They asked where we were from… we told them and they told us that they were from
Jacksonville, Fl. They had driven up last year and had opted to come back this year.
They were just so impressed to know that Georgia had such splendor.
I inwardly smiled with a touch of pride as we all like hearing folks from other states
saying nice things about your own state.

But as you can see, there was little if any color for viewing.
A few yellows, a few reds but green is still reigning supreme.

Maybe in a few more weeks things will be turning more colorful…

Despite the lack of fall color—the deviation of a pursuit that was other than
the typical was most welcomed and most refreshing…plus I learned a thing or two
about my state that I didn’t know before…

How’s that little verse, or is it a poem, go??
‘The world is wide and wonderful, wherever we may roam…
but our thoughts return to precious things such as friends and love and home…

It’s not always the pursuit now, is it???…
It is, more or less, the journey itself that is what matters most…

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
(as seen on a small country chruch’s sign during our drive northward)

deeply rooted

Reading the Bible should be a form of prayer.
The Bible should be read in God’s presence and as the unfolding of His mind.
It is not just a book, but God’s love letter to you.
It is God’s revelation, God’s mind, operating through your mind and your reading,
so your reading is your response to His mind and will.

Peter Kreeft
from You Can Understand the Bible


(Julie Cook / 2019)

We were out walking deep in some obscure woods when we came upon this precarious
tilting tree.
It’s a tree that has been obviously almost uprooted.

This area has seen its fair share of tornados, tropical storms, even category 2 hurricanes.
Throw in the life of a tree in the woods and things such as illness, rotting, strong winds,
and the sheer matter of time can each take a toll on a tree.

Yet I was amazed that this tree appears to continue to thrive albeit at an almost
45-degree angle as it literally hangs on by the tips of its roots—
but it matters not to the tree that it grows perhaps more laterally than vertically,
it still lives, and it grows.

I looked at this tree with amazement but then I thought of things such as tenacity and
that of being firmly rooted…rooted with deep roots rather than shallow roots.

I thought of my own life.

Those times that I have been nearly toppled.
Thoughts of the moments when life had thrown all it had at me and nearly
knocked me over…for good.

Yet through Grace, I persevered.

Had I not had my faith rooted deeply in that Grace, most likely, I would have
been knocked over and would not have been able to get back up…
Even if getting back up meant I might remain somewhat skewed, I would still
be rooted, I would still be growing.

So today’s quote about reading the Bible as a form of prayer was
enlightening…as in it added to the deepening of roots.

It’s not merely about reading for reading’s sake or to read in order to seek out
some sort of information or to add to one’s verse recall,
but rather it about reading as a simple desire to pray.

To come humbly to in order to communicate with rather than to simply digest.

I confess that I don’t read the Bible as much as I once did when I was younger.
Life has a way of consuming time just like a black hole consumes all the energy
in its path.

It also didn’t help that I was raised in the Episcopal Chruch as our Sunday Schools
and youth groups were not entirely based on Bible studies.

It wasn’t until I joined Young Life in High School that I finally began
to read and study.

And that reading and studying would ebb and flow over the years.

Bibles would be highlighted, underlined, filled with momentoes and so worn
that they were ‘retired’ while I’d seek out a new translation.

Over the years, in the midst of some crisis, I would often find myself reaching for
a Bible, almost as an afterthought, as I would sit empty and lost.
Oddly a random page would suddenly speak directly to the situation…
speaking directly to me.

Funny how that is.

And as Professor Kreeft reminds us that in both prayer, as well as in reading
the Bible, God speaks.

I am reminded of the practice of Lectio Divina…
the practice of reading a particular verse then ruminating over that verse.
Focusing on what word or words seem to reach out to us.
Repeating the words, praying over the words, listening to what the word or words
have to say to us…personally.

Going deeper.

As in growing deeper roots.

As life grows only more precarious…being deeply rooted in
the Word of God will prove instrumental in the survival of our souls.

May we be willing to go deeper.

Both prayer and Bible reading are ways of listening to God.
They should blend: our prayer should be biblical and our Bible reading prayerful.

Peter Kreeft
from You Can Understand the Bible

“wash your spirit clean”

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while,
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

John Muir


(a close up of a persimmon / Julie Cook / 2019)

Every now and then, we all need to go take a walk in the woods.

Walking away from the crowds, the city, the traffic, the noise, the stress…
Sometimes we even need to take a brief walk away from life…
and the best place to go to…is to the woods.

Allowing ourselves to marvel in the tiniest details of the Master’s hand…


(a small fallen dogwood seed / Julie Cook/ 2019)


(the last blooming “weeds” /Julie Cook / 2019)


(a lovely shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(deer moss /Julie Cook / 2019)


(more deer moss / Julie Cook / 2019)


(hidden shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(a fallen acorn / Julie Cook / 2019)

“I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land
so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

Ezekiel 34:25

Exchanging the present for the future

“In everything, whether it is a thing sensed or a thing known,
God Himself is hidden within.”

St. Bonaventure


(self fungus grows on the end of a fallen cut tree/ Julie Cook / 2019)

“What made the holy apostles and martyrs endure fierce agony and bitter torments,
except faith, and especially faith in the resurrection?
What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside,
leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain?
It is living faith that expresses itself through love…
It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.”

Pope Benedict XIV, p. 205
An Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints

“in suffering, God gives strength’

It is extremely liberating to know that God never demands more of us that we can give him.
He is always content when we do what we can.
The only important thing is that we never give up,
that with a holy stubbornness we do what we can.

Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen
from The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love


(our little pecan trees are bearing their fruits / nuts slowly / Julie Cook / 2019)

“There is another reason also why the soul has traveled safely in this obscurity;
it has suffered:
for the way of suffering is safer, and also more profitable, than that of rejoicing and of action.
In suffering God gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own
weakness and imperfections.
And in suffering, the soul practices and acquires virtue, and becomes pure, wiser, and more cautious.”

St. John of the Cross, p. 149
An Excerpt From
Dark Night of the Soul