Double the pleasure amidst life’s little turmoils

Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.
Søren Kierkegaard

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(a saucer tulip magnolia blossom / Julie Cook / 2015)

Do you remember that catchy little jingle form the late 1950’s for Doublemint chewing gum?
It went something like this. . .
Double your pleasure,
Double your fun,
Chew double mint, double mint
Double mint gum!

Well that little blast from the past always comes flooding back to the forefront of my mind whenever I spot my Tulip tree blooming. . .again.
This saucer tulip magnolia is more akin to a magnolia tree than to its often misquoted name, the tulip poplar tree which sports a similar bloom that is yellow in color.
The saucer magnolia with its fuchsia colored blooms resemble tulips blooming as well as the large showy white magnolia blossoms.

Here we are back in March, sans leaves, yet loaded with brightly colored fuchsia blooms—a boon to those colorless days of transition between Winter and Spring

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And here we are today in mid June. . .a regalia of large deep green leaves fill what was once empty space as a bevy of colorful magnolia-like buds and blossoms adorn the Summer landscape with rich colorful fullness.

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Doubling my pleasures while out in the yard. . .

I leave you with the double pleasant images of blossoms and blooms as I am now off to Atlanta to tend to Dad–all prayers are greatly appreciated as I take him downtown on Monday to the hospital for a procedure that may or may not shed light as to why he’s so sick—Prayers that he will fly through the procedure as the doctor has explained to us the heightened risks.
Prayers for some semblance of recovery.
Be home, hopefully Tuesday. . .

Open your heart to me oh Lord

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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(various stages of a blooming tulip / Julie Cook / 2015)

Standing
Staring
Watching
Waiting
Wondering
Hoping
Longing

I raise my head
You lower yours

I watch you closely
You turn my way

Instinctively I lift my arms
Tenderly you reach your arms outward

I long for your embrace
You take me in your arms

I wonder if you’ll let go
You hold me even tighter

My wounded heart longs to be made whole
Your heart knows no boundaries

I can feel myself finally letting go
You whisper you will never let go

His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:11-12

Beyond our control

The most exciting happiness is the happiness generated by forces beyond your control.
Ogden Nash

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(a tulip expectantly waits to open / Julie Cook / 2015

Is there rhyme and reason to every season?
Is there thought and design within this thing called time?
Is there marvelous and mystery in the earth’s ancient history?

Is it just a mere bud readying itself for blooming?
Is it merely the parting of the clouds, allowing for a long hidden sun to appear?
Is it a tempestuous season full of decay, finally waning, making room for the season of birth?
Is it a world full of random occurrences, all of which just seem to happen on a whim?
Is it merely the rotation of celestial bodies which in turn give way to cyclical change?

Is there more to the random,
the happenstance,
the seasonal,
the cyclical,
the gravitational. . .

“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord.
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.”

Psalm 66: 1-2

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This from that

“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”
― Herman Melville

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(the various parts and moments in the life of a tulip bulb / Julie Cook / 2015)

Enter the unassuming white, meaty, brown paper wrapped bulb
Add a little water
Add warmth
Add light
Add Hope
Then add to all of that a little bit of expectancy. . .

Slowly at first, then rapidly picking up speed. . .squiggly spaghetti noodle like roots emerge, sprouting out from underneath. . .
All of this while stiff green shoots reach upward
Yet tucked away, hiding within. . .
the emerging,
the sprouting,
the growing. . .

Hidden away there hides. . .
the mystery,
the color,
the beauty,
the amazing,. . .
the miracle. . .

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A sunny spring day makes most all things bearable

“Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.”
Madeleine L’Engle

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(aren’t the quince beautiful in bloom? Julie Cook / 2014)

As you may recall, Dad turned 86 last week.
Last’s week’s visit was nice.
I purposely chose to ignore the office, aka, my old bedroom, with the latest stack of mail containing any and all errant bills–those late, those ignored and those cancelled notices of service.
The lights were on, their heat was working, the water was running so I just decided to go with the flow and ignore any pressing business at hand.

The week before that was not such a happy visit.

Upon my arrival, I made my way down the hall, back to “the office,” with Dad hot on my heels following. He was wailing for me “not to go in there,” assuring me that everything was fine in that high pitched voice that signals everything is not fine.
What I discovered upon entering the room was a couple of huge piles of very official looking papers, scattered in chairs, desks and the floor. . .several IRS payment vouchers, a myriad of file folders overflowing with records, along with some very official looking booklets from a tax firm.
UGH–I didn’t know whether I should sigh or cry.
“NO, STOP, DON’T TOUCH ANY OF THAT, YOU’LL MESS IT ALL UP!” he screams

I begin riffling through the stacks, OFFICIAL NOTICE, LATE PAYMENT, PLEASE RESPOND. . .”
“Oh Dad, this is not good” I lament.
“NO, STOP IT, GET OUT!”
“WHAT THE HELL??”
“Dad, there is no reason to curse”
“GET OUT, GET OUT AND JUST GO BACK TO CARROLLTON” he screams before plopping down in the chair droping his head to his chest bearing a huge frown on his face, much like a pouting child.
Gloria immediately admonishes him, telling him to stop acting like a child and attempts to remind him that “Julie has come a long way to help”

I feel the tears filling my eyes, stinging as I fight blinking them back.
I mustn’t lose it.
No, not here, not now.

Long story short.
I called my cousin who told me not to fret.
Yeah right.
I called the tax man, who has yet to return my call.
I drove home rehashing the entire sad episode.
Thinking to myself how I very much wished, how I very much needed for him to still take care of all of this kind of stuff— this was his area of expertise–the finances, he’s always taken care of all of us in that regard and he’s always prided himself on doing it by himself. This is not my strong suit. I still very much needed for him to do all of this as he had yet to teach me how. . . this as the tears flowed down my face.

As I continued driving home, I simply pondered what to do.

Fast forward a week.
I had not spoken to Dad in about 5 days–I admit I was not only hurt, but I was mad at him. I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to him yet.
The phone rings. . .
“Juuuulie”– the familiar warble
“Hi Dad”– I say in my cheeriest voice.
“Julie, are you mad at me?” asks a very child like voice.
“Mad? Why would I be mad Dad? I’m not mad.
I was going to come up tomorrow but they’re saying it’s suppose to pour down rain in the morning.”
“I know, I hope it clears out by the afternoon because we have an appointment with the tax man.”
“Really Dad? That’s great”
WHEW!!! I silently shout.

Today’s visit was luckily short and sweet.
I had a 1PM appointment there in Atlanta so I quickly stopped in for a hurried bite to eat.
As Gloria was busy in the kitchen, she tells me to go in and visit with Dad.
I go plop down on the couch as dad is simply sitting in his chair with the TV muted. He’s rather silent.
“So Dad, how are things?”
“Okay”
“What do you think of all this Crimean business?” –this as he usually keeps Fox News constantly on the television.
“Oh it’s bad.”
“Do you now what I see every morning when I wake up?” he oddly asks.
No Dad, I don’t–what?” Thinking he’s going to say that pair of lamps in the den, the ones he’s told me, in no uncertain terms, to keep in the family after he is gone, I’m floored by what comes out of his mouth.
“Ed dead on that metal table”
“DAD!!
“Oh my God!”
“Dad, Ed’s been dead almost 30 years.”
“Well you know I drove him to kill himself. . .”
‘Oh dear Lord’ I’m silently screaming in my head as I’m asking myself why in the world did Gloria want me to come in here to visit Dad if this is where he’s going today. . .”

He never talks about this kind of stuff in front of Gloria because she always puts him in his place mighty fast.
And once again I start the litany that Ed, (my bother who I wrote about many moons ago “Forgiveness, one step at a time), was very much mentally ill–his death had nothing to do with Dad. . .funny how he fixates on this when all rational common sense and everyone knows, Ed was mentally unstable—Dad’s obsession with Ed’s suicide goes well beyond the normal grief of a parent. Our family doctor had tried for years to work with him, getting him help, but it’s been as if he relished fixating and twisting the tragedy back to himself. . .

I look at my watch, 1PM can’t come fast enough.
More chatter about Ed. UGH
All as I quickly nip the direction of the conversation in the bud, turning back to Crimea and Malaysia– Suicide verses hostile takeovers and hijackings—what an afternoon!

Realizing that he’s not gaining any ground with me, he switches to the topic of Mother, who has also been gone now for almost 30 years.
Can we please talk about something other than death and how it’s all your fault I silently moan in my head.
My head is now starting to hurt.
I get up, going back to the kitchen, seeing if I can help speed Gloria along as the thought of running out the back door screaming seems most appealing.

Finally, its time for me to leave!
I make for my car, promising to come back next week for a longer stay.
“Good, I need for you to get things out of the basement.” Dad warbles.
This as I’m thinking that only large pieces of furniture remain down in the basement—all of which are not going to fit into my car. . .ugh

Finally and thankfully making my way to my appointment (mother of the groom dress thing you know), I marvel at how pretty all of the trees and shrubbery look as things are now starting to fully bloom.
The sky a brilliant blue, the tulip trees, forsythia bushes, cherry trees, the daffodils, the tulips and hyacinth. . . all in their full colorful regalia. It’s a true sensory overload, so much needed.

Old Atlanta, that part of the oh so shrinking the city which still harkens back to my youth, is so very beautiful. . .there is simply nothing as pretty as Atlanta in the Spring. The beautiful young debutante stepping out for her first debut and dance–that’s Atlanta all gussied up for Spring. An army of ancient oaks, which line the Atlanta streets like soldiers at attention, wait patiently under the growing weight of groaning buds ready to signal a new season with a new beginning.

Trying not to dwell on Dad or of our conversations or of his taxes, preferring rather to bask in the glory of blooms and colors which were now offering me a full palette of visual delight, I silently say a prayer, thanking God for blue skies, blooming flowers and the for hope which is lovingly woven into this single moment, the birth of Spring.

Forced to bloom

Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.
William Arthur Ward

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(ariel view of a tiny grape hyacinth preparing to bloom, Julie Cook / 2014)

Just as life appears to be overrun with dull wet grey skies, dirty melting slushy snow and the dead crunchy brown sodded lawns of a winter’s harsh ways— tiny miracles are mysteriously arriving in stores far and wide. Joy abounds walking into the grocery store and local home improvement store as our poor sensory deprived eyes are met with exciting tiny botanical treasures.

Brown bumpy lumpy tubers known as bulbs have been secretly and silently doing their thing, hidden away in some cool dark place of mystery, for about 10 weeks. The roots are now taking hold as stems shoot skyward, topped off with a variety of buds chomping at the bit to explode into a dazzling display of early color. These buds, which are tentatively perched atop long narrow stalks, are getting ready to sprout forth with colorful gems offering heavenly scents and pleasing sights. Be it hyacinth, iris, tulip, paperwhite, amaryllis or daffodil, the forcing bulbs have arrived.

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It seems this little habit of “forcing” bulbs to bloom indoors, long before the true flowering season out of doors takes a more natural route, came about in the 1600’s, most likely in the Netherlands–later becoming all the rage in the Victorian days of the 1800’s. Apparently not all households could afford fresh flowers making bulbs, and “forcing” them to bloom, a much more affordable choice.

So if you’re finding these chilly days just a bit too much, so much so that perhaps the sight of a little color coupled by a most beneficial springlike scent added to a heat imposed house would put a wee spring to your step, then may I suggest gathering a tiny forcing vase filled with your bulb of choice

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If you would like to try your own hand at this most user friendly growing technique, I did read that it does require some time in which to prepare the bulb—letting it perch over a bit of water or placed in a planting medium, allowing it to then “chill”, literally, at a constant temperature of 48ᵒ in a dark out of the way spot, say the basement or attic. This hyacinth was afforded 10 weeks of sitting and chilling before it’s roots descended and its bloom shot skyward. It is at this point that they arrive in the stores.

Once brought out to the warmer, lighter world of home or office, the real beauty takes place as these hardy little tubers suddenly become show stoppers bursting forth with color and scent—reminding all of us that thankfully Spring is just weeks away.