when a great aunt comes calling…

“There is peace even in the storm”
Vincent van Gogh


(from left to right:
Aunt Blanche, Aunt Alma, my great grandmother Wiliford, and shy Mimi (Mary)
hiding behind their mom / circa 1917)

When I was a little girl, I had two great aunts who were still living.
Aunt Blanche and Aunt Alma.

Both women rattled my nerves…
or maybe it was more like they simply scared me to death.

They were the sisters to my grandmother, my mother’s two aunts.

Blanche had never married.
For as long as I could remember, she had lived with my grandmother,
having her own separate area of the house.
She always seemed old to me.

The story went that she had had a young beau who had asked for her hand in marriage…but…he was California dreaming and bound, hoping to make his fortune
in a bustling new area of the country.

This was a time of one century turning to another.
The thought of leaving home and family in Georgia,
setting off to a still newly settled West Coast, with a young man who had nothing
more than a dream… was simply more than she could bear.
She turned down his proposal and remained single until she passed away in her
late 80’s.

The other great aunt, Great Aunt Alma lived in Clearwater, Florida.
She and her husband had no children of their own and in my mind,
they lived to simply play golf with the other old people.

This pistol of a woman was as wide as she was tall.
At 4’11” she was truly short and truly round.
Her perfume filled the room with a sickeningly sweet scent that lingered in
one’s nostrils long after she was gone.
When first arriving she would always make a bee line for little cheeks…
grabbing both cheeks with her thumb and index fingers, giving them a hard tweak and squeeze before leaving brightly red lipstick mark imprinted on both now sore cheeks.

Whenever we were told of an impending visit by Aunt Alma, a deep sense of dread
descended over both me and my younger brother.
Yet as I aged and grew up, my great aunt who by now was widowed, seemed to
be more gruff and impatient…far from embracing or loving.
She no longer grabbed to pinch cheeks or smear ones face with lipstick
but was rather matter of fact and brusque with her greeting.
Plus she would cuss like a sailor in her impatience.

I kept both of these women at arm’s length as their personalities and lives were not
overtly open to young people. They were nice and always gave nice gifts yet there was
no mistaking the fact that they preferred limited interaction with their
young great niece and nephew.

And so now it seems as if we have a new great aunt arriving on the scene…
one who has announced the coming of a most wicked visit.

Her name is Irma.

Somehow I imagine that she too is rather brusque and very matter of fact.
As she is also very round and and exceedingly wide.
We’ve been told that she will roar into town making her presence known in a
most deadly fashion.

Just as I had a sense of dread as a child over the forthcoming visit of great Aunt
Alma, I now have that same sense of foreboding with Irma’s impending visit.

But the difference between Alma and Irma—Alma did love us in her own odd way as
she did enjoy giving us gifts… Irma I fear however cares only for herself…
Taking no prisoners and making no apologies before abruptly departing just as
rudely as she arrived…

Prayers for Florida as well as neighboring Georgia…..
as our prayers continue for Texas and Louisiana…

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:29-30

Just around the bend

Of Course God does not consider you hopeless. If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)… Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”
C.S. Lewis

“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”
― Vincent van Gogh

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(Tremont, TN , The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Along many a journey taken throughout our lives, there often comes a point when every journeyman realizes that oddly there are no particular clear-cut signs, no helpful mile markers, no familiar landmarks pointing him or her in the proper direction.

The only thing for certain being…there is a path with the choice of either continuing forward or the option of simply turning around, heading back to whence one originally came.

How often does the journeyman continue onward, feeling as if he or she is blinded by the loss of direction, merely feeling one’s way along in the dark as it were, thinking that after every curve, after every bend along the path, surely clarity shall be glimpsed as finally there has to be something familiar or something offered as some sort of informational directional compass… that the chosen path is indeed the right and correct path for this particular journey.

Such are the times in which we find ourselves living.

The journey is often arduous, steep and seemingly treacherous.
And yet there are days when the journey seems endlessly boring and benign.
We often tire, growing weary and overwhelmed both physically, mentally and emotionally.
It is as if we are wandering lost within the massive forest, with no end in sight or welcoming safe haven as there are those who are not seen… those who wait hidden in the shadows who wish us harm as we journey onward.

As all who journey must realize and accept that there have never been any guarantees to any journey ever taken…as every journey and every path is left to chance and the whims of those forces which prevail against us.

How is one ever to prepare for such an odyssey when even the very path, the journey, the pilgrimage, the sojourn is not clearly marked, definitively set or offers any sort of guidance or clear directional choice to the one setting out on the trek? What of the perils, the dangers, the evil which lies in wait with its unseen snares and traps, hoping to catch the innocent trekker ill prepared and off guard?

Is there hope?
Is there help?
Is there assistance?

Ah…there is but One…
One alone who is fully prepared and ready.
One alone who knows the way.
And it is to Him we all must turn as He is the One who will offer comfort, direction, defense and solace for the often long, lonely and frightening journey…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Lemony stars

For my part I know nothing with any certainty,
but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Vincent Van Gogh

If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years–
how man would marvel and stare.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(bright yellow from the yard / Julie Cook / 2015

Twinkle twinkle little star
tell me, tell me what you are

Fiery ball up in the sky
or tiny flower oh so spry. . .

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny sparks;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
‘Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Twinkle Twinkle little star, the beloved children’s nursery rhyme, was an English poem first published in London in 1806. It was written by Jane Taylor, who along with her sister Ann, first published the rhyme in a periodical entitled Rhymes for the Nursery.
It wan’t until 1838 that the familiar tune was added which is actually based on the French melody Ah! vows dirai-je, maman, which was published in 1761. Several composers, including Mozart, had a hand at arranging the cheery melody.

Vibrancy

“The more ugly, older, more cantankerous, more ill and poorer I become, the more I try to make amends by making my colors more vibrant, more balanced and beaming.”
Vincent van Gogh

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(American Beauryberry hiding out deep in the woods, Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2014)

As Monday morning has rolled around once again, with many of us heading back to a long grinding week of school, travel and work, I decided we could all do with a little jolt color—just enough as to evoke a smile verses too much which might leave us a bit unsettled.

I could think of no better example than the American Beautyberry bush (callicarpa americana), also known as the French Mulberry–bedecked and bejeweled with its skittle like candy colored berries?

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The Beautyberry is a member of the verbena family and cousin to lantana.
The Beautyberry’s fruit, also known as drupes, those lucious looking clusters of vibrant lavender berries are a favorite food of the Northern Bobwhite, also known as Quail. The American Whitetail deer enjoys foraging on the leaves of the Beautyberry and Native Americans used the roots, leaves and berries to create teas which would treat such ailments as rheumatism, malaria, fever, dysentery as well as colic.

Botanist and scientists continue to study the Beautyberry’s powerful ability of warding of mosquitoes, gnats and ticks with some proclaiming the chemical compounds found in the leaves may equal the chemical Deet when battling such bloodthirsty pests.

I found a lovely site by a Florida forager who makes Beautyberry Jelly and has even concocted his own Beautyberry insect repellant cream that he claims to be “hands down” the best repellant he’s ever used.
Who knew ?!

Beautyberry Jelly
as excepted form the site:
http://www.eattheweeds.com/beautyberry-jelly-on-a-roll/

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boiland boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

Repellant Cream
I pretty much chopped up a plant(leaves and stems) and boiled it in a pot and let it cool and strained the brown liquid into my blender, about 1 1/2 cups. In a separate pot I warmed some organic neem oil (1 cup) with 1 ounce of beeswax until melted. Then you turn the blender on and pour in the oil mixture very slowly and it becomes a cream. I have to say hands down the best insect repellent ever! Because its a creme on july/august days one application is all you need for the entire day even when your sweating.”

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Here’s to a happy and vibrant Monday!!