Hope is Springing

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Alexander Pope


(cue the Lenten Rose / Julie Cook / 2018)

We still have so much to talk about…
So many pressing issues of the soul and the salvation of man.

That being our salvation.

There is so much history that we need to recall, lest we be doomed to repeat it all.

Discussing those things of true importance while discarding those unimportant things
vying for control.

There has been such a wearisome heaviness pressing down on us…
The cold.
The snow.
The political circus of both country and globe.
The helter-skelter stock market.
The flu.
The sheer burdens of our individual lives…
The uncertainty of the uncertainness.

The list seems endless.

I have felt as if I have not been outside, really outside, taking stock
of a winter barren waste-laid landscape in a string of seemingly nonending months of time.

Its just been too cold, too wet, too grey…
just too, too…

Until Tuesday.

I actually went outside and filled up the birdfeeders.
The sun was shining and it wasn’t freezing.
In fact, I could feel the sun’s warmth.
An unfamiliar yet most welcomed sensation.

I cleaned out the bird boxes, ridding them of the old nests…
making ready for new residents who will soon be out house hunting.

I trimmed away a few dead and broken branches from plants, bushes, and trees—
all who had suffered under the weight of the snow and ice—
trimming wich I had simply not felt called yet to tackle.

To be honest, I think I’ve just not felt like doing much of any of it, period.
I’ve not felt motivated or excited to do so…
both of which are not me.

I chalk such lack of motivation, lack of get-up-and-go, to life’s wicked blows,
to the winter blues and to just the never-ending chill which
has delighted in reaching down to my very bones.

The good news is that I do not have the full blown hemochromatosis I spoke of
about a week or so ago.
I am however a carrier…only half mutant.
Yet it’s off for the nuclear stress test come Monday…
all to figure out the reason for a sedentary blood pressure for a non-sedentary individual…
of which probably points to another mutant gene…

My son made me watch the X-Men cartoons with him when he was a little boy—
I always did have a soft spot in my heart for Beast—
I mean, who doesn’t love a soft-spoken, Shakespearian reading
manly man who happens to be blue?

Yet I suspect some might simply call my winter languidness, age.

However my little outdoor excursion Tuesday offered up a marvelous surprise.

Tucked away in what is usually a dark tiny tree ladened little nook,
an unsuspecting patch of pine straw nestled between two small boxwoods…
rests 4 nearly hidden reminders that there is indeed life lurking, waiting and
really ready to get busy.

And as if right on cue, just in time for the beginning of this week’s coming Lenten season…
a time which happens to be bringing both Valentine’s day and a certain grandbaby’s
due date…
a reflective time of death, Ressurection, and life…
the Lenten Roses are in full blooming regalia.

Hope does Spring eternal does it not?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,

Jeremiah 29:11-14

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways”

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach,
in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

Rachel Carson


(the snowy adirondacks / Julie Cook / 2017)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.
He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’
and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’
So that everyone he has made may know his work,
he stops all people from their labor.
The animals take cover;
they remain in their dens.
The tempest comes out from its chamber,
the cold from the driving winds.
The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen.

Job 37:5-10

Hello Goodbye

You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

(Hello Goodbye-The Beatles)

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

― Alfred Lord Tennyson

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(fresh flowers for sale, Grafton St / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I wish you flowers.
I wish you blue skies
I wish you sun
I wish you warmth upon your face
I wish you peace of heart and peace of mind
I wish you health
I wish you joy
I wish you contentment
I wish you happiness
I wish you love
I wish you God’s Grace until the end of time….

I arise today
Through a mighty strength:
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s eyes to watch over me;
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me.

St Bridgid of Gael

Well seasoned

“Accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”

― Kahlil Gibran

“What an abundant harvest has been collected in autumn! The earth has now fulfilled its design for this year, and is going to repose for a short time. Thus nature is continually employed during the greatest part of the year: even in her rest she is active: and in silence prepares a new creation.”
― Christoph Christian Sturm

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(bits of the remains of a farm in Teileann, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There is a rhythm and certain cadence to life,
as well as to living that life.
Divided amongst the four seasons…
A time to reap and a time to sow
A time to make merry and a time to grow…

In December, the weather is to be cold.
The trees, both twiggy and dormant, are to stand as Winter’s lone sentinels.
Yet what an odd sight when those sleeping trees, which are to wake up and bud in March, are alarmingly budding now.
Odder still…a single remaining tomato plant continues to persevere offering up small ripening fruit.

Where are the freezing temps, the chilly days and colder nights?
Forthcoming they say…
Why do the crickets still sing at dusk,
when they should be fast asleep for the winter?
Ode to our seasons being out of sync and out of step.

For we are rhythmic beings.
Our bodies
Our seasons
Our time
Our earth
Our universe

We have been created to live a seasonal and rhythmic life.
Our very breath rises and falls as our heart beats rhythmically along—both in sync
Any glitch, such as an illness or accident, creates havoc to life’s ebb and flow.
And when one component of our being falls out of tempo with the rest, everything within and without, seems to follow suit.

Disruption
Distraction
Disjunction
Disconnection
Disorder…

We are also spiritual beings.
Who are inextricably linked to the One who set all that is into motion…
Linked endlessly to the One who has given us our being, our rhythm, our life.
Yet long ago, having chosen disobedience over obedience, chaos over order, darkness over light, we placed into jeopardy the very essence of that rhythmic relationship.
The harmony of Life’s seasons was turned upside down and despite our best efforts, remains hopelessly out of sync and out of balance to this day.

So as we find ourselves in the waning days of yet another year,
in the midst the final season of a time which was…
A time of transition…
from cool to cold,
from colorful to bland,
from bright to bleak,
from life to death,
from light to dark….
a time and a season of longing and expectation…
A time that has us wondering, watching, waiting…

A time that is to offer renewing Light…
As in a living Light.
A Light which will bring life giving warmth as it banishes the darkness of colorless death…

There will be those who we will long for this light…
as there will be others who will remain unaware, dismissive and stubbornly unaccepting.
Yet this living Light thankfully comes regardless of the wants and whims of man…
It comes despite the poor choices and refusals…
It comes to offer both Hope and Redemption for any and all…as it will finally set the captives free, as the blind will finally see and those who have been silenced will find their long awaited song.
The Light which will restore the very cadence and rhythm…
to our relationship of One…

Ripe yet?

Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.
Soren Kierkegaard

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.
Frederick Buechner

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(unripened blueberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

By the looks of these blueberries, they still have a ways to go before they’re ripe enough for picking. More time is needed for basking in the warmth of the sun’s rays before they’ll be a deep purplish blue bursting with juicy sweetness. And I must admit, the thought of soon to be syrupy fresh blueberries is a comforting thought.

Life with Dad these days has precipitated any sort of garden this summer, which makes me sad—
yet at the same time life is as it should be—with me being able to travel back and forth, helping to care for him during this particular stage of his life’s journey. . .It makes for long hectic days, with some days being good and some days being not so good. We made a minor crisis run to the doctor’s today, and are waiting on more test results- – but for now, just this minute, it’s “steady as she goes”. . .

So being able to come home with a chance to wander a bit in the yard, checking out the progress of the blueberries, watching the birds dart in and out of their bird boxes, and just relishing in the muffled sounds of a late rural afternoon is a welcomed respite from the worries of a stress filled day.

And as I check on the ripeness of my pale green berries, my thoughts wander to my own sense of ripeness.

Most folks might think that at 55 I’m probably pretty good and ripe, with hints of pruneiness here and there. I’ve had life experiences both good and bad that have worked to shape and mould me into the person I am today.
Painful as well as pleasant, sweet coupled with sorrowful.
Yet one look at my 87 year old dad, pale and feeble, I think to myself “now here is someone who must be ripe–” And yet there are days I think he’s often just rotting on the vine as it were, wasting away with little effort to stop the decay.

I know my dad, I know he’s not where he needs to be, yet–and I doubt, knowing Dad, that he’ll get there in time. Which might mean that none of us are ever fully ripe as perhaps our lives are just one long ripening process. God works throughout our lives deep within our hearts and souls. He lovingly takes us, shifting and shaping, pushing and pulling. He allows the sun of his love to warm us while the rains of our sorrows water us. We are given ample opportunity to fertilize ourselves by His word, yet we don’t always take advantage of His available resources.

Some of us choose, sadly, to wither on the vine, preferring to never allow the Master Gardener the chance to prune, train, trim or nurture–we’ve even been known to actually rebuff His attempts.
A terrible waste of good fruit really.

So many of us spend our lives seeking God with hopes of establishing a deep rooted relationship with Him. Yet such relationships, as well as us each of us individually, are ever changing, growing, shifting and deepening. We scratch the surface finding some sense of satisfaction that only leads us to wanting more. We hunger and thirst for a deep feeding and watering as we long for sustenance that only He can offer. . .just like a tender plant yearns for and needs nourishment to survive. We find ourselves not only needing but wanting more of His time, His attentions, His care, His concern.
This becomes an unquenchable desire which spans the course of a lifetime.

So as I wander aimlessly surveying my tiny green orbs which dot my blueberry bushes like the decorations on a Christmas tree, all with a sense of great anticipation of things to come, I marvel at the fact that I myself am far from ripe—I’m just as green as my berries yet equally hungry for the warmth of His tender nourishment. . .

Prayers are now offered up for a deep feeding. . .
Here’s to His nurturing and our growing. . .

To prune and to be pruned

“All gardens, even the most native and naturalistic, benefit from the hand of an artful pruner. In this season where the garden is poised for the green flood of springtime, remember that our gardens are co-creations, shared with mother earth. And like any good mother, she expects you to tidy up your room. Now get clipping!”
Tom Spencer, Soul of the Garden

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(the sweet demure bloom of the Quince / Julie Cook / 2014)

To prune a garden, shrubbery or a life takes careful thought and consideration.
It is a task not for the faint at heart nor is it a task for the weary.
It is a task for those possessing patience and for those with an eye for what may be.
It is not a task for the quick minded, the “hurry up and be done” mind.
Rather, pruning, is a task which requires time and thought.

Oh it’s easy to whack and hack here and there— cutting away willy nilly for the pure sake of cutting.
Chop off this and cut away that—be gone overgrown and growth!
Take it all off, to the ground I say–be gone eyesore and out of control!
Take this and take that, you, the unsightly nuisance of my world

And the litany of no more goes on and on. . .
No, pruning is not a chore for those whose vision is simply of the here and now. . .
. . .For pruning is a deliberate act of the future.
It is accomplished with care, concern and hope.

Even the tools of choice must be considered carefully and artfully.
Does one choose the more controlled and deliberate instruments of cutting which offer the ability to chip away slowly with precision and direction?

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Or does one, whose main objective is merely to obliterate what is perceived to be the immediate problem—that of the surface only, choose something lethally quick yet destructive? A device which says to its victim “be gone and be done”—a device which takes away everything– leaving only the bare and barren behind with the fleeting backhanded thought that things will surely come back just as before?

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A loving Creator, who looks out upon the broken landscape of our lives, surveys much which needs pruning and weeding.
No small task.
Not a task for the faint hearted or weary indeed.
For He is neither.

The pruning and weeding of our lives is skillfully accomplished by the hand of One who loves tenderly and deeply, yet also fiercely. It is a task mastered by One who is not afraid to inflict the initial pain which is a result of the initial pruning because it is He who has the eye for what will be.
He is the One who sees the possibilities for perfect growth. That which was once overgrown and out of control can be and will be tamed, trained, thinned and trimmed all by the loving hands of this Master Gardener.

There is pain in the pruning by the hand of the Creator. Whereas the pain may be physical, it is also mystical. One which burns yet is tender and sweet. . .one which seems long lasting yet is gone in the blink of an eye. For no temporal pain caused by the pruning of affliction and suffering lasts an eternity.

It is the eye of the Master who sees that which He loves, drawing it ever closer to His hands.
He tenderly trims and cuts—He staves the oozing and bleeding, gently binding the wounds.
His vision reaches beyond time, for He sees to the moments of regrowth and reemergence, as the tender new shoots, slowly at first and ever so gently, begin to curve upward.

And as He looks upon His handiwork, this Master Gardener smiles, as that which was out of control and overgrown, is now neat and tidy. The weeds which choked out the tender shoots are now dug up and gone. The tangled mess of branches and sticks are now neatly cut back. Miraculously the once hidden tiny buds, receiving the full warmth of the sun, now joyously begin to reopen in all their splendor and gratitude.

All is well, all is well. . .all is now, finally well, with my soul.

A show of hands please, who’s ready for Spring?

“What a severe yet master artist old Winter is….No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.”
John Burroughs

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Barbed wire is not so sharp with an icy coating

Yesterday we shrugged under a heavy coating of ice—every thing inanimate and not moving fell victim to the cold touch of what the ancients would recognize as Ymir, the norse god of ice. This morning Mother Nature must have spoken kindly to Old Man Winter, as we were greeted by a covering of snow onto of the already think coating of ice, making things so much more bearable to behold.

The buds of the blueberry bushes now lie encased in a tomb of ice:

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Nandina berries offer beautiful contrast to their coat of white:

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The squirrels will have a difficult time gathering these acorns turned popsicles:

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Are the weeds more tolerable when painted in shades of snow and ice?

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**It must be noted that I took these pictures yesterday morning. By mid-morning the sun reappeared as the temperatures rose into the 40’s—this morning there is very little left as a reminder of the storm, that on Monday, the forecasters were predicting to be “Epic and Catastrophic”—amazing what a few hours of sun and warmth can do to Old Man Winter!!