when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

diluted

“The holy hour for Germans will be at hand when the symbol of their reawakening–
the flag with the swastika—
has become the only true confession of faith in the Reich.”

Alfred Rosenberg


(a sanderling drips water from his bill / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

Always with the passing of time, words and thoughts that once had been pointed, hard, difficult and even monstrous…take on a softening, a smoothing and even entirely
different meanings then their original intent.

That is not necessarily a good thing but rather a result of time….
because time has a way of diluting truth and clouding the mind.

We see a lot of this sort of thing happening today in our own current time.
We hear words that once meant one thing now meaning something else entirely as
new generations decode a past into something else totally other than what was an
original intent.

We hear a lot of folks today throwing around words such as fascism, Nazi, swastika, tolerant, intolerant, socialist, ideology…to name but a few now oddly shapened words.
And chances are most of the folks throwing around these odd words aren’t old enough to
remember the time in which such words first came into being.

So with the passage of time these previous words, now oddly shapened, have become diluted…their meanings today are entirely different to a new generation who has added them to their current caustic vocabulary.

Our current history lessons, having grossly failed the original context of each word,
as well as the generations of the up and coming who are grasping blindly
and wildly at said words, risk being rewritten forever if those of us who know better and who know the Truth fail to tell it.

Ignorance has mingled with ego and bravado creating a toxic ill informed cocktail.
As sadly these current times do not seem to notice their mirrored image to that
of an equally caustic, angry and bravado laced time…

In his book The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell does an excellent job of laying out the historical facts more succinctly than any current US High School history book that
covers the rise of the NSDAP, or what is commonly
referred to as the Nazi party, in Germany pre WWII.

His numerical facts, while overwhelming and staggering, are painfully precise.
His timeline of events is pinpoint accurate.
Such precision, as is found in his tale, is both a wonder and a stalk reminder of the darkest days of the twentieth century yet is purely a tale recounting the
plundering of books.

With the very word plundered / plundering being far from today’s current vocabulary.

For in our current minds, it is hard to phantom the complete wiping out of
libraries or collections of books when we have grown accustomed to cheap paperback
romance novels being picked up at the corner drug store to the more recent vanguard of electronic books….

To our modern minds, books are basically an endless commodity…
for they are as far as the internet may reach.
Meaning that to this current generation, the notion of an entire book collection
being wiped from the planet, rendering various texts more or less extinct, is incomprehensible.

Because surely you can find it on the internet right?

Yet there was a time when books were investments, sacred, and treasured.
Numbers of various writings limited.
There was no endless supply.

It is difficult for our modern minds to comprehend authorities entering into our homes while carrying away our books.
Important papers, valuables…yes…but our books? No.

What if the books by your bedside table were suddenly gone, considered
contraband against the State?
Your family Bible being considered dangerous or even insubordinate against the State.
Impossible you say…but there was a time when that was more fact than fiction.
As it would behoove us to remember it is continuing to this very day…

“Until 1939 the Nazis had devoted themselves to fighting their internal enemies,
such as German Jews, socialists, Communists, liberal, Freemasons and Catholics.
This ideological war was now to fan out across Europe in the wake of the Wehrmacht’s
victorious armies.”

(p.104)

So we see that Nazi Germany was two things.

It was a military force as well as an ideological force.
There were generals and soldiers who fought with guns, plans and tanks
and there were those who fought with thoughts and ideas…

“The Nazis waged their war on two levels: first, by conventional means, with their
armies pitched against other in military conflict, and second, by war against the ideological opposition.
The latter was not a conflict that took place on the battlefield;
it was rather a silent war of disappearances, terror, torture, murder and
deportation, whose frontline soldiers were the Gestapo, the SD, and other parts of
the regime’s terror machine.
It was a war in which the intention was not to vanquish but to liquidate.”

(P 104)

“To form the generation that would lead the Third Reich into the future, the
traditional school system was not enough.
In order to create a fundamentally new human being, a new kind of school would be required.”

(p. 88)

“Under the Nazis, the classroom became a microcosm of the totalitarian state.”
(p. 88)

As I read Rydell’s meticulous tale I understood that the Nazi war machine was more than
Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler or Herman Goering and their insatiable appetites for apparently world domination, but rather there was a even a more sinister
individual involved.

One may even speculate that Alfred Rosenberg was just as instrumental in the
rise of the Nazi’s mania machine as much as Adolph Hiter.
Rosenberg was the father of the ideology and philosophy behind the National Socialist movement, whereas Hitler was the outward visionary.
It was Rosenberg who laid the structural foundation.
Yet with each man being equally as deranged in their desires for a new Germany.

However we of the modern world scratch our heads as we wonder as to how a Nation that
was considered to be the most culturally developed and brilliant of nations could
succumb to the grandiose vision of madmen.

“When the Nazis came to power, the German school and university system
was considered the best in the world.
No other school system had produced more Nobel Prize winners.
By 1933 Germany had won thirty three Nobel Prizes, while the United States had won
only eight”

(p.86)

I am reminded of the words of The Reverend Gavin Ashenden when he was recently
asked about the rising issue of transgenderism now seen taking place
in primary schools across Great Britain.
He noted that many people ask what is the big deal.
So what if a girl of 8 decides she shall be a boy…?
What is the big deal if a 6 year old boy decides he wants to be a girl?

Rev Ashenden quickly warns us that the big deal is when the human imagination
begins to be distorted.
When we create a world based on our narcissism and idolatry of self
we challenge what God has given us…challenging the Godly as being utterly wrong.
We are telling the God of all creation that what He created was a mistake and wrong.

So as we are left balancing the chasm of time,
keeping one foot in the past with one foot in the future,
wondering what the past has to do with the now, Rydell reminds us that
those who wish to dominate do so by convincing others what it is they are to
both think and believe to be truth….

But we must always remember from whence comes our Truth….

“The danger of taking a one-sided perspective on the Nazi’s relationship to
knowledge is that it risks obscuring something even more dangerous:
The desire of totalitarian ideology to rule not only over people but also their
thoughts.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Good for the goose

“A wild goose never reared a tame gosling.”
Irish Proverb quotes

The early Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit ‘the wild goose.’ And the reason why is they knew that you cannot tame him.
John Eldredge

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(a goose in search of his breakfast Harvey’s Point Lodge, Louge Eske , County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook)

An Geadh-Glas, otherwise known to English speakers as the wild goose, is most likely the furtherest thought in one’s mind when thinking about Christianity, Christian symbolism or especially when pondering the most mysterious component of the Triune Godhead, the Holy Spirit.

Yet the early Celtic Church, that amazing amalgamation of deeply mystical Christianity and equally mystical yet enigmatic Celtic culture, saw not a docile gentle cooing dove as the supreme representative of God’s Spirit but rather the often loud, raucous, stubborn and determined goose as a more true emblematic example of God’s most untamed and fiercely determined nature–a nature much like their own.

The Celts were a fierce warrior nation comprised of the bloodlines of Vikings, Danes, Druids, Picts and members of the northern regions of ancient Albion (northern Great Britain)
The Roman Empire never occupied Ireland, nor did the Anglo Saxons who later filled the void in the Birtish Isles following the fall of Rome.

These very supertisious people were fiercely independent, steeped in their haunting pagan rituals and customs–much of which remain as a continuing mystery to modern historians and archeologists.

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(Drombeg stone circle, known as the Druid’s altar, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Drombeg stone circle, known as the Druid’s altar, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

It was in this land of lush misty covered greens, haunting shifting shadows and talk of the wee folk…where land, sea and sky join as one, that both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolken roamed, finding abundant inspiration for each of their most famous literary works.

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(Killarney National Park within the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Killarney National Park within the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit, translated simply as St Patrick, is probably the best known and most famous Irishman who in actuality was Scottish by birth. Patrick had been spirited away to Ireland as a young child by marauding pirates yet eventually became the revered patron saint of the entire Irish nation. It is Patrick who is credited for not only having introduced Christianity to the Emerald Isle, but for being the “designer” behind what we know as the celtic cross.
That most familiar image of a latin cross wrapped with a circle.

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(celtic cross in the graveyard at Dumcliff Church / County Sligo, Ireland / 2015 / Julie Cook)

It is said that the pagan Celts considered the sun to be an integral part of their worship. Circles have been found etched and carved on many excavated Celtic ruins. I think it’s rather easy to understand the importance behind worshiping the sun for the Celts— if you’ve ever spent much time in Ireland, you know how wet and grey it can be. There are parts of Ireland which receive up to 225 days of wet rainy weather each year, in turn making any and all sunny days a rare and treasured commodity.

Patrick had to be inovative if he wanted to get the Celts attention and gain their trust as the ultimate goal was total conversion and allegiance to the one true God. So Patrick set about with a brilliant plan combining both a component most important to the Celtic nation, that being the sun–a revered circle, bridging the abyss to the most important image to Christians, the Latin cross, with the addition of a circle ringing around the cross–a combination representing both sun and Son as the circle is also a Christian symbol representing God’s endlessness.

DSCN1909
(covering of one of the many purported wells used by Patrick to baptized the new converts to Christ, found buried near the site of present day St Patrick’s Cathedral /Dublin, Ireland / 2015 / Julie Cook)

Patrick is also considered as the one person who established the shamrock as one of Ireland’s most endearing symbols. The Celts were an agrarian nation as Ireland is a rich fertile island due in part to being on the receiving end of the warming and wet energies of the Atlantic gulf stream. As an island people they were deeply connected, attuned as well as dependent on the land. So Patrick utilized those things that were common and entrenched in the common man’s life. A most humble yet prolific example being the clover. The clover was a perfect teaching tool as it so beautifully manifests the image of the Holy Trinity.

DSCN1871
(early clover images on an ancient carving on a crypt in St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / 2015)

In the early days of the young Christian Church, many a humble yet determined monk of the fledgling Christian Church came and went from this mystical isle in hopes of further spreading the Gospel.
Some traveled freely while others sadly disappeared…lost in time…victims of pirates, invaders, and local hostilities.

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(plaque commemorating the lives of the Teelin monks who set sail for Iceland in the 5th century / Teelin , Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yet for all the anguished years of famine and immigrations, for all of her tumultuous history of waring invaders and defiant fought battles, Ireland has held fiercely fast and tight to her Christian roots. We are all aware of the growing insidious cloud of secularism that is sweeping across Europe and Western society…we are also all painfully aware of Ireland’s past “troubles”—the deep and often bloody mistrust and resentment between north and south, Catholic and Protestant, British Crown and Independent…yet despite all the years of bloodshed, turmoil, both internal and external, Ireland has laid claim and held on undeterred to her faith…a faith of deep respect for the God of all Salvation as well as the Great Creator of both land and sea, heaven and sky.

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(both cat and goose wait for feeding / Harvey’s Point Lodge, County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

Christ be with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ in me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man
who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man
who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me
Salvation is of the Lord.</em
>

Elusive

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.”
Mahatma Gandhi

DSCN6653
(female ruby throated hummingbird / Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

Sitting in the oppressive 97 degree heat on the back deck, under the stifling black awning, listening, watching, waiting.
Poised and ready.
Sweat begins to bead along the temples.
Finger resting gently on the button, as the camera is already zoomed and focused.
The air is heavy.
A distant peal of thunder breaks concentration.
The reverberating rumble, ominous, teases the painfully dry ground.

Suddenly there is a rapid series of high pitched chirps immediately followed by an unseen and ever nearing deafening vibration.
It is heard long before the eye can locate and focus.

CLICK

Upon inspection, a mere blur is almost totally out of the frame.
UGH!

Again.
Situate,
Position.
Zoom in
Focus.
Listen.
Watch.
Wait.

DSCN6657

As I sit waiting endlessly on the tiny band of hummingbirds which call my yard home–waiting for them to stop long enough for me to capture a quick stop at the feeder, verses their usual dive-bombing ariel displays which transpire throughout the day. . . my thoughts wander, as I sit in my frustration, pondering those things in my life which remain elusive, hidden, evasive–that which is just beyond my grasp.

RSCN6650

We all carry within our being “things” that seem to constantly and sadistically elude our grasp.
Those things which remain hidden in the shadows, whispering seductively to us from the dark.
Only being seen as a darting image out of the corner of a weary eye.
Toying and teasing with tender raw emotions, we continue to wait, watch, hope, lament.

Perhaps it may be for that heart wrenching relationship to mend and heal.
Perhaps the much longed for sense of security and safety.
A much needed job.
A much needed better job.
The needed refreshing and life giving rains.
The ability to finally and miraculously have that long awaited baby.
The frustrating and fraught efforts for the recovery from catastrophic injury.
The soothing sense of Peace.
The satisfaction of the never-ending Truth.
The tangible realness of one’s Faith.

Always remaining just barely out of reach–despite the outstretched arm, fingers straining outward–If only we could stretch just a little farther. . .
muscles ache and cramp,
almost there, just a little more. . .
straining for just one much inch. . .
suddenly and frustratingly sadly, the resignation and finality of the elusive once again,
haughtily laughs at the limitations of self,
as “it” escapes once again.

Money cannot procure it.
Pleading will not produce it.
Agility cannot capture it
Ingenuity will never create it.
Yearning will only add torment.
Stealth will never surpass it.
This world will never claim it.

The “it”, the “thing”, the need, the want, the “elusive”. . . is not of this world and you and I
will never catch or capture it as it is more than the mere wants and needs of our hearts.
It is the insatiable thirst and hunger of the soul which no one of this earth and no one thing of this life can ever satisfy. A longing and insatiable longing to be reunited with the Creator of the Universe.

Kingdoms have risen and fallen.
Monuments and wonders have been built and destroyed.
Wars have been won and lost.
And yet we all remain
wanting,
needing,
searching,
seeking,
thirsty,
hungry of heart and soul.

And just so you know, I finally got my long awaited picture, as the ones that you are seeing are not those— as my dear hummingbirds finally lit within range.
I clicked then checked—a great shot–a perfect shot.
No shadows.
No blurs.
Focused.
Detailed.
And yet,
just as I began the process of transferring the images from the camera to computer, oddly, there is nothing there.
Nothing
No images.
NO IMAGES??!!
For what reason of which I know not, the disc suddenly failed, the past two weeks of images, gone.
Disappeared.
Erased.
UGH.
Elusive to the end.

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I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:18-19

Hear the words of Paul, a prisoner of Rome, as he so beautifully and yet simply states the real quest of all of our souls—the meeting of all our needs and desires by the one true and only God through Christ, Jesus His son.
For it is here, in Him, in which all treasures lie—
and until you and I finally figure that out, we will continue spending a lifetime in the constant pursuit, the quest, of the Elusive.