Beautiful hope is found in the weeds

“You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside,
but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel,
if one can only get at it. Love will make you show your heart some day,
and then the rough burr will fall off.”

Louisa May Alcott


(a thistle prepares to bloom / Julie Cook / 2020)

Thistles, to me, are most alluring.

To Eeyore, they are a tasty ‘smakeral’ or so Pooh would observe.

They begin, in the early spring, as a spikey mass or clump, of uninviting serrated leaves
emerging oddly from the ground.

Trust me, don’t use bare hands in an attempt to pull them up in order to rid your space
of this most unwanted visitor.

They will eventually send forth one, or even several, shoots sporting a purplish fringed bulb.
As this odd bulb unfurls its full glory, the bloom is almost regal in a crown-like
explosion of texture.


(a thistle crown / Julie Cook / 2020)

And like all earthly glories, these odd blooming weeds eventually fade, turning themselves
back to seed.


(a field of thistles gone to seed /Julie Cook / 2020)

And yet the fact that these plants are considered useless and invasive and even noxious
weeds, there is a beauty found in their blooming and a bit of
respect found in their tenacity.

Saturday I was reading Kathy’s post over on atimetoshare.me —
Kathy was offering some waxing thoughts regarding our world’s current pandemic situation.

I found one passage most enlightening…

Our current younger generation are those who will not experience the pageantry of
a real graduation – those who will not go to their Senior prom –
those who have been through the good, the bad and now the ugly –
those who will be running our country in the next few years.

These unique young people will become a generation of problem solvers,
creative thinkers, money managers, inventive and innovative thinkers all because
their world was turned upside down by a little germ.
They will be the second greatest generation, because they have experienced plenty or at least enough.
They have been on the cutting edge of technology.
They have seen their nation at its worst and at its best.

SATURDAY SOUND OFF

Kathy noted that this current class of seniors, be it high school or college, are presently
experiencing a great many firsts in the way of loss.

Losses of certain rights of passage.

No Spring sports.
No state championships.
No Spring breaks.
No year-end award ceremonies.
No trophies.
No classes
No proms.
No senior days.
No graduations.
No graduation trips.

Only a seemingly unending sense of loss, isolation with more questions than answers.

And yet Kathy notes that this will be the group to become our next class of problem solvers.
They will be our newest innovators and creative thinkers…in part because
such a role and responsibility has been thrust upon them.

They have been handed a mantle of burden and responsibility despite not necessarily seeing
such coming their way.
And it is perhaps not truly a burden they have wanted…but they have been handed such nonetheless.

And so in this time of surreal losses and misses, there is a generation
that will have to rise to the occasion of problem-solving.

They have the tools at their fingertips as a pandemic has now spurred them on–
be it out of frustration, resentment, or simple curiosity…
hope now rests in the beauty of a blooming generation…

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

a whole mess of weeds

I always think of my sins when I weed.
They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of.

Helena Rutherfurd Ely, A Woman’s Hardy Garden, 1903


(one of many bucket loads of weeds / Julie Cook / 2020)

You should probably know that the state of Georgia can actually experience all
four seasons within a week’s time.
Sometimes that might simply be during the course of a weekend.

Our winters have become a cycle of one day of dreary wet, grey cold followed by
a day of bright warming sun…
this pattern persists for much of December, January, and February…
with a possible blizzard come March.

With that being said, peering out the window on those dreary wet chilly days,
I’ve sorely noticed how the wild onions have been taking over my flower beds.
Mild temperate wet is a perfectly fertile condition for weeds like wild onions.
One of the many banes of my existence.

Yesterday was dreary chilly grey.
Today was temperate sun.
Tomorrow is to be wet chilly grey.

Sooooo, I thought I’d take advantage of today’s temperate sunshine, while I had a
few glorious hours without any clamoring demands…all but for those demanding weeds.

I grabbed a pail and trowel while donning my gloves as I set out about digging up those
annoying wild onions along with any other emerging pest.

As my back began to ache, forcing me to wobble through the flower beds “walking”
on my knees, that is until I hit a rock, I mused whether or not I should simply learn
to accept and maybe even relish the weeds.

Should I forego the flowers, the plants, the bushes and let the weeds simply run amuck?

Suddenly the thought of God allowing weeds, aka sins, to run amuck hit me like
a ton of bricks.

Plucking, digging and pulling is arduous…it is painstaking…especially the older I get.
But I do it because I know just how great the flower beds can look in their full
glory come Spring.

Yet does not God do that very same thing?
Plucking, pulling, digging, deadheading…
And why does He do it?
Because He knows how beautiful we will be in our sin-free reborn selves…

And so I continue in my pursuit…
because continues in His pursuit of me…

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,
and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 5:12

“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

weedling it out

“Awake! arise! the hour is late!
Angels are knocking at thy door!
They are in haste and cannot wait,
And once departed come no more.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(weeds found amongst the rocks / Julie Cook / 2018)

The word weedling has a variety of meanings and uses…
all of which are more or less of the urban slang variety versus that of the Queen’s
English variety.

I use it when talking about sorting through things…

A cross between, digging, weeding, sorting, discarding that which is non-essential
cluttering junk as compared to that which is essential and necessary.

A task of tossing or keeping.

And as I scan our headlines, our world events, our markings and our recognitions…
I’m beginning to feel as if we must be about the task of weedling when it comes
to what is real, what is really important and all of that which is not.

I’m having to play a drastic game of catch up with my viewing of Anglican Unscripted…
that of our dear friend and favorite rouge Anglican bishop, Gavin Ashenden and host
Kevin Clausen as they meet weekly to discuss the latest in the way of Anglicanism and that
of the Chruch as well as life for Christians in general within our Western Civilization.

I’ve just now gotten to watch the episode from the Tuesday of Holy Week.

And what an enlightening episode is has been.

Bishop Ashenden explains to Kevin a little about his online ministry and his initial
reluctance to actually “offer a homily” online.
It is only a small portion of the good Bishop’s current clerical duties but he felt very
much that God had spoken to him about offering such a service to interested Christians
out there somewhere on the internet.

He speaks of the awkwardness of “preaching” into a camera of a faceless audience but
that God had been very specific in His demand.
And who are we to disagree when God speaks or demands??

It has been slowly revealed to the good bishop that the faithful are demonstrating
an almost monastic need for direct worship as Christianity–
that of the true Christian faithful…those who are very much wanting,
if not needing clerical guidance and ministering–is becoming alarmingly apparent
due to the sensed pressure of having to go more and more underground with the
practice of their (our) faith.

And why you may wonder are Christians feeling the need to head underground?

Well this is where we stop and take a look at how our Western Society and Culture
is currently dealing with Christianity and the Chruch and its take on sin versus
that of choice by the masses.
While we watch the body of Christ slowly being squeezed more and more by a polarizing
Marxist leftist society and a radically liberal culture.

The good Bishop admits that he believes true Christians…
those Christians who believe in God’s word as sacred will be literally driven
underground in the near future. As freedom to worship God according to God’s word
will be a crime because our society does not like the notion of sin, sinfulness
or culpability for that sin.

This as we see more and more Christians being labeled homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic
all because they, they being you and me, believe God has been very specific in what He has
stated as a sinful lifestyle as well as that which runs counter to Holy Scripture.

Living life as a true Christian will soon be deemed living life as a true hate crime violator.
As disagreeing with Homosexuality, Transgenderism or anything of the LGBTQ communities
is indeed considered very much a hate crime.
Of which will push true Christians further away from what will become a “state”
sanctioned church.

We are actually already seeing this take place in our mainstream denominations…
Should a minister or priest say anything publically against or to the negative
about homosexuality or even refuse to conduct same-sex marriage…
that minister/priest is ostracized, demoted or even relieved of his duties.

And whereas the notion of moving underground may all sound rather Orwellian or paranoid…
I for one clearly see the writing on the wall.

Bishop Ashenden recalls a time when he was actually smuggling Bibles into the
then Soviet Union as well as theological books into what is today the Czech Republic,
all before the fall of Communism.

This was because the Communist Regime in the Czech Republic had decided that the best way to
crush the Chruch and Christianity would be to simply ban all clerical ordinations…while
destroying seminaries and all theological books of study.
As the thought was that by doing so, the Chruch would shrivel up and die within a
generation’s time.

This was very much the mindset of Nazi Germany in Poland during WWII—as I am reminded of
a young Karol Wojtyla studying for the priesthood in a very clandestine fashion as
ordinations within the Catholic church were strictly forbidden under Nazi rule.
He would literally meet in the basement of a building under the cloak of darkness to study for
his ordination…
Should he or the priest who was conducting the lessons been discovered,
both men would have been immediately shot for treason against the state.

Bishop Ashenden believes that our very own state-sanctioned authorities will begin to weed out
people before they have a chance to be ordained because of the state demanding like-minded
folks preaching their idea of the gospel of all-inclusiveness versus the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As any sort of belief system or gospel will be prevented from containing the notion of sin
or of sin’s repercussions but rather the said gospel of self-rule, along with a belief that all
things, all lifestyles, are to be deemed acceptable, will be the only tolerable view.

And so if you think all of this sounds utterly far-fetched or perhaps even over the top in our
most modern civilized society…
I would caution you to think again.

This as I am once again reminded of Mark’s comment from the other day about when a
generation is silenced, God will indeed have the stones cry out…
(Luke 19:40)

Anglican Unscripted…Gavin Ashenden

wonder found in the details…

I live and love in God’s peculiar light.
Michelangelo


(close up of a thistle / Julie Cook / 2017)

Yesterday, my friend Colorstorm over on The Lion’s Den
( https://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/well-this-is-deep/ )
offered a post complete with a rather informative video clip regarding the depths
of the ocean.

An amazingly informative little narrative that is not only factually full but is
actually quite humbling.

And in keeping with this humbling mindset,
last week CS offered a clip about the majesty of the earth.
The clip offered an interesting perspective of a flat planet vs the more familiar round.
Yet no matter one’s thoughts on flat or round—the earth is beyond words.
The sheer majesty of the natural planet is so much greater than man’s capacity for
adjectives….

And now CS has offered a clip of equal magnitude when considering the depths of the ocean.
The clip does not focus on pretty pictures but rather indisputable numbers,
facts and comparisons.

It is estimated that only 5% of the ocean floor has been adequately “mapped” by man.
Meaning that there is 95% of the world’s oceans that are a vast unexplored mystery.
And since the oceans of this planet cover 71% of earth’s surface…that is
an awful lot of unknowns….

So as I pondered and mused over the fact that our God,
the Creator of not only the earth, but of all that is within…
that the Creator of all the oceans and seas that cover this earth…
is so awesome,
so amazing,
so beyond man’s mere limited comprehension…
that even the creatures of the darkest depths are provided illumination and
that even the most mundane and cursed of weeds of the land is topped with a glorious crown…

For His attention is not only full of the big, the vast, the deep and the wide,
but it is in the tiniest of details that we actually see His true nature…
that of an endless loving compassion…

No one is like you, Lord;
you are great,
and your name is mighty in power.
Who should not fear you,
King of the nations?
This is your due.
Among all the wise leaders of the nations
and in all their kingdoms,
there is no one like you.

Jeremiah 10:6-7

Then and now

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
Guillaume Apollinaire

“Wishes are memories coming from our future!”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

DSC01689
(dandelion / Julie Cook / 2015)

With eyes tightly closed,
and lips readily posed,
we blew hard for what might be. . .

There were dreams and wishes,
along with a few stolen kisses–
That’s what I longed for back then. . .

But today is much different,
With all that now distant,
As my wishes are no longer my own. . .

For health and for happiness,
along for a world without madness,
As we now find ourselves praying for what should be. . .

DSC01692

Treasure hidden among the weeds

“With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made useful; it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How many men resemble the nettle!” He added with a pause: “Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

DSCN4982
(a painted lady butterfly finding nourishment among the weeds / Julie Cook / 2014)

On this glorious Sunday, as you perhaps spend a warm sunny May day worshiping, enjoying family and friends, marking milestones of graduations and weddings or simply spending an afternoon serenely pondering and recalling the importance of why we mark this weekend as our Memorial Day celebration, I wish that you may happily find yourself stumbling upon any and all tiny treasures hidden among the weeds.

May you take time to notice the minute. May you relish and marvel in what is around you. May you offer thanksgiving for the peace, beauty, family, friends–for the time spent freely and lazily and for bright futures ahead and for whatever those futures may bring.

May we all be mindful that there are really no such things as weeds nor bad men, but that we, humankind, may not always be doing the very best job possible at cultivating all that is around us. . .as we don’t often take the time.
Today may we all make a conscious decision to begin cultivating, with love and care, all that is around us—for the reaped reward will certainly be great.

Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
and showers his righteousness on you.

Hosea 10:12

knowing when is when

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
― Leonardo da Vinci

DSCN4795

DSCN4787
(the spent and deadheaded geraniums / Julie Cook / 2014)

I probably would never make a very good farmer, master gardener and I’m now worried about my becoming a small potatoes chicken farmer, but more about that later.

“Huh?”, you shrug.

You know the whole mindset of cutting away in order to make way for bigger and better–well that’s a tough call for me. It’s the fine art of knowing when is when.

Now I can do the whole deadheading thing—as in when a flower is spent and fading fast, wisdom tells us to cut away the dead and dying in order to promote more growth and flowering.
That one is a no brainer.

However when it comes to pruning a tree or shrub, a tree or shrub that is by all accounts healthy and happy, that’s when things start to merge over to the grey side of decision making.

I totally get the whole symmetry thing, as I’m all about some symmetry, but when faced with the proposition of cutting away this or that healthy branch in order to foster taller growth or to prevent future troubles, as in falling limbs, etc— that’s when and where things start to get dicy.

Add to that the seedling issue of a garden and I’m toast.

The instructions on the packet read:
Plant 4 to 8 seeds in hill (I’ve never understood the whole hill thing, but I mound hills up every year– God forbid the one year we opted not to “hill”– the squash and zucchini were not as prolific or healthy. . .so my husband now swears by the “hill” effect)
Space hills 4 ft apart.
Thin to 3 to 4 plants per hill.
Keep fruit picked for longer production.

DSCN4818

Ok I more than understand the whole pick the fruits and vegetables on a timely basis concept, as that pretty much is the whole point of planting—as in picking and eating. . .but it’s this business of planting 8 seeds then pulling up, killing, destroying and throwing away 4 healthy ones—leaving 4 others to remain in the hill, which gets me.

I certainly like to think I’m a “waste not want not” kind of girl.
Is it just me or is planting double the number of seeds than one actually needs– not the most thrifty or economical plan?
I suppose one of the leading reasons for this plethora of seed planting would be whether or not all the seeds germinate. Perhaps it’s the safety in numbers concept or more like there’s a guarantee in numbers.
Or perhaps the school of thought here is for the really thrifty minded among to pull up those “throw away” seedlings and replant them on a new mound. But who has time or room for that added adventure? All my “hills” are full.

DSCN4820

DSCN4821
(we had a real gully washer night before last so our soil is saturated / these are the squash seedlings, with 4 unsuspecting little ones waiting for their preselected death)

This year I even tried my hand at planting tiny seeds in tiny little starter cups. Look at all those future carrots—who by the way were also soaked by the torrential downpour from the heavens above—Which just may mean that all little carrots, leeks and red swiss chard may have drowned, saving me from the decision of deciding who stays and grows or who goes to the compost grave.

DSCN4819

I think it all must boil down to some sort of predisposed decision making, sans emotional attachment, process that I failed to receive at inception. I cannot for the life of me not feel badly or torn for the seedlings I choose to discard. My mind races with thoughts of how the little plants could / would grow into beautiful plants with succulent vegetables. How could I ever choose who lives or who dies—I’m certainly no Caesar with that whole thumbs up thumbs down sort of thing.

Happily I acquiesce the painful duty of plant selection to my more cold blooded husband. Without a single thought or agonizing internal argument, he simply bends down and plucks and plucks until the proper healthy number of plants remains. No real thought process or internal struggle or personal dilemma on his part—just merely pulling up a couple of extra plants here and there.

The moral of this little tale, which we are all now wondering and hoping will come to light. . .would be that some of us have an innate sorting ability while others of us–not so much. As Leonardo has so aptly reminded us. . . it’s not enough that we “know” what must be done, the important matter is that we must apply that knowledge, we must do what it is that we know we must do.
It is the action side of knowledge that is important.
And as far as gardening is concerned, that can be a matter of life and death—-oh dear, even writing that down has me torn.
No matter, for if you’ll excuse me, I must go pull weeds. I’ve certainly got no problem there.
I can pluck and toss a weed any ol day.
Happy weeding!

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

DSCN3854
(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?

DSCN3858

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?

DSCN3842

DSCN3844

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

DSCN3595

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:

DSCN3515

DSCN3592

Nandina berries offer beautiful contrast to their coat of white:

DSCN3555

DSCN3554

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

DSCN3568

DSCN3560


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

DSCN3600

DSCN3533

**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!!