She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

the melodies of woo

Men are April when they woo,
December when they wed.
Maids are May when they are maids,
but the sky changes when they are wives.

William Shakespeare

“In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Alfred Tennyson


(sweetgum tree with a traveling minstral perched high above / Julie Cook / 2018)

I heard it long before I saw it.
Loud yet sweetly melodic.

I scanned the area.
Surely it was close…but as I followed the harmonious calls,
my eyes carried me out toward the backfield meadow then high atop a sweetgum tree.

And there they sat…or more aptly put, swayed gently in the afternoon breeze,
balancing ever just so at the very top of the tender tip-top branch of the sweet gum tree.

Uncertain as to whom I was exactly listening to serenading his love, I grabbed my camera
in order to zoom in to identify this lofty crooner.

And low and behold, it was my resident mockingbird…singing ever so sweetly, ever so tenderly,
ever so joyously to the young lady of his fancy who just so happened to be sitting on
a nearby branch.

Ode to a young man bird and his fancy of love…
sadly, she flew away…

The Young Man’s Song
W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

I whispered, “I am too young,”
And then, “I am old enough”;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
“Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair,”
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

Oh, love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away,
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

A time of force verses a time of reason

“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught
falsehoods in school.
And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a
lunatic and fool”

Plato

“Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.”

William Shakespeare


(bad day for a little fish / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

I can’t recall exactly where I read it, just the other night…
that we are living in a time when force trumps that of reason.

Meaning that whereas we were once a people of reason and rational thought…
we have now morphed into a people who have decided that force will be the
De Facto rather than De Jure.

Brut force now triumphing over our ability to intellectually reason…
As brut force has become the preferred plat du jour.

And it was reading that little observation that I was hit square between the eyes.

As in…that’s what this has all been about…hasn’t it!?

This madness we’ve been witnessing all these many months…
these protests, demonstrations and attacks against our own countrymen…
It’s all about the loss of reason and the gain of force.

No longer are the masses allowing rational thought to lead us in our governance,
living and thinking but rather they are exhibiting a dangerous proclivity
for the power of sheer brut force…
Brut force in order to yield their desired end result.

For this new growing angry mass has lost all patience for proper procedure,
due process and even free thought as they demonstrate that they have no taste for
the civil, the sequential or the rational…
preferring to use brawn and force against those who they find to be counter
in both thought and belief…

It’s no longer a matter of presentation, persuasion, and civil discourse …
instead it is a matter of beating one senseless, bullying one to yielding
and forcing one into submission…

Then…

NSDAP supporters are fighting on the street against KPD supporters, scene from ‘Horst Wessel’, directed by Franz Wenzler, Germany 1933.

And Now…..


(NBC news)

The pendulum continues to swing…in a most dangerous direction…

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,
always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason
for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

of gods and goddess…

“Am I in earth, in heaven, or in hell?
Sleeping or waking, mad or well-advised?
Known unto these, and to myself disguised?
I’ll say as they say, and persever so,
And in this mist at all adventures go.”

― William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors


(statue of Thalia, 2nd century / The Vatican Museum / Rome, Italy)

Thalia, the Greek Goddess of comedy, was the 8th of 9 muses and was one of the
many daughters of the Greek God Zeus.
Most scholars credit Zeus with having 92 children…
so I’m not exactly certain as to where Thalia
rates on the favorite list but seeing that she was in charge of comedy and all things happy,
she was probably a favorite daddy’s girl…
but I digress.

And as the goddess of comedy and poetry, her very name, which translates to flourishing,
referenced that her gifts would flourish through the ages…

However today, I am actually wondering more about the Goddess Moron…

As in I just know that with all those gods and goddesses,
throughout all of the mythology we had to learn in school,
surely there was one named Moron…
Who, might I add, was responsible for stupidity…..
As in, moron being a word that translates to idiot, dunce, blockhead…
as in…
well, I’m sure everyone gets where’s this is all going.

Shakespeare first introduced us to the notion of a comedy of errors with his
play of the same name.
Yet over the years the ‘catch phrase’ came to mean something that was to be
“made amusing by bungling and incompetence.”

So when we say something is a comedy of errors, we mean it is a situation
that is one of idiocy, most likely caused by the Goddess Moron, or at least by a
dunce or idiot acting like a moron who has
demonstrated a certain level of incompetence or bungling…

So during my arduous ride home today on the burgeoning Atlanta interstate system,
the same interstate system that is now bursting at the seams due to the massive interstate closure
as a result of last week’s fire and road collapse,
I found myself pondering the notion of writing a book.

I think it will be entitled, My life, a comedy of errors
but that title may already be taken…
so….how about…
“Wait and let ME do that…so you can learn from my incompetence”
I’ll use the pen name Goddess Moron.
If Dana Elaine Owens can rename herself Queen Latifah, I, Julie Cook can rename myself
the Goddess Moron.

Makes perfect sense.

And why all this self deprecation you wonder….
Well, I’m so glad you asked…

Have you ever had to go to your town or city’s courthouse to get official paperwork?

A nightmare, I know…..

And if so, you may understand that such a visit is a matter of hoop jumping.

Due to the interstate closures and downtown now being impenetrable, you have to go
to the northern city’s annex.
A building built in the late 60’s that has never had an update or remodeling experience.

You arrive, along with thousands of others who had the same brilliant thought as yourself…
show up on a Thursday cause it seemed like a good idea…

You have to park in an overflow lot that is down by a dumpster and a sea of kudzu
and busted asphalt.
Winded after hiking up from the pawpaw patch,
you enter through a set of double glass doors covered with all sorts of warning signs.

A guard greets you…but….
no one smiles and babies are crying.
There is an odor.
Stale, smokey, bodyish…odors
There are guards and deputies staring you down as you fret that by the way you
are standing could just possibly land you in the pokey.
It’s that serious.

You stand in a long line just to get a ticket to stand in another line and
to be able to simply ask a question…
Asking a question of a person behind a bullet proof glass.
There is a small hole that you can speak through as well as listen through.
You tell her you’re here to probate your dad’s will.
“Oh you’re in the wrong place, you need to be upstairs”

Relieved to leave the sea of waiting humanity, you go outside and walk up the sidewalk
to the “top floor.”
Here another guard tells you to go to the last room down the hall on the right.
The sea of humanity waiting in the hallway is a key clue as to you being in the right spot.

Here is where people buy marriage licenses, gun carry permits as they gather
copies of officially filed identifying papers, probate wills, etc….

You sign in on the sheet sitting on the counter, in the cramped little office,
while the nonplused woman working the other side of the counter tells you to sign in,
go sit down somewhere and not to crowd the counter…
and oh, she’s locking the doors at 1:00 until 2PM for lunch…
You look down at your watch, it’s 12:20.

She processes two of the sea of waiting folks when the magic number 1:00 strikes.
She clears the office telling those waiting inside to go out in the hall and wait with
the others until 2:00.
She locks the door.

You have all your papers in a nice folder sitting on your lap.
You have the check ready for the $200 processing fee.
Your cousin had actually come to meet you and help out but after leaving the first office of
humanity, you thank him, telling him that he is free and needs to go back to work—
because only one from the family should remain in servitude to the system.
You now make nice conversations with your fellow waiters….or is that waitees?

The bell for 2:00PM sounds and the nonplused woman returns and unlocks the door.
She is alone today and mad.
Her supervisor failed to show up for work, leaving her alone to tend to the sea of humanity.
You think that maybe she should now be supervisor.

You hear a few folks fussing, as they walk past you into the adjacent courtroom,
complaining that “if 3 million people voted for her, why did we get him”….
It registers in your brain that you know what they’re talking about and you just
shake your head while you hear another voice screaming in your head that if the man
could just do his job maybe, just maybe,
this whole sea of waiting humanity might not have to wait so long
and that perhaps some of the idiotic bureaucracy could finally be dealt with…
finally allowing this bureaucratic nightmare,
that is morphing into the monster we have created into this thing we call government…
but that screaming voice in your head is now apologizing for digressing…

All of this while new folks file into the cramped office to sign the sheet…
with the nonplused woman behind the counter telling everyone she is closeing the
office at 4PM and everyone will have come back in the morning at 8:30.
A newcomer asks is she’ll pick up where she left off on the list the following day.
“No” she answers flatly, “it’s a new day”…

Finally the sweet little lady, who has been sitting by you this entire time,
has her name called.
She just needed a $10 copy of proof guardianship for her now 22 year old granddaughter
for a college scholarship—
never mind the college has three copies already on file–
she needed another new one…

As you continue waiting, you rather mindlessly and nonchalantly look down,
for the millionth time, at the letter from your lawyer sitting on your lap.
You have the packet she sent to present to the court,
you made certain you had the death certificates,
you had the check ready to be filled out…
you had proof of ID…
but wait….
the will…
where is the will?????

You feel your cheeks burning.
Your stomach flips over.
There is a pain now drilling deep into your temples.
You live an hour and a half away…
You’ve waited almost three hours….
You feel as if you’re having an outer body experience.
You are not allowed to ask any questions until your name is called.
Do you keep sitting, waiting, just to ask if you need the hard copy
of the will in order
to probate the will???

Seems like a no brainer.

You get up from your now well worn chair…
you silently leave your fellow waitees…
making your way back down to the dumpster, busted asphalt, kudzu and your car.

You feel hot tears rolling down your cheeks.
A nice man passes you on the sidewalk…
he sees your tears as he kindly and somewhat knowingly smiles.

When suddenly out of nowhere…
you hear a familiar shrill and overtly heavily ladened southern
laced voice opine…..
“Well fiddledeedee, tomorrow is another day”

Thankful for the wisdom from the southern goddess Scarlett…
you make your way back to the sea of cars on the interstate
ready to come back and do this all over again….another day….

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;
whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap
a harvest if we do not give up.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:7-10

Time waits for no man

“Time and Tide wait for no man”
Geoffrey Chaucer

c58f3793aa749757b8f7bddcde76371d(Antique pocket watches courtesy the web)

When one’s small world is spinning out of control…
as pressure builds from the hot heavy tears sitting perched just behind straining eyes…
the screaming voices of
Russian hackers, love-in entertainers and national upheaval over an all things political…
pales greatly in comparison to the heaviness weighing upon one’s heart….

that which comes from the uncontrollable spinning of the circumstance of one’s life…

Time,
contrary to our egoistical presumptions,
cares not for our feeble planning…

Our only recourse…?

We wait….

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare / Macbeth

For God alone, O my soul,
wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

Psalm 62:5

This time of year….

Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.

William Shakespeare

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish saying

Halloween Pumpkins, Witch, Devil, and Black Cat
(vintage halloween card)

What is it about this time of year…
This time of year when we seem to crave the supernatural?
Is it in our nature to lean-in, ever so closely,
to those ancient tales of the “other side”?

Halloween,
what once was an evening relegated to the innocence of the imaginations of children,
has grown to become the second largest commercial “holiday” following Christmas.
No longer is All Hallow’s Eve a single night for young children to don costumes…
all the while as they canvass their neighborhoods, singing trick or treat,
as they amass a small mountain of candy…

Adults have gotten deep into the act.
With Halloween merry making and party going exceeding that of New Years Eve…
For it has now become a month long event….

Yet aside from candy and costumes, which innocently afford one the opportunity to play
dress up as some alter ego,
Halloween has become, more or less, a spiritual excuse.
An open invitation allowing ourselves to taste a bit of a spiritual realm…
But the trouble…
for that is what it becomes, a trouble…
lies in the choice of realms…

Bemused, you may wonder if there is a problem with this yearly interest,
of which borders on obsession,
in this revelry of the realm of the spirits…

And I fear that…yes, perhaps there is.

For you see, we are indeed spiritual beings…
with spirituality being hardwired into our DNA—
And history has proven that it is not necessarily always a need
for a monotheistic God that we seek,
but some sort of spirituality none the less.

Hollywood has long jumped on the bandwagon of our desire to examine spiritual realms,
while at the same time allowing us to exert that odd need to be frightened.
Spook and Horror movies, as well as those tales of witchcraft,
demon possession and specters, have long topped box offices
as we have an almost sick obsession with such.

It is as if cultures worldwide use Halloween as some sort of green light,
a go ahead in affording ourselves permission to dabble in the art of
fortune telling, tarot cards, palm readers, seances, Ouija boards,
paranormal hunting…the supernatural.
All coupled with jaunts to places that are supposedly haunted, creepy and even perhaps dangerous…
and lest we forget the trips to the myriads of haunted / horror houses
which open throughout the month.

Even Disney and Six Flags have each gotten into the act…

So we tell ourselves that that makes it all perfectly safe and harmless.

And yes Halloween, and the thought of spirits,
does indeed course through the blood of humankind….
With those roots traveling far back to Celtic Europe, the ancient Pagan Middle Eastern Kingdoms,
ancient tribes of the Americas, Asia and even Africa—
as every race of people has had that aspect of the supernatural and mystical tied
to their very beginnings.

So maybe we’ve just deem it as all innocent fun as we explore this need of the mystical.

Perhaps we merely convince ourselves that it’s simply wired
deep within the ancient core of our brains…
this odd desire to be scared and frightened…
all the while as we parle into a realm different from our own…

Maybe it’s just something we simply enjoy…

“So what,” we grouse, if it morphs into something else…
something other…
“I’m not scared, I don’t believe in that
hocus locus business…it’s just harmless fun…”

Yet there is just something troubling about it all…
Something actually quite unsettling…
Something actually very dangerous..

For in the naiveté of opening seemingly harmless doors,
we enter into an on-going battle…
an ancient battle for which we are simply not prepared to fight…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13

hanging in there…

Flee from the crowd and dwell with truthfulness;
Suffice thee with thy goods, tho’ they be small:
To hoard brings hate, to climb brings giddiness;
The crowd has envy, and success blinds all;
Desire no more than to thy lot may fall;
Work well thyself to counsel others clear,
And Truth shall make thee free,
there is no fear!

Geoffrey Chaucer / Ballade of the Good Counsel

ppp-chaucer
(Good ol Geoffrey Chaucer holding a set of prayer beads like the ones I had with me today)

After an exceedingly long day…
My son and I finally got Dad home at almost 9PM.
Surgery was a bit over 2 hours and went well.
Recovery, however, was a different matter.

The tumor was / is large, so the surgeon took what he could,
leaving the rest…as it has become a part of the bladder.
It is fast growing and deep but he hopes that by trimming it,
he has curtailed the bleeding.

Dad woke straight away, ready to immediately depart for home…
that not being his eternal home, but rather his home with his chair and TV…

The problem however was his oxygen levels…they simply would not regulate.
He was admitted to extended recovery where we waited…and waited,
much to Dad’s displeasure.
I believe if I had suggested that we unplug him from all life sustaining devices
and hightail it out of there, he and that walker of his would have beaten me
to the elevators…

He came home with a cath…which the nurses gave me a crash course on
plugging, unplugging and replugging,
all with way too much dad TMI…
But hopefully that will be removed Tuesday at the post op appointment.
Pathology should be back by Tuesday as well…but I think the doctor is
pretty certain as to which direction that may sadly be headed…

However, taking the lead from a fellow southern belle, that often defiant Scarlett O’Hara…
“I’ll think about that tomorrow…”

Your prayers and well wishes sustained us throughout the day,
as some in the medical field doubted Dad coming through today’s ordeal in one piece…
Yet Dad is like that energizer bunny…mixed with a little of that old Timex watch ad…
all rolled in to one…
He takes a lickin, but keeps on tickin…
on and on and on….
thank the Lord!

It is now very late, or rather very early…so on that weary note…..
Good night,
good night!
Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night
till it be morrow