Et tu…?

Perhaps the most famous three words uttered in literature,
“Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?)
this expression has come down in history to mean the ultimate betrayal by one’s closest friend.
This scene, in which the conspirators in the Senate assassinate Caesar,
is one of the most dramatic moments on the Shakespearean stage.
The audience has just witnessed the arrogance and hubris of a ruler
who has sought, within a republic, to become a monarch, comparing himself to the gods.
Brutus, a friend of Caesar and yet a man who loves Rome
(and freedom) more, has joined the conspirators in the assassination,
a betrayal which is captured by the three words above in this famous Shakespeare quote.

Julius Caesar (III, i, 77)
enotes.com


(an odd guest / Julie Cook / 2019)

There has been a betrayal…as in an Et tu Brute sort of betrayal…but more about that in a bit…
as our story will twist us back to that moment of utter treachery shortly.

Saturday afternoon, in between laundry loads, I was walking by the kitchen’s backdoor
and instinctively cast a sideways glance out the door…
the door that leads into the garage.

Remember I’ve been gone for a week working at the main Woobooville in Atlanta.
My husband remained behind until late Friday afternoon…
just long enough for a crime to be committed.

Here is an image of a clue…breadcrumbs to a crime scene if you will…
and yes those breadcrumbs look very much like sawdust…hummmmm…

The plot thickens.

But back to Saturday and the backdoor…

“Why is there a pigeon sitting in the garage?” I holler out to my husband who is
perched in his new recliner in the den.

New recliners tend to make husbands want to perch.

He hollers back from the den, “We don’t have pigeons, it’s a dove.”
This coming from someone who has not even looked out the door to said bird of which I speak.

Well, you might want to come look at this dove that is a pigeon” I counter.

To my husband’s credit, we are more rural dwellers rather than city folks…
rural folks who have doves and not city slicker pigeons.

Sure enough, my husband meanders into the kitchen, only to see a dove/ pigeon sitting
in the garage.

“Hummmm” he muses…“that is a pigeon”

“Really?!” I sardonically reply.

We both then wonder aloud as to what has brought a pigeon to our neck of the woods…
rather make that pasture.

“I bet it’s the trees” I sharply snarl.

“I don’t see how the trees have anything to do with a pigeon being in the garage” he bristles back.

Now our plot thickens even more…

You may recall the horrific tree debacle of October 2014.

I wrote a post about it.
I cried over it.
I bemoaned over it.
I mourned over it.

And I’ll admit, I eventually got over it.

Our house was once flanked by two majestic and stately oaks.

We live pretty much smack dab in the middle of what was once a pasture.
There are a few odd trees and a smattering of blasted sweet gums that dot the property.
Not my idea of wonderful trees…albeit for those two oaks.

The oaks began losing their leaves one summer.
Like in losing copious amounts of leaves.
Leaves were everywhere and it was driving my husband crazy because it was the middle
of summer and we were dealing with leaves like it was the end of Fall.

A year passed with a threat…“if those trees do that next year, they’re gone!”

The trees were sick but I didn’t know what to do.
No arborists out in our neck of the woods…uh, pasture.

But my husband knew what to do.

Cut them down.

For you see that seems to be my husband’s answer to everything.
It’s an “Off with their heads” mentality.

The bushes are out of whack, get rid of them.
Something is causing you a problem?
Let it go…as in literally let it go.
As he is a menace with a chainsaw.

The year passed and the trees lost more leaves even faster…
And then the trees were cut.
Afterward it did appear as if they were sickly and most likely would, in time,
probably have fallen.
Possibly falling toward the house.

Plus he constantly groused over the gutters and the mildew on that side of the house
always having to be cleaned…as in it was all the tree’s fault.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I like trees.
I didn’t want to admit that keeping the trees was a pain and a risk.

Fast foward to now.

We have a bank alongside the driveway that has—rather make that had–
two River Birch trees sitting at the top of the slope.

Two large, airy trees that have been home to a myriad of birdhouses, feeders, and nests
all while casting a lovely amount of shade in the summer months.

However, for those of you who do not know River Birches…
these trees need to be by rivers and not the latest greatest landscape answer.

These trees are fast growing trees and they are always shedding something
all four seasons…plus the least little storm, and snap goes their nimble thin branches…
littering the yard and driveway…not to mention clogging the gutters.

But for 20 years I’ve watched what came to me as tiny saplings grow into giants.
Hence why they are often thrown into landscaping—they grow fast and fill in the
blanks quickly.
Only to become monsters in more ways than one.

We use to have three of these trees but my husband had one cut down a few years back
that was precariously close to the house.
It didn’t start out precarious—but the rapidity of growth made it precarious.

Off with its head.
And it was gone.

Next, he threatened to whack down the remaining two.

Only to be countered with my begging and imploring wails of
NOthey are home to my birds.
They offer delightful summer shade…

So enter this past week.
I was conveniently out of town.
The plot was now hatched.

When the cat is away the mouse opts to cause havoc.

Well, I suppose this is where I should confess tell you…that maybe…
just maybe, a while back during the summer,
I might have mentioned to him–
“please, if you must cut them, do it in the winter.”

But I wouldn’t use that in a court of law because I will plead the 5th.

So Thursday evening when my husband called to check in on the Mayor and me,
he made a quick mention that the tree men were coming the next morning, bright and early,
to cut down those trees.

WHAT?! I practically scream into the phone.

“Yep. I told you I was cutting them down and you had told me to do it in the winter…and
well it’s winter”

I never recall such I frantically wail.

But I knew my pleas were futile.
His mind was made up and there would be no compromising or changing his
“off with their heads” mindset.

I then quickly responded rather definitely…“well then, you better go out and
find some other type trees and have them planted and fix that mess pronto,
and I mean it!

I wasn’t even there to see it but I knew there’d be a mess.

And sure enough, I braced myself for what would greet me when I pulled into the driveway Saturday morning.
Or make that, what wouldn’t be there greeting me!

As this is all that remains…well make that two of these is all that remains…

So the moral to this little tree tale you might be asking…

Pigeons will erroneously show up when you cut down trees as they now think they’re
in the city and never…never ever leave a newly retired husband home alone…
especially during the winter…a husband who thinks
he needs to be about some major sort of project particularly when there’s nothing else he
can be doing when it’s dreary and cold.

A landscape guy will be out tomorrow to recommend a more compact type of tree!

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

throw it out and start all over

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.
Meister Eckhart


(harvest time, in the dead of winter, go figure / Julie Cook / 2018)

Here in northwest Georgia, we are currently in the midst of our typical dreary Georgia winters…
grey, damp, misty, rainy and utterly foggy…
all of which gives way to just a sunless chilly dampness that gives way a heavy case
of the “meh’s”…
Not depressed but not joyful.
Not sad but not perky.

Yet despite this damp dreariness, believe it or not, all the citrus trees, that have been
moved to the basement for the season, are now bearing a plethora of fruit…
go figure!

So when life gives you an abundance of lemons in the dead of winter…
I suppose one gets busy making
something lemony.

Of which I did…today (yesterday by the time you’re reading this today)

I was going to look up lemon recipes that require a good bit of juice but I was
in the process of “migrating” again my old computer to the new computer.
It seems that the 5 hours required the other day was not enough,
I needed to add two more hours today in order to complete the “migration”…
I don’t think it takes geese that long to migrate!

Computer migration meant I wouldn’t be looking for all things lemony on the computer anytime soon
so I would be doing so with my phone instead. Sigh.

Searching, reading and squinting, I found a recipe for a lemony loaf cake that needs 1/2 cup
of fresh juice.

Perfect.

I headed to the basement in order to pluck what lemons were ripe…6 for now.
3 limes and 2 tiny calamondins.

I zested three lemons and juiced them while the butter softened.

My phone screen kept closing so I kept having to find a clean finger in order to touch the screen
and click back on the recipe.

I read over what I needed, what the oven needed to be set on and scanned over the step by steps–
in between the on and off screen…

I creamed the butter with the sugar, I added the eggs, I shifted the flour,
I measured the baking soda, baking powder, salt…
WAIT
was that 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder or
was it 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder???????

It was too late, I had gone with the first thought…
that being the full teaspoon of the baking soda and
the 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

When I clicked my phone from black back to the recipe, I read I had reversed the two…
I tasted the batter…yuck…definitely too much soda.
The lemon juice seemed to make it start growing in the bowl.
Now I’m no chemistry major, but there was certainly a reaction beginning to react…

But what the heck, what’s 1/2 teaspoon too much??

I poured my “growing” batter into the pan…oddly it was now right at the rim and seemed
to still be growing…
I fretted what would happen when it hit the heat????

I shoved a sheet of foil underneath in case it opted to spill over.

I set the timer and quickly grabbed my phone now with two dirty hands yet full attention.

I quickly googled what happens if one adds more soda than what is called for.

All of the listed articles might as well as have had a nuclear warning sign as a header
as each one read of disaster.

The batter will taste bitter and soapy. Check
The batter will expand beyond capacity especially if an acidic base is added. Check
The batter will flow out of the pan once it’s placed in the over. Double check,

Solution…

Throw it all out and start over.

One article did advise that you could possibly double the flour, butter, eggs, sugar
and make a double batch but I wasn’t going there.

I yanked open the oven door and grabbed the now overflowing pan and headed straight to the trashcan.

I started over.

This time being careful to get my soda and powder measurement right.

I threw out 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 stick of butter,
1 Tbl of lemon zest…a huge waste but the only salvageable option.

And so as I started over from scratch on this now seemingly costly cake of mine,
I was reminded that we are currently perched on the tossing out of one year
as we prepare to start fresh on a new year.

I can honestly say that I am happy, for many reasons, to be tossing out this past year.

It’s like my batter with the too much soda, it just needs to be thrown out and started anew…
despite the seemingly lost cost.

On a personal level, this past year was a blessing in that we had great joy with the birth of this
first grandchild of ours…and the news of another one soon on his way…
As well as with the successful retiring of a 50-year business.

Yet I can’t help but think about this country of ours and of our global community.
The uncertainty.
The hatefulness.
The sinfulness.
The anger.
The turning away from our Judeo / Christian heritage.

I can only pray that God, in His Mercy, will continue to afford us His Grace…
And that He will indeed remain gracious and merciful to his wayward children.

I pray that we can hold onto a continued sense of hopefulness while we look forward to a
fresh beginning…because Lord knows, it’s time we get a brand new fresh start!
Just like my cake…that finally turned out a great success.

Here’s to a hope-filled successful new year for us all!!!

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

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

To all those who won’t be making it home this Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick —
even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Charles Dickens


(an odd site here at home / Julie Cook / 2018

Driving home yesterday after visiting the dentist, I was cutting through an area of town
full of some of our communities older homes, when I found myself driving behind a
vintage WWII Army ambulance.

An odd sight but suddenly I felt strangely transported to a different time and era.

The vehicle, the homes, the time of year.

If you didn’t happen to notice the small security company sign out front of this house,
you might just think it was 1943.

My thoughts drifted across time and space to places that were far away from
my own current little corner here in Georgia.

Despite there being such a heightened sense of urgency wafting through the air
this time of year…
What with the odd increase in mid-day traffic and the massive number of folks hustling
here and there…along with that unseen force that was moving the masses of folks
to go out and buy, buy, buy with a frantic frenzy…

And despite the current pull I was personally feeling to race from the dentist to some
local den of commercialism, seeking out those last minute items to fill in the blanks…
I felt a tinge of warming nostalgia instead.

I heard Bing Crosby’s crooning…his rich melodious voice echoing deep in my head.

A small smile spread across my face for no one in particular to see.

A simpler time, yet a precarious time.
A warmer time of humanity, yet a violent time for our world.

No matter that it was an ominous time,
we knew what our collective civilization was fighting for.
We were a united civilization standing against a giant monster of tyranny and an invasive evil.

There was a decisive and determined collective willingness to sacrifice.
Rations, victory gardens, sharing and giving when there wasn’t ever much to give nor share.

There was a joint desire for unity.
A shared experience of apprehension blanketed by a blessed sense of thankfulness.

I found myself gently humming a familiar yet comforting tune.

My gift to you today…

“In 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” joined “White Christmas” to become one of
America’s most popular homegrown holiday songs.
Recorded in a rich baritone by Bing Crosby,
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shot to the top ten of the record charts
(as “White Christmas” had for Crosby the previous year)
and became a holiday musical tradition in the United States.”
Library of Congress

tis the season or just one of those days…

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought,
doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Dr. Seuss


(sterilizing The Mayor’s things in the wake of her departure / Julie Cook / 2018)

Let’s face it…we all have those days when we feel like a giraffe with our heads
stuck in a pot of boiling water.

Perhaps you’ve never looked at it that way before, but admit it, it makes perfect sense.

Maybe you’re not exactly frazzled.
Maybe you’re not terribly overwhelmed.
Maybe you’re not running behind.
Maybe you’re not stressed.
Maybe you’re not tired.
Maybe you’re not a bit melancholy.
Maybe you’re not a bit stretched.
Maybe you’re not a bit depressed.
Maybe you’re not overly busy.
Maybe you’re not apprehensive or anxious.

Maybe you’re none of those…

Maybe it’s because you’re totally overflowing with the love and joy that has come to you
from this season…as in you’ve had one too many cups of the bourbon-laced eggnog
and now you’re delusional…
or you actually managed to grab a-hold of the true meaning of Advent and this Christmas to be.

Or if the truth is told…maybe… just maybe…
you’ll admit that you’re really feeling a few of those heavier things…
Actually, maybe, you’re feeling more than a few.
Maybe you’ll admit to the truth…
you’re feeling all of those and then some!

Hence a giraffe with its head stuck in a pot of boiling water.

So good, we are now on the same page.

I was tackling the laundry yesterday in the wake of The Mayor and her two closest aides
recent visit…

When I thought that I really wanted to cook some little something that seemed
holidayish and festive.

But time…
Where was the time?

Now I’ll happily tip my hat, any day of the week,
to all those women out there who have superpowers in that they
can work outside of the home, clean their house, wash all the clothes, run all
the errands, shuttle the kids, finish the presentations and reports,
cook festive holiday goodies, complete all the shopping, decorating and wrapping
while still making time to go to the gym, write greeting cards, read a book, and post
the latest decorative things they’ve accomplished to Pinterest or Instagram.

And if your name is not Martha Stewert, you probably haven’t done half of those things,
let alone two or simply even one to the utmost of your ability.
And no fair if you have a maid, a nanny, or a small army of assistants following you around.

I actually do think that I was once able to accomplish much more when I was a
younger woman who was working outside of the house while tending to all things of the house
and raising a husband and a child.

I have no idea as to what has happened except that I simply got old.

But by George, I was determined to make something festive today if it killed me.

Every winter, I have to haul the citrus trees, that I keep in large pots
outside throughout the late Spring to early Fall, to the basement when freezing
temperatures arrive.

One tree that I’ve had now for many years has gotten so big,
that I was left with no choice other than to sacrifice it…
I can no longer move it, even with the hand trucks,
so it will be the guinea pig.

As the question remains, can a citrus tree survive a winter in Georgia?
I’ll let you know.

But the Meyer lemon tree that is now happily safe and sound in the basement,
is loaded with ripening lemons. It’s not looking too good as they don’t like
an abrupt change in climate but the looming question…
what am I to do now with all those lemons??

I opted for a tried and true southern favorite recipe…something that makes me always think
of my mom…
That being lemon squares.

Not the most festive perhaps but they are relatively easy and certainly tasty.

And as I do tend to gravitate to the melancholy this time of year as I find myself
missing those who are now no longer present in my small world…
mother’s lemon squares were calling.

Mother wasn’t known for her cooking or baking prowess, but those things she did
manage to succeed with while being in the kitchen are now treasured.

So the lemons squares it would be….

But where was her recipe…


(just one small pile of old cards and notes)

It’s amazing how over the years I’ve amassed such a plethora of old, spotted and stained
envelopes, note cards, papers, and even old receipts all covered with the scribblings
both of myself, family and friends.
A myriad of recipes which have been meant to be tried, tested and savored…
and yet with the advent of all things internet…it’s almost too easy to click
a button rather than dig through the drawers, books, and cabinets seeking that one
lost recipe.

Finally, I found what I had written down from my mom’s recipe…
but as to where her original handwritten card currently rests eludes me…
but this would have to do. Yet I had already moved to a different recipe as I couldn’t
find this one in time.

So as this is the time of year for gifts and gift giving…and since I use to share a lot more
about cooking and recipes when I first started this thing called a blog—
here is a copy of mother’s recipe along with the one I mismashed for today’s
Lemon’s squares…

Merry Christmas!!


(mother’s recipe)

Ingredients:
For the base:
1 stick of softened unsalted butter
2 cups sifted flour (I like King Arthur’s unbleached)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
For the filling:
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
the juice from 4 lemons (1/3 cup but I actually used just shy of a 1/2 cup)
grated lemon peel from the four lemons you’ll juice
(grate them whole before cutting and juicing)
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
(it is a nice rounding out of the often harshness of fresh lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a 9×13 pan—I spray baker’s joy on the bottom and then line the bottom with
parchment paper that I cut to fit. I then spray the parchment paper
(you can use butter and flour if you prefer)

Set the prepared pan aside.

In a mixing bowl sift the 2 cups of flour and the 1/2 cup confectioners sugar—
using a pastry blender, cut in the softened stick of butter until the mixture looks
like grainy sand—and holds together when handling.

Press this mixture down into your prepared baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until lightly
browned and puffed.

Cool while you prepare the filling.

In a bowl stir in 1 1/2 cups sugar, the grated lemon peel, a dash of salt,
1/4 cup of flour add the lemon juice, extract and then the beaten eggs until all
is incorporated.

Pop in the oven and cook an additional 25 minutes.

The filling will puff and might slightly brown just a tad.

When it’s finished baking, remove the pan and place it on a cooling rack,
allowing the pan to cool down.

(here is where some suggest putting the pan in the fridge to cool for at least two
hours but I just let it rest on the counter)

When cool—I dust the top with powered sugar—
I use a small mesh sieve that I shake over the pan
which adds a nice light dusting.

Next I use a bench scraper to cut the bars or you can use a knife

So before you’re hung up to dry, have yourself a merry little lemon square…

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:7

Adventus, Chronos, Kairos

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him;
rather, his way is beyond all comprehension,
free and self-determined beyond all proof…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(The Southern Cross / Southern Africa’s Catholic Weekly)

About a week or so ago, I happened upon a lovely blog.
And of course, I wanted to share the posting.
It was Advent and it was an Advent post written by a Franciscan friar.

Then a president died and The Mayor came to visit…sooooo…..
my sharing of such a lovely message got put on a back burner.

Here, finally, is my sharing…

A blog by a Franciscan friar:
friarmusings…the musing of a Franciscan friar

Since my blog is one that is based upon the musings of a retired educator…
I thought it a most fitting meeting…
How fitting that there should be a chance meeting.
More aptly a bit of a Spiritual arranging.
Remember…there is no such thing as coincidence.

And so I offer you a delightful teaching on Advent by a friar…

Did you know that a “new year” begins with Advent? We begin a new liturgical year,
a year when most of the gospels will be from the Gospel of Luke (referred to as “Year C”).
While the years and readings change, there are constants with the arrival of Advent.

Advent is a time when we commemorate the adventus of Jesus —
his coming, arrival, or birth into the days and nights of our world.
Christians live in normal time just like everyone else —
our normal chronos as time ticks off the days, weeks, months, and years.
The early Christian thinkers held that God lives in kairos, a “time” when past, present,
and future are but a single moment.
The awesome moments of salvation history are when chronos and kairos meet.

The birth of Jesus was just such a moment.
The Son of God, the Word made flesh, who existed before all.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (John 1:1-4).

It is a moment when the Divine broke into chronos from Kairos,
when God came to be with us and experience everything about our lives except sin.
Mary gave birth not just to any baby boy, but to the Lord of all time and history.
A baby boy that matured,
“And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).

After living in total obscurity for about 30 years,
Jesus burst onto the public scene and proclaimed that in his own person:
“This is the kairos [time] of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
St. Paul writes that in “the fullness of kairos [time], God sent forth his son”
to redeem humanity (Galatians 4:4).
Jesus, creation, and the beginning of time met redemption and the fulfillment
of time at Bethlehem’s midpoint of human history…

At Advent, Christians also look forward in expectation of Christ’s future coming,
to that time when God will culminate what he has now only inaugurated,
when he will finish what he has started, and will fulfill what he has promised.
For believers, history is going somewhere and not nowhere.
Chronos is proceeding in a distinctly “ahead” fashion, rather than in a
cyclical or meaningless manner.
It is engaged and fueled by the gravity of karios pulling us into a promised future.

At Advent we connect these two horizons —
celebrating Jesus’s past birth and expectation of his future coming.
We live our present days in light of that future day.
In between, we are called to live at the intersection of kairos and chronos.
What the Celts called the “thin places,” places where the boundary between the earthly
and the eternal becomes permeable.
A place and time when we catch glimpses of God’s love,
majesty, and power as it pours into the world.

(full post here … https://friarmusings.com/2018/12/02/thinnest-of-places/ )

I love that…”A place and time when we catch glimpses of God’s love, majesty and power
as it pours into the world…

the other story…

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite
distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible
for each to see the other whole against the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke


(historic marker for the Duelist’s Grave / The Colonial Cemetary,
Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s a street I’ll usually cut through when I’m driving home from town.
It’s a street that my husband isn’t always keen that I take.
Not that he worries about my safety in doing so…it’s just that he thinks it
a bit seedy.
And lord knows should my car suddenly quit working…then where would I be?!

I suppose in seedyville.

And this is when my eyes roll at such a thought as I remind him I’d simply be in the same
town I’ve now called home for nearly 40 years…no worries.

It’s not necessarily a bad street in a bad part of town, but it does have its share of
what some might call a few folks who are ‘rough around the collar.’
A mixed sort of neighborhood to be sure.

But having taught school in our community for over 30 years,
I figure I know or have known all the kids from every side of town…
the upside, downside and in between side…so it really doesn’t bother me.
Many are now very much grown and I no longer recognize their faces but they know me…
so if I’m ever stranded in or around town, someone I once knew will most likely
know me now.

When I first started teaching, it was the “westside” of our town that was more or less
the more infamous part of town.
My kids (aka students) who lived in that part of town would ask if I’d ever been there…
and of course, I’d tell them yes as I had actually given ‘so and so’ a ride home.
They would in turn quickly chastize me, telling me not to go after dark.

It’s a shame that we have such sections of our towns and communities…
but the fact of the matter is that we do–as every city and town seems to have its fair
share of places one should be cautious about traveling through.

So on this particular cut through street of mine, sits an old house that looks a bit
piecemealed together…
as in it started out as a single story wooden framed home when at some point or other,
an upper story was oddly added with an open deck that makes me think “old Florida”…
as in the older type of houses built near the ocean back in the day, long before there were
multimillion dollar McMansions and highrise condos.
More bungalow than house.

The yard around the house is pretty rough looking, cluttered and littered with both weeds
and junk.
The upstairs deck is covered with what must be 50 birdhouses of various sizes, shapes
and descriptions.
Plus in bold black letters, on the front of this mishmashed house, are the words
“The other story”
Which is another throwback to those old beach bungalows when folks would name their cottages…

The other side of the story…
As in this fellow who lives here, and I say fellow because this place screams of a
curmudgeonie sort of person that calls this place “home”…maybe its the broken down lawnmower
and all it’s scattered parts…but no matter, it seems that this fellow has his own side to
some sort of story.

All of which has reminded me of something I recently read…
It reminded me of a different sort of ‘the other story’…or maybe it reminded
me of what is actually the real story…

I read that there are actually two Christmases…
Two different Christmases both rolled one into the other.

There is, of course, the Christmas of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, giving Tuesdays,
Santa at the mall, presents, mistletoe and all that speaks of secularism and consumerism.

And then on the flip side, there is the ‘other’ Christmas.

The Christmas of Christ’s Mass…the birth of the savior.

The latter, however, is deeply overshadowed by the former…and it seems that it is
overshadowed more and more each year with what seems to be a concerted effort to actually
drown it out forever.

But it is that other story, that other Christmas story that is actually the real
and only story.

Because it is the original story
The original Christmas.

The story being that of salvation.
The story of, a once long-ago time, when Hope was returned to earth…
in the form of a baby.

An amazing story really.

Not so much a story about mistletoe, or shopping til you drop, or of presents or
of cyber this or that but rather a story of unconditional love made manifest.

There’s always another side to every story…and I for one certainly prefer this other Christmas
story to that more modern version of this sacred story…

“It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas
and so few stop to inquire into its meaning,
but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human
habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import.”

A.W.Tozer

Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate his coming by making peace impossible
for six weeks of each year…
He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them.

A.W. Tozer

berries, cherries and bears, oh my

“Haven’t you ever thought of living
unconsciously like bears, sniffing the earth,
close to pears and the mossy dark,
far from human voices and fire?

Nâzım Hikmet Ran


(a mama bear and her cub perch high in the wild cherry trees / Julie Cook / Cades Cove, TN / 2018)

Some folks would say it’s the sign of an impending cold winter…
What with the numbers of bears we’ve seen in just a two-day span, gorging themselves
on berries and apparently the prolific wild cherries that grow plentiful in the
Smokey Mountains.

Twelve bears and counting.

An amazing feat really given that we’ve been coming to this area on and off now for 35
years and have seen maybe a total of 5 bears over the course of that time—
and those were just at a glance here or there.

Today we ran into 5 more bears with one almost literally running into me.
We were actually walking through a field along the woodline, walking away from one of
the few remaining original cabins in Cades Cove when my husband turned to say something to me
yet he could only muster that single word again, BEAR!!

I turned just in time to see a small black bear right behind me before he kindly bolted
into the woods.

Next, as we were exiting out of the cove we saw a mom and cub perched high in the wild
cherry trees enjoying a late brunch.

Then later in the evening, on one final drive through the cove,
we came upon another young bear eating fast and furiously…


(all bears seen in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

Not knowing when I’ll make it back this way, as it’s been about 5 years since our last trip,
I savor these moments.
Breathing in deeply, holding it as long as possible before slowly exhaling.

These snippets, these glimpses of things that are truly greater than our hurly-burly
hectic ant-like lives…
lives spent hurrying here and there as we always seem oh so preoccupied and
tremendously busy…I consider these moments, these gifts of time, one of the
greatest privileges offered.

Being able to see animals in their natural habitat, in a place that is stopped in time,
doing what they do best…simply living and being the wild animals that they are…
is a gift…a gift offered by the Creator to one of the created…

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him
and for him.

Colossians 1:16