respect the gifted who are hidden

“Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You’re not born this way, you get this way.”

Seth Godin


(Green Lynx spider hiding amongst the chives / Julie Cook / 2019)

Those of you who know me, know I have an inordinate fear of spiders.
Yet…
that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a healthy respect for them
nor does that mean that I don’t give them credit where credit is due…

And so I was poking around in the yard yesterday…
Poking is about all I’ve done all summer because it’s just been too miserably hot
to do anything else.

We’ve had 78 days of temperatures on or above 90 degrees…
add to that very little to no rain.

Things are both dry and hot.
Normally this time of year our high temps are in the low 80’s…
But we seem to now enjoy an average of 95…
who knew?!

Note that the calendar tells us that it is mid-September…

Since it’s hot and dry, everything is sadly shriveling up.
Heck, I am shriveling up!
Air quality is poor, schools are canceling or rescheduling after school practice
times for sports…it’s just pretty much miserable and has been for months.

But this is Georgia, we’re used to hot, right?
Well yes and no.
This time of year we’re usually tasting small snippets of fall.
Yet there have been no snippets thus far this year…

So I’ve pretty much given up the fight for the yard.
The fight to water and keep things alive…
I water when absolutely necessary but I’m no longer fanatical about it…
What’s the point?!

So when I was checking out what was and what wasn’t living, I was inspecting a pot of chives.
The chives are going to seed and upon a closer inspection, I noticed that I was not the
only one checking out the chives.


(green lynx spider / Julie Cook / 2019)

The spider, a green lynx spider, had blended in so well, I barely saw him…or her…

And what a pretty spider it was…
However, I doubt the bee or fly the spider was dining on would agree…

They are amazing are they not…

If I can keep them at a safe distance, I’m good…

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

“It’s an attack on Christianity”…Vol. III to the Chronicles of the Asinine… or…St Francis has got to go!

“It is a persistent evil to persecute a man who belongs to the grace of God.
It is a calamity without remedy to hate the happy.”

Saint Cyprian of Carthage


(a yard, as seen on the web, celebrating a birthday with pink falmingo yard ornaments)

Today’s installment of Vol III to the Chronicles of the Asinine, we find that an
HOA has seemingly lost their minds.

Now my disclaimer is that I live out in a more rural area and I do not live in a subdivision
that has an HOA or Homeowners Association.

I’ve never lived in a subdivision that has ever had an HOA.

But from my understanding, residents pay monthly dues and in turn,
are told what they can and cannot do…
The HOA of Jurisdiction…
The law of the land…
As in:
How high one must keep their grass.
What type of mailbox one is to have.
When one needs to get rid of their weeds.
When one needs to take down those overdue Christmas lights.
And everyone is reminded not to leave their garage doors up…

Violators will be fined.

Now I would like to think that most homeowners are well-meaning,
law-abiding, and courteous.
Thoughtful of their neighbors while they toil keeping
up their property.

Yet sadly all we need to do is to simply watch any local news to know that
that is not always the case.

We learn about the quiet neighbors down the block who were running a
meth lab in their home. As if the hazmat team showing up wasn’t sign enough.

Or what of the neighbor around the corner who was running the prostitution ring
out of their home?
Hence why the HOA says how many cars may or may not be parked on the curb.

But today we have a story about an HOA that has told a resident that after 16 years,
this resident’s small yard statue of the Virgin Mary has got to go…

Well…if you ask me…something smells fishy in Denmark…
or rather make that Detroit…because this is a story out of a suburb of
Detroit, Michigan.

And so I suppose that now means that my St. Francis has got to go.


(The Mayor loves St Francis as they are close in stature)

And what of my tiny little cherub birdbath that is nestled up under the
viburnum and butterfly bush?

There’s a house on an adjacent street that has a small statue of Buddha
sitting in their garden.
And what of the other house further down the road that has a small statue of
a Native American Indian by the front door?

Small, tasteful non-garish, demure and personal.

As a Christian, I’m certainly not up in arms that there is a Buddha statue in a neighbors yard,
And for the record, you have to pull down my driveway and come along my front walk in order to
see St Francis.

And the Native American statue always leaves me wondering as to the family’s roots.
Offended?
Absolutely not!
Only intrigued as by what their story must be.

Discreet.
Simple.
Unobtrusive.

All words that describe most folk’s yard decor.

I’ll wager that even pink flamingos and garden gnomes have their place.

As do the beehive boxes, the small chicken coop along with the humble frog cloche.

Everyone’s little touch of the personal connection to their own tiny piece of paradise.

Now I know that there are those individuals out there who go overboard and take a good thing
to the extreme.

Those Howard Finsters of the world.

Howard Finster, if you aren’t familiar, was a Summerville, Ga character.
Both preacher and folk artist.
He claimed that God had told him to transfer his swampy land into a “folk art” paradise.
And so he spent a lifetime expanding and growing his tiny piece paradise into
quite the folk art exhibition.

Finster died in 2001 but his 2 acre Paradise Garden is still open to the public.
And the words ‘paradise garden’, in regards to Finister, are certainly up for interpretation

Whereas Finster had neither HOA or zoning issues, there is still that poor fellow out
in a suburban neighborhood of Detroit who has been told that his small yard statue of the
Blessed Virgin Mary has got to go.

According to an on-line Newsweek article,
A family in the Detroit suburbs says it is being forced to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary
that’s been in the yard for 16 years by an overeager homeowner’s association.
Samona told the Detroit Free Press he believes it’s a case of discrimination.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is an attack on our religion.
We have already received an outpouring of support from friends and family,
and we are prepared to fight this tooth and nail.”

Samona’s parents immigrated to the United States from Iraq,
where they faced religious persecution for being Catholic.
He says every member of his family stops to pray in front of the Virgin Mary
regularly since they moved into the area in 2003.

He calls the statue “a symbol of peace,” and says the demand to remove it is
“an attack on Christianity.”
Samona says that he’s not only standing up for his family,
but for religious expression in general:
“We don’t know what’s going on over here.
We just want to be able to freely practice our religion,” He told WDIV.
“Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist—
whatever you are—don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t practice your religion.”

I think we would all agree that a 6-foot blowup of a cartoonish Virgin Mary would
most definitely fall under the watchful ire of an HOA but a small 16-year-old statue
that sits unobtrusively at the walkway of a family’s home, is an entirely different story.

And so we have just one more example of the madness and loss of common sense that is
currently taking this country by storm.

At this rate, we might just run out of volumes in which to share these tales of the
asinine, absurd and downright unprovoked attacks buy the PC Police.

I do wonder that if this statue of Mary was rather a statue of Buddha or
a statue of a Hindu god or simply a Muslim man out on his lawn, with his prayer rug,
bowing toward Mecca in prayer…I wonder if the HOA would have raised their flag
of discontent…

Stay tuned…tomorrow we’ll investigate the story about the flash mob of 60 teens who
amassed upon an unsuspecting business as they proceeded to trash and loot
a Walgreens in Philadelphia.

A tale of when the asinine becomes violent, dangerous and in turn a rallying cry for
our culture to finally put its foot down to the madness.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

Grace, Glory and ….a white pigeon?!

“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice,
forgive him—lest there be two bad men.”

St. Augustine


(an odd visitor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday morning, I was out picking the burgeoning blueberry bushes.
I must confess that I’ve gotten a late start doing such due to both a lack of time
and desire…
So in my absence, the birds have pecked their fair share and the latest rains
have plumped them up a bit too much…
Yet I felt obliged to get to my picking responsibilities…

Suddenly I hear my husband hollering.
What he was hollering was alluding me, but I could tell it was with a heightened sense of alarm.

I drop my berry bowl and race up the bank toward the carport.
He’s not there.
I race into the house and he’s now on the back deck scanning the yard looking for me.

“Did you see it???!!” he exclaims—
“See what?” I reply with heightened concern.

“The white bird!!”

Huh???

“The white bird by the driveway??”

“No” I dead pan.

“How could you miss it???”

“Well I heard you hollering and I thought something was wrong…I wasn’t aware there was a bird…”

But sure enough, I walk out into the carport and I see a white bird bobbing about in the grass.

It was too big to be a white dove.

I walked closer.

The bird was nonplused and was obviously accustomed to people as it paid me no never mind.

Upon further investigation, we determined the dove was a pigeon.

Firstly, pigeons don’t hang out in our neck of the country woods and secondly,
a solid white pigeon is certainly an anomaly.
The bird was not an albino.

In his own little world and not bothered by us, the bird sauntered up the driveway
over to the other side of the yard where the grass is actually greener—
he just kept bobbing up and down making his way through the grass while I went back to berry picking.

My theory was that perhaps there had been a wedding over the weekend and
someone released white birds…one of which was not a dove but a pigeon who just
kept flying.

And so as we were gifted by this odd little visitor, a white bird that brings my thoughts
immediately to that of the Holy Spirit…and given the fact that Sunday was the marking of Pentecost,
I will leave us with these thought-provoking words by Blessed Cardinal Newman…

“My God, you know infinitely better than I how little I love you.
I would not love you at all except for your grace.
It is your grace that has opened the eyes of my mind and enabled them to see your glory.
It is your grace that has touched my heart and brought upon it the influence of
what is so wonderfully beautiful and fair . . .
O my God, whatever is nearer to me than you, things of this earth,
and things more naturally pleasing to me, will be sure to interrupt the sight of you,
unless your grace interferes.
Keep my eyes, my ears, my heart from any such miserable tyranny.
Break my bonds—-raise my heart.
Keep my whole being fixed on you.
Let me never lose sight of you; and, while I gaze on you,
let my love of you grow more and more every day.”

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 44-5

Natalie

I reached out to Nikki, Natalie’s daughter, late this afternoon—

Since I’m not on facebook, I didn’t know how things were going.

Sadly Nikki just text me that Natalie “went home Monday to be with Jesus”—

Maybe that’s why I’ve seen so many butterflies this past week, flitting about in the yard amongst
the newly budding flowers.

I had a feeling Natalie had transcended this earth.

Natalie loved the Spring and all the new birth taking place in the garden.
She adored her yard and garden.
And she always strongly proclaimed on her blog the joy and confidence she found in our Savior.

Au revoir mon Ami. Je voudrais vous voir bientôt—–
Farewell to the consummate French teacher and life long educator…
I will miss you, Natalie.

is enough ever enough?

Food for the body is not enough.
There must be food for the soul.

Dorothy Day

At first you think you are merely looking into a flower.
A bloom from a rose of sharon plant.
But upon further inspection, there happens to be a bumble bee deep inside, covered in sticky pollen.

And not only was there one pollen covered bumble bee, there were several…

It was as if the bees simply couldn’t get enough.
They were gorging on nectar while becoming completely covered in sticky pollen.
So much so that many of the bees had become lethargic.
So overtly satiated, that they were almost catatonic…
and yet they kept on with their quest of consumption…

Happily miserable with themselves.

And who among us has not gone after something equally tantalizing with a
similar gusto and vigor?
Gobbling up our fill until we can barely move, able to go no further…
as we are full, engorged and yet unable to push back, calling it quits…
Pressing on until we actually make ourselves sick…

Yet what if we sought God with a similar desire?
With an unabashed hunger…
seeking to fill the bottomless void of our hearts?
As we eventually bask, being happily full and
deeply satiated, in all that is of Him….

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and
into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into
ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Some people, eager for money,
have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But you, man of God,
flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love,
endurance and gentleness.
Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made
your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus,
who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,
I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the
appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
which God will bring about in his own time—God,
the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light,
whom no one has seen or can see.
To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:8-16

(al pollen ladend bumble bees in various Rose of Sharon blooms /
Julie Cook /2017)

Therapy amongst the mint

“All of earth is crammed with heaven
And every bush aflame with God
But only those who see take off their shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
Anne Frank

DSC02644
(a clump of freshly pulled mint mixed in a pile of roots / Julie Cook / 2015)

The air was punctuated with the pungent aroma of mint and basil mingled with a heavy dose of loamy moist dirt.
I had taken pruning shears with me, but put them aside in favor of my two gloved hands.
My intent was to simply cut it all back but instead I opted to hopefully rid my yard and life of the invasive mayhem.

The growing green mass had covered the whole front corner of the bed by the garage and was set to cover up Mimi’s ancient cement bench if something wasn’t done and done soon to stop this almost giddy encroachment.

My heart has felt much the same in recent days, overrun and over burdened with and by the onslaught of the grim global headlines.

The now burgeoning sickly yellowish green patch is usually the first thing in the yard to show its tender new verdant foliage during those sleepy hopeful wee days between winter and spring. It’s what gives me hope that life, rebirth, regrowth and Spring will indeed vanquish Old Man Winter while ushering in welcoming warmer days.

As I wondered about how best to tackle the latest infestation of overgrowth in the shrub bed, my thoughts wandered a world away to what or whom would or could now vanquish the sweeping global sorrows that were entangling both my heart and soul.

Come late Summer. . .when life is dried out and burned out, just as the seasons prepare to knock on the door of Autumn, the leggy gangly masses have become a truly unsightly tangled mess of tired and spent. As in I’m just ready to cut it all away, rid my life of the jumbled mess and happily welcome in some cool crisp colorful order.

I wish I could easily do the same for our hurting planet.

I’ve always found solace in working with my hands.
The more manual the labor the more productive and alive I feel.
There is a cleansing honesty in working with one’s hands.
Never mind that my back has been giving me fits, never mind the heat index is still in the triple digits, I will gladly get down and dirty, as the sun continues to bake the world, for working hard in the yard is good for the soul, the mind and often literally the heart.

Oh that it could be so easy with this greatly burdened world of ours.

As a true Southerner I’ve grown up with mint sprouting from every yard I’ve ever called home. What better accompaniment to one’s tea or julep, depending on your preference, than a sprig of fresh mint? Anyone will tell you mint is easy, as in it grows itself. In fact it’s just a little too easy, as in too eager and way too invasive. It’s more like a weed gone wild then a treasured herb. Plus everyone who does any work in a garden will tell you, any novice can grow mint— it offers instant gratification to the more hesitant would-be gardeners among us.

But my mint patch has been on the run and I had to stop it before things got anymore out of hand. Rather than cut it back, just for it to sprout right back to this same spreading madness within a few days, I took to pulling it up, by the long lanky root full. Even poor ol St Francis had to be laid on his side just so I could get to what was running under my favorite saint’s feet. I don’t think he was much bothered by the intrusion.

As I yanked and pulled, buried just under the top layer of straw and soil, was a criss crossing network of an eerily bone white root system stretching for what seemed to be miles. With each tugged, pulled and unearthed jumble of lanky roots and dirt, earwigs and beetles alike scurried helter skelter, madly seeking a dark cloak of safety in the damp compost soil.

The more my thoughts drifted over the latest mounding national and global turmoils, I pulled harder and deeper. Sweat trickled down my face, pooling at the tip of my nose before dripping and disappearing into the blackened soil. The sweat seemed to reach across the globe mingling with the tears of those thousands of people now walking hundreds of miles in search of asylum and safety.

As the morning turned to afternoon, I had finally pulled up the last of the mint. The piles were now all raked up, the walkway swept and the pine straw smoothed as the shrub bed now had a delightfully clean and fresh look.

I still had no grand revelations as to how to help the ever growing global crises sweeping across our lives nor how to ease the lingering tensions within our own Nation. I was hot, tired and weary of body, but there was oddly a refreshing clarity of thought.
No longer did I feel totally overwhelmed or at a loss.
Still not knowing where to even begin to help, I gratefully no longer felt as defeated as I had.
There’s just something about physical labor, with it’s overwhelming beginning and productive ending, that gives hope to the overwhelming obstacles of life. . . hope that we can indeed tackle and eventually overcome the litany of misery facing our current global family.

I trust we will be able to do so. . .
for only in God, comes hope to the hopeless, and strength to the weak. . .

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:10

“Let me arise and open the gate, to breathe
the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.”

Violet Fane

I am soooo over it. . .I am done!!!!

There is only one day left, always starting over:
it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.

Jean-Paul Sartre

DSC02525
(a southern dogface butterfly visits a freshly planted petunia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Don’t panic. . .
It’s Summer, I’m talking about Summer. . .
As in I’m done with it. . .
I’m over it. . .
As in kaput, fini, over and out!!

Actually. . .I’m talking about heat, hot, drying and dying—the tiresome end of all that was once lush, plump and thriving.

In late August, here in this deep South of mine, there is no thriving and there is barely any surviving.
Everything is leggy, yellow and very near death.
And mind you, there is many a day, during this particular time of year, that I feel very much the same.

The little flower bed, just out from our front door, had been full of snapdragons and petunias that were planted back in early Spring when the yard was overhauled.
Had any one asked me, I would not have chosen petunias—I’m just not a fan, but nobody asked me and my husband thought they looked nice. I had to go back in later, as the late frosts of Spring did a number on the petunias, so I threw in some snapdragons in order to fill the gaps. I wasn’t keen on the snapdragons either but I knew they were pretty darn hardy—

Pink snapdragons and crimson petunias.
Not my idea of color choices but again, nobody asked me.

The tiny plants did begin to thrive. . .
Filling out and covering nicely the little flower bed the landscape guys had decided to create for me.
Had I had my druthers, I would have moved the bed, enlarged it and done it a bit differently—
but again, nobody asked me.
The landscape guys had put out some very pretty pine straw all over the yard in the newly formed beds and then for some reason they added bark to the little flower bed.

We had bark once.

It washed like nobody’s business whenever it rained.
I would have a river of bark racing down the front walk requiring scooping and sweeping up after every down pour.
I was done with bark.
However the landscapers were into contrast when they were laying out the yard and again, nobody asked me.

So bark it was and bark it is.

As the Summer has worn on, like a tired old moth-eaten wool overcoat, the petunias and snapdragons have been rapidly approaching their limit. Long, tall, leggy, yellowing, more vine than leaf, shriveled and grossly unsightly. . .I could no longer stand to look at the flower bed without feeling a great sense of anxiety. . .with a touch of disgust added in.

For weeks I’ve been telling myself “not much longer. . .September is almost here. . .then you’ll be able to pull up all that crap and replant it all with some fresh wonderful crisp fall magic.”
Yes, I’ve told myself that for many weeks now.

A tiny cold front passed through the state last night–and please note I use the words cold and front with much rolling of the eyes. . .
I will admit that it did actually drop our temps to the mid 60’s this morning.
Never mind that the high was still 90ish–I’m taking that smidge of crisp and I’m running with it. . .all the way to the local the garden center.

This entire week will see me at dads, doctors, dentists so if I was going to act, it had to be today.
The only problem was that the garden center really doesn’t have in crisp fall magic yet.
They still have in hot summer same ol same ol. . .
No matter–I would make do.

I got home with my assortment of trays.
When I thought I was grabbing some pansies, I was actually grabbing trays of petunias as well as a couple of trays of snapdragons—as in been there done that, it’s too early for violas and pansies so AGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh well, no matter, they’re purple and white and they’ll do until the garden center gets in its fall crisp magic.

I chose white because I like white.
I wear a lot of black, as I like to say it hides a wealth of woe, so I suppose I like it’s opposite as in I think white looks elegant. Never mind when the white elegant blooms die, turning a sickly shade of brown and falling off–I’m sticking with elegant—
And purple because the butterflies like the purple butterfly bushes I recently put out.
I had told the landscapers I wanted some butterfly bushes—
Surprise, I didn’t get any.
Lest we remember that no one was asking and obviously no one was listening. . .

So I spent the remainder of my day cutting all the leggy spent petunias and snapdragons–leaving 3 clumps that still seemed to be “ok”
I then raked off the tired dry grey bark from the bed.
Next I spread a big ol heavy sack of soil—all over the red Georgia clay that makes up the bed.
I had wanted the landscapers to add topsoil to all the excavated ground but remember, no one was listening.
I put in two dwarf fountain grass—
why you ask—
because they caught my eye on the way to the checkout register–
I think we call that an impulse buy. . .however not to fear, I liked them.
I added my trays of the new petunias and snapdragons—experiencing a bit of deja vu as I did so.
I watered, re-spread the tired grey bark- – – but no matter as it now matches the once pretty red supple pine straw the landscapers had put out, which is now dull, crunchy and grey.

One good last watering and I was happy—well, happier than I was.
I’ll really be happy when it’s finally fall crisp and magical. . .

DSC02524
(work)

DSC02522
(more work)

DSC02519
(leggy and spent)

DSC02533
(better)