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

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(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. . .

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(work)

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(more work)

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(leggy and spent)

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(better)

Unblemished

“It is far more important to me to preserve an unblemished conscience than to compass any object however great.”
William Ellery Channing

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(new beauties snapped on the IPhone at the local garden center / Julie Cook / 2015)

A trip to the garden shop, especially this time of year, is nothing short of mesmerizing topped off with a color filled overload of spectacular.
Rows upon rows of picture perfect annuals, perennials, biennials and any other ennial you can imagine. . .
Talk about things that sell themselves.
Who wouldn’t want to walk away with a cart, or two, filled to the brim with the likes of such beauties. . .large, tall, spiky, showy, red, blue, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, lavender, green, black, two tones, monotone, sweet, sassy, demure, austere, even those of the exotic bordering on the erotic. . .

These flowers and plants are perfect.
Nary a blemish to be found.
Perfectly watered.
Fertilized to perfection.
Protected from wind, rain, and the relentless burn of the sun
Picture perfect and gorgeous.

But just get them home. . .
Get them repotted and replanted,
Add your own special TLC, step back and bask in the glory. . .
That is until the blooms begin to fade, eventually dying–oh did you forget to deadhead?
The leaves curl or turn yellow.
Wooops, you forgot to water when you went away for the weekend. .
Talk about drying out.
Looks like you over watered. . .
And it actually died from root rot.
Applied too little or too much fertilizer. . .
Wait, whoa. . .what about those Japanese beetles, aphids, white flies. . .
and the birds—who knew they liked to eat those flowers or was that the deer, or chipmunks,
or rabbits, or armadillos or. . . .

Things always look better in the store as there is an army in place to ensure such.
As in it obviously takes a massive village of caregivers
to keep everything prime for the shopping public. . .

For those of us who are Christian believers. . .
do you remember how it felt when you first made that conscious decision to be a follower of Christ?
That moment in time when you were brought to you knees. . .
Do you remember those first couple of days of the giddy excitement?
You felt clean and no longer bruised or full of blemishes
You basked in the warm glow of joy, peace, acceptance.
Your burdens had been reduced and you actually felt good for the first time in a long time.
You felt strong and bold, unafraid.
You felt like the teflon king or queen, as in nothing any one threw your way would stick or hurt.
You were walking on cloud nine.

And then, without your cognizant acknowledgement, life crept back into the picture.
What once seemed like a life of endless joy and energy gave way to frustration and irritability.
You quickly discovered you weren’t exactly indefensible or indestructible.
Your significant other decided to leave.
Your boss gave you your walking papers.
Your kids got in really bad trouble.
You got sick.
You got in a wreck.
You got robbed.
That joyous high that you had been riding seemed to crash right down on top of you. . .

“Oh where is your God now” they whisper?
What?
Does Mr / Ms religious have a temper?
Did you just curse?
Are you feeling guilty for thinking all those bad things about those who have hurt you?
What happened to all that forgiveness and pie in the sky loving of yours. . .
All of this as the bitterness creeps slowly back in.
You’re heard to murmur sarcastically “thanks a lot God”
A slick voice is heard encouraging you that you’ll be better off without Him.
“Forget about Him, see how He deserted you, let you down. . .He wasn’t really real. . .”
“Come back to your old ways, your old friends, your old life. . .you were comfortable there, accepted. . .”
As in. . . all the current misery is loving all the present company. . .

I once heard a sermon where the priest reminded everyone in attendance, who had decided to establish or reestablish their relationship with Jesus, not to be surprised if they actually lost their job the following day. . .
Hummmm. . .

Was that what you signed up for?

Be mindful. . .
Where the Sprit works, there also dwells Satan.
A power struggle ensues for each and every heart and soul.
The faithful will be battered and hit with all manner of harm.
For ours is a fallen world.
We cannot change that fact.

We are like the pretty plants and flowers we bring home,. . .those that are so full of hope.
Yet we get a hold of ourselves and things don’t go so well—either by our own devices and ignorance, or at the hands of Life which is beyond our control, delivering a one two punch.

Doubt
Despair
Hate
Resentment
Pride
All of which rapidly creep in whispering into our ears the endless lies. . .

But all is not lost.
For God has never walked away despite those lies we are told.
He has never left, never given up. . .
on you or I. . .

Yet let us be reminded once again, we live in a fallen world.
A battle zone of Good and Evil
Yet thankfully we live with a God who Loves without ceasing.
He tells us to get back up, again and agin. . .and to simply follow Him
Never mind the bruises, blemishes, cuts and scrapes. . .
He tells us to gird ourselves with the armor of Truth.
His armor, His Truth.

However, for any of that to be true, to be real. . .
You’d have to believe in Good and Evil
You’d need to admit that there is indeed a God in Heaven
Or that there is evan a Heaven
Or a Hell
Or a Satan. . .

You’d have to admit that the soul of man hangs in the balance
You’d have admit that there is a Divine Design and not a random design
You’d have to let go of self, ego and pride
You’d have to be willing to become less in order to get more. . .

Many may scoff that unlike those unblemished flowers in the garden shops, ours is a life
full of imperfection, struggles and challenges, falls and scrapes, bruises and blemishes. . .
Yet just like those well tended and pampered flowers,
We too have an arsenal, a team waiting in the wings offering aid, assistance, defense from the struggles and trials of life. . .

We have a Master Gardener who has given us His all,
In order to afford each of us the chance to not merely survive,
but rather the gift to thrive . . .

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. . .
Psalm 92:12-13

Do my eyes deceive me?

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle

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(a tiny little skipper butterfly / Julie Cook / 2015)

Standing outside under a crisp blue sky,
lost to Winter’s bareness, forlornly, I sigh. . .
Suddenly. . .
something fast and quick
something with color
something out of place
Dashes sporadically past a bewildered face.

Flittering
Herky jerky
Erratically bobbing up and down. . .
In and out of the greys and browns. . .
The tiny intruder darts brazenly past my head. . .
“What in the world” was all I could be heard to have said.

February 6th,
a nippy winter’s day is certainly no place at all
for a butterfly’s early spring call!
Yet suddenly excited,
Ecstatic to say the least. . .
All hope and joy are miraculously increased!

Has Spring just ventured the tiniest bit closer
Or is this merely something out of place. . .
Sending emotions on a seasonal roller coaster?
Will color soon scatter all the grey away
as we all look forward to a much brighter day!

Here’s to our little visitor. . .
that he may bring glad tidings to our Winter weary senses. . .
from some far away place of warmth, bright lights and colorful days!!!

An evening’s wonder

Shut your eyes, wait, think of nothing. Now, open them … one sees nothing but a great coloured undulation. What then? An irradiation and glory of colour. This is what a picture should give us … an abyss in which the eye is lost, a secret germination, a coloured state of grace … loose conciousness. Descend with the painter into the dim tangled roots of things, and rise again from them in colors, be steeped in the light of them.
Paul Cezanne

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Excerpt from “Do not go gentle into the night”
Dylan Thomas

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(western sky at a Winter’s sunset / Julie Cook / 2015)

Dry crisp clean air sweeps downward, deep across the land.
All the while as a myriad of minuscule molecules swirl with palpable excitement.
Invisible dust particles sashay from side to side,
as brilliant rays of light streak across the horizon.
The color catchers of light, that gauzy blanket of clouds, fans ever outward acting as a giant scooping net capturing all of Red.
Gleefully the Master Creator slings a seemingly sopping wet brush full of scarlet pigment outward from the western sky.
Orange and yellow drip and ooze off of a massive palette like melting ice-cream from a cone.

Ominous?
Foreboding?
Harbinger?
Perhaps. . .

Yet it is the sheer magnitude and overwhelming sense of mastery which now shrouds any and all worry or fear. Brilliancy is effortlessly scattered out across the heavens.
Who can doubt such a Master Artist and His existence while standing in awe of such a display?
Can mere meteorology and science neatly put this canvas into a tight fitting box?
They tell of the pieces and the parts, of the hows and whys. . .
They tell of the lengths of rays, curvatures of the planet, the makeup of an atmosphere and of why an eye may see. . .

Yet there is more to this dazzling painting and its perception than what literally meets the eye.
The inspiring observance of this masterful moment affords the viewer insight into the telling strokes, the intimate fingerprints, of the Master Artist. Selfless abandon covers this canvas as the designs of the Divine are poured out to each viewer, freely given. A vast gift of love poured out from one heart to another. . .benevolently offered without expectations, demands or requirements from the Master Creator to the created.

The day is now done and gone is the sun. . .as we sweetly dream as to what new wonders will soon be in sight. . .

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A very small wonder

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

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(A very tiny fiery skipper butterfly perched upon the equally tiny yellow bloom of Mexican Tarragon / Julie Cook / 2014)

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
― Albert Einstein

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, we find ourselves overwhelmed
or rather perhaps it’s that we are actually underwhelmed. . .
Over and under with all of life.
Tears sit perched, just behind the eyes, anxious to spill forth,
Why that is, is anyone’s guess.
Steps are laboriously slowed as shoulders deeply slump,
There is certainly no bounce of step today.

An empty gaze skims the surface, barely taking in the immediate surroundings,
When suddenly, way down there, just by the left foot, the eyes lock in on the slightest, the tiniest, the most demure movement.
What is that sitting just atop that tiny yellow bloom?
Is it some sort of bug?
No. . .
it appears to be the most tiniest of butterflies, no bigger than a fly.
And just when the heart seemed to have taken a sickly chill, dulling itself to an empty beat,
this tiniest of wonders happens to happen by, warming that which had turned sullenly cool.

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My small gift to you this morning… the joy of a little color

There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.
Pablo Picasso

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Open air market flower stall, Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Boston Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / patch of black eyed susans / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

A visual tale of contrast

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John Steinbeck

The sun is brightly shining, as the frigid bitterness of the days prior, tempers to a delightful and balmy 45ᵒ
I’m on a mission.
A mission to find life amongst the frozen tundra known as the land I call home.
The ground still hard and frozen under foot, the bright winter sun brilliantly warming while accented by a cloudless azure sea of sky.
There is the scent of smoke in the air.
I have shed my heavy coat.
The nuthatches and chickadees chirp merrily as they poke and prod the hard ground for seed.
Nestled near a walkway cowers a small ancient birdbath now sadly frozen.

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Amazingly just a few short steps beyond the solid frozen mass of water, leaves and straw lie tucked sweetly among the rocks, a tiny beautiful carpet of soft chartreuse moss begging to be rubbed. Is there any better feeling on a hot summer day, barefoot, finding a cool patch of moss. . .

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All of the bushes and shrubs are now barren clumps of twisted sticks and twigs. Odd thing it seems now to have merely a garden of sticks verses the usual lush plump green leaves and vines which typically call this place home. Upon a close inspection of the gnarly twig clumps dotting the now leaf covered bank–there oddly remains a few shriveled grey masses protruding along the quince bushes. These alien nodules resemble some sort of grotesque growth rather than the usual crunchy yellow green orbs which typically adorn these showy asian orientals.

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And just as Mother Nature, who seems to relish in her relentless taunting of our tender senses, would have this winter world of cold appear hopelessly void of any semblance of colorful life, I spy a tenacious little champion of all that screams LIFE.
It is the lowly, albeit stubborn, bane of any gardener. . .the hardy and nearly indestructible dandelion.

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The ground a hard frozen mass, the winds and temperatures so brutal that almost all vegetation has either perished or will surly be stunted come the growing season, and yet, this most noxious of garden foes not only maintains its place in the pecking order of nature, but appears to thrive—-providing any and all who happen to pass by a bit of colorful joy in a bleak and oh so cold world.

So yes Mr. Steinbeck, it is to this winter that we must acknowledge there is indeed a sweetness to be had—in just about 5 months or so we will have all but forgotten these current cold long shadowed days. This barren world will no longer exist. Our seemingly long deprived senses will be filled and overflowing—

Yet until those long warmer days arrive, I shall continue my quest, my mission—and that is to find those hidden breadcrumbs which a previous season has strewn along its departure– leaving behind a tantalizing trail to remind me that better days are indeed ahead!