Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Knoxville is a small city, nestled in the midst of the Tennessee Valley in the eastern portion of Tennessee. If you are a native, then you will know that we don't say eastern Tennesee. No, instead, it is East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. My side of the state is a wide range of terrain, with this small area of Knoxville encompassing gentle rolling hills, ridges, lakes and rivers. Knoxville itself spreads out in a surprisingly large sprawl, not contained to the downtown area. Indeed, travel to any direction north, south, east or west and you will find unexpectedly large sections of the city, with each direction possessing a unique personality.
The majestic, spiritual Great Smoky Mountains are within a 90 minute drive from Knoxville. It is there where you will find vistas that will reach deeply into your heart, speaking to you with a voice as old as time. Our mountains are ancient here, worn to softer peaks over the vastness of imagined memory, yet no less impressive for the softer peaks displayed. Wreathed in drifting, mysterious smoky mists, they patiently count the march of ages. I can only imagine the history they have witnessed as the inexorable effects of weather, rain, earthquakes (yes, we get earthquakes here) and erosion softened the Smoky Mountains from brash, young, ragged peaks like the Rocky Mountains to their present stately mien. There is a healing energy in these mountains that the Native Americans recognized and respected, born of healing quartz mineral deposits, sandstone and limestone which purify the mountain water that feeds into all the lakes and rivers.
Early American settlers came this way, many of them being Scots and Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine and poverty. They stopped here, deciding to "bide a wee" and eventually put down roots in an area that many said looked very similar to the gentle rolling hills of their mother Ireland and Scotland. Much of our dialect, if you listen closely, reflects the lyrical flow of those settlers' original accents. Scottish jigs became the template for modern country music, speaking with hearty fiddles, banjos, dulcimers and sounding out either brisk, happy tunes, or mournful, wailing sad ballads that tear at the heart of the listener.
Winter here in the Valley is quiet. The lakes and rivers rarely freeze over and we celebrate the periodic snows we receive. It is a peaceful time, the land slumbering, preparing sleeping trees and flower bulbs to burst forth with true glory in the coming spring months.
The people of East Tennessee are much like you will find in any southern small town. Yes, there can be an insular attitude, but there are also ready smiles, welcoming nods to complete strangers and waves of Thank You's on the narrow backroads where "first come, first serve" rules the right of way. It is still commonplace, when a funeral procession is on a road or highway, for people to pull onto the shoulder of the road, step from their cars and place a respectful hand over their heart until the procession passes by. Here and there, you will still find the occasional small country store, or a Tastee Freeze drive-in restaurant run by one large family. Even during winter months, these little remnants of the 1950's still thrive and do a brisk business.
January 2010 approaches and we will settle more deeply into the full breadth of winter. Perhaps we will be gifted with one or two good snows that will shut down schools, allow everyone to play outside with the kids, make snowcream and take quiet walks in the fields and woods, enjoying the white frosty beauty cloaking the trees. Planning will already be underway for the spring celebration of the Dogwood Arts Festival that will usher in the inevitable explosion of life.
For now, we rest in cold shades of greys, stark browns of trees stripped of their mantle of leaves, and breathe in crisp mountain washed air carrying the occasional tang of evergreen trees. East Tennesse in the depths of winter is a magical place, steeped in a markedly slower, gentler rhythm than you will find in a larger, more bustling city. Spring will arrive, but only after the full depth of winter has kissed the mountains and valleys with frosty, misty salute. I write this from the warmth of a cozy townhouse, feeling embraced by the quiet tenor of the winter season of my Tennessee home.
Monday, December 28, 2009
"Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones tend to take care of themselves." Dale Carnegie 1888 - 1955, Writer & SpeakerI have spent the past 18 months, along with much of the rest of the world, adapting to the sharp downturn in the economy and the resultant lull in my freelance technical writing work. I spent large chunks of time doing "all the right things" with very little, if any, return on time investment. I spent more time feeling worried, flat out scared, irritable and a whole slew of other adjectives. Now, however, I can see very clearly that there has been deep purpose to this past year and a-half of more quiet moments. I have said, repeatedly, to close friends that I am now aware this slower time has been one of incubating for me. Incubating new ideas, revamping old dreams, creating new dreams, and opening up to the infinite possibilities that I could never dream of on my own.
In order to not feel completely useless and as though my brain would melt out of my ears from sheer inactivity, I began to do a lot of pro bono work for friends. A bit of copy here, a marketing tagline there, a brochure or newsletter....anything to keep my mind active and continue to have examples of current work for my resume and portfolio. As the above quote indicates, this type of activity, done with a glad heart and sincere work ethic, will eventually produce some unexpected and surprising results!
I would never have dreamed, two years ago, that I would create a personal blog that would begin to amass a loyal group of followers. I would never have dreamed that in an ancillary move, I would become partners with a blogging friend to create an online group in Facebook for bloggers that would be embraced so enthusiastically around the world. Yet both of these things have come to pass. As a result of all the small jobs I have opened up to doing, I am being blessed with some of the most interesting connections.
I am still in that incubating process, still working on my creative process, still envisioning dreams and hopes in such a way that will continue to open up the world in ways that I, as yet, cannot even fathom manifesting. I believe that I am on the right path, though, and I know this because of the sheer joy with which I am greeting each new day, each new connection, friendship and experience. I haven't quite identified the exact direction my path will take, and that's okay. For now, I recognize that I am moving in the correct direction. I am embracing those small jobs with a smile on my face, knowing that they are a stepping stone of sorts which will move me forward to that new, bright future. Half the fun of all of this is the unknown and all the delightful surprises that keep manifesting!
For now, this is more than plenty for me to accept on my personal plate. Good things are coming, I can feel that as genuine truth. I will continue to accept those small jobs with intentional good will and a sense of grace. Mr. Carnegie's above quote made me smile when I read it and that's when I felt that old familiar sense telling me, once again, a blog was in the making!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I began blogging in September 2009, and thus opened up a whole new world for myself. I've been a writer my whole life, and began actually making a living with writing nine years ago. I enjoy the writing process as it applies to virtually any and all applications. It shouldn't have surprised me, in light of this, how much blogging would sink into my very soul and fill me with such joy, but it was a bit of a surprise. A happy one, most definitely, but still a surprise. With blogging, I don't have to answer to a client's demands - I write what, when, where and how I choose, on any topic that pleases me. My focus is wide ranging and the more I write, the more topics and categories I find of interest.
Most recently, I wrote a blog post about the very common occurrence of grief, sadness and depression during the holidays. It turns out that that article was very positively received, which I wasn't sure whether to expect originally. The fact that it was embraced so immediately and fostered so many wonderful follow up comments has encouraged me to begin thinking more deeply about where and how to apply my writing skills. One dear friend even mentioned liking the fact that I've chosen to write about some of the more difficult topics, the ones that aren't always so pretty or pleasant to contemplate. This friend (her name is Jane) went on to compliment the approach and treatment I used in that particular blog post, which prompted me to begin pondering. If you've read any of my blog over the months, you'll know that that's all it takes to get my brain spinning and thus...a blog will be born.
For the most part, the overall tone of my blog is uplifting and positive. I feel that those things can be accomplished even while writing about topics that might not always be the most flashy or entertaining to read about. There is value in writing about challenging subjects because it gives others a bit of a spiritual nod, a written word that places a consoling invisible hand on their shoulder and lets them know that they're not alone in how they're feeling. I'm learning that perhaps I have a gift in this regard, to write in a therapeutic approach and manner, and it is one I want to pursue, delve more deeply into and hone.
The title of this blog is Healing Morning, and I am bemused and quite happy with the fact that as I continue to grow as a writer/blogger, this title continues to be appropriate. Yes, I have always been a writer, this is absolute truth. My healing abilities, which I began to consciously nurture at an equally early age, are quite clearly entertwined with my writing. One is never very far from the other.
As a writer and a healer, what a fascinating ongoing journey I'm experiencing...this process of continually being greeted by heretofore slumbering facets of my various abilities. So much is happening with my writing as a result of venturing into the world of blogging - relationships, opportunities, business ventures and partnerships - things which I would honestly never have even thought to dream of for myself, yet they are showering down into my life in such abundance that at times, I admit, my head spins.
Rather than being overwhelmed, I'm opening up with my full heart and enjoying each new moment. Where all of this will lead, I have no idea. Currently, I'm in the midst of a new project with my partner Marty, with Authentic Blogger on Facebook that is remarkable to me on a personal level. When I dream, I am never afraid to dream large. However, I honestly don't think it would have ever occurred to me to imagine such a reality as the one encompassed by Authentic Blogger and the resulting response it is getting in the Facebook and blogging world. So, who knows what the next thing will be? All I can say is that life is giving me quite a ride, with all of it tying into my love of writing.
There is always a purpose at hand in our lives - perfect order, Divinely guided, if we but choose to pay attention and live consciously. I am noting, with gratitude and enjoyment, how so many things are falling into place in this regard in my life. The immediate impulse is to label it, corral it, and perhaps start to attempt to take control. I'm resisting that impulse and just letting it be - not the easiest thing to do, let me tell you! This is not to say I'm sitting meekly back, waiting on life to unfold with no energy or input on my part. To the contrary - I doubt anyone could ever describe me as meek! I am putting a great deal of energy into this whole process.
As Universal Law so beautifully presents to us, and is also mentioned in many Holy Scriptures...the Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, Buddhist tenets....putting conscious and joyful energy into something you truly love, with sincere intent and request, produces an eventual return of energy tenfold or greater. I feel myself standing on a high precipice, with whipping winds of change approaching....all the by-product of this delving more deeply that I have been working on so assiduously most of my life. I am curious, a year from now, where I shall stand, looking back on this month of December 2009 that has been so full of new chapters, friendships and discoveries. So, yes, life has been happening in the most delightful fashion while I've also had focus in many other directions.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I've laughed reading so many new blogs, I've cried as well. I've been inspired by most of them, confused by a few, challenged to broaden my present parameters of belief and overall, enriched by every person with whom I've interacted via Authentic Blogger on FB. It is an exhilarating experience thus far and I'm quite aware of how I'm being pushed to grow and expand my personal horizons.
I have had several new followers do what I love the most, and that is, first - truly READ my blog posts. Second - they've gone the extra step to post comments on those blog posts, giving me valuable feedback on my thoughts and words. This was one of the biggest reasons for me to partner with Marty to create Authentic Blogger - I really wanted to attract the attention of people who engage in an authentic manner in the blogging world. It appears that through our combined efforts and positive energy, both Marty and I are reaping blessings and benefits. I'm truly enjoying this new experience, despite being a bit drained from all the extra focus and energy output. It will take a while for us to adapt to the extra demands on our time, but I think I can speak for both of us when I say we're enjoying the heck out of the whole process!
So, my title for this blog is Connections. That's what I accomplished a lot of today...connections with new blogger friends. A deeper connection with an existing friend which is proving to be one of my strongest blessings this year of my life. Connecting with myself in a business aspect that is exhilarating with the challenges and sheer fun of conquering a new vista - always one of my favorite things to experience. Finally, sitting back and recognizing how all of these connections are clearly paving a new path leading to an as yet unknown future. That's exciting, satisfying and fulfilling. Circles within circles, entertwining and literally vibrating new energy. Today has been a truly happy day.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Our Mission Statement is simple - we want our name, Authentic Blogger, to say it all. Write, create and promote topics in your blog that resonate strongly with you. Follow blogs that speak to you personally and interest you. Do not cave in to the mindless "if you follow me, I'll follow you" concept that is rampant in the blogging world. Support your fellow bloggers/writers/artists by posting sincere, thoughtful comments on their blog site when a specific post truly captures your attention and imagination.
We hope to grow our community to a global level with lively, exciting interaction taking place on our Facebook wall and discussion boards. We anticipate that we will grow and change over time, and we look forward to that growth process. We welcome suggestions from all our future readers and hope that our group will provide you with hours of enjoyment. Please take a moment to visit our group page. If you're a blogger, please join our group and then post your site's URL on our wall. We hope you will also take time to tell all your blogger friends about us. Helping us to grow awareness and membership with our group will also help every member to garner attention and interest for their unique blog site.
This is an exciting new venture for us and we believe that there are no boundaries or limits with this concept. Both Marty (my partner and fellow officer) and I will work hard to make this a unique, worthwhile group for all bloggers, writers, artists and creative people in general to participate in. We hope to see you there!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
My answer to this question, because yes, I put in some years in the southern pageant system, was as follows:
"I would grant each person the ability to see themselves through the eyes of five other people. Two of these people would be those who love you. Two would be those who do NOT love you, and might even dislike you. And the final person would be a complete stranger who never laid eyes on you prior to the wish being granted."
Why this wish, do you ask? Give this concept some thought for a moment. We each have a very clear mental picture of how we present ourselves to the world. We also are quite aware that that presentation has a strong percentage of subterfuge and false confidence; a mask, as it were, that we use to camouflage the "real" person we are. The world is a busy, bustling place and it makes very little sense for each of us to be rushing hither and yon, with our hearts dangling on our sleeves and all of our vulnerabilities blazing for the masses to see. Therefore, we adopt those social masks in order to cope with various situations, various people, events and circumstances.
We show our authentic selves to those closest to us, to those with whom we feel the most safe and secure. While we are all definitely guilty of perhaps relying too heavily on those social masks in times when they are not necessary, it is something we learn from such an early age that it becomes the norm for us. We allow a select few into our inner circle and those few are able to see us for who we really are, as much as we choose to reveal.
Therefore, the wish being granted to see how others view us, I feel, would be a gift beyond measure. It would be, quite likely, a harsh lesson to absorb in many ways. Even those who love us don't always perceive us in charitable light 100% of the time. Conversely, those who dislike us or do not love us even the slightest, might see us in a more positive, philosophical and accepting light than those who love us the most deeply. There is constant judgment in all of us. We glance around at people and quickly categorize, pigeonhole and label. They're smart, they're rich, they're slender, they're so happy, they're dressed well, they're in love, they're successful, they have it all. All the while we are applying these labels and judgments with abandon, we are neglecting the vital component of actually taking time to learn about those around us.
This whole concept has circled around in my mind for years. I know how I tend to present myself to the world, and for the most part, I feel that this is an accurate depiction of who I truly am. I am also quite aware that I hold back certain, very elemental aspects of my personality from the world at large, preferring to keep those delicate, more tender parts of who I am from the cold, harsh eyes of the world. Those who care to probe more deeply will learn of those facets of who I am, and perhaps will be surprised at what they learn of me. Those who rush heedlessly forward will accept the more mundane, slightly surface version of who they have decided I am. We all do this, and there is no fault to apply to anyone for such behavior. It takes a great deal of time, effort and sincere energy to get that close to someone else, and it would not be feasible for us to accomplish it with millions. I do say that it is possible to achieve on a smaller scale, though.
Have you ever been out in public, perhaps at a mall where the glass storefronts tend to reflect the images of the passersby? Years ago, I was walking into such an establishment that had that section of double doors, with a small lobby in between to buffer the outside elements at the entrance way. A truly lovely, stylish woman was approaching me from inside and I remember glancing at her, struck by how happy, confident and kind she looked. She had a sparkle in her eyes and she was smiling. She was dressed beautifully and put together in a manner that all women glance at and mentally nod, recognizing understated elegance.
I admit that in that sweeping glance that lasted perhaps 20 seconds from me, I compared the two of us and found myself lacking. She was so much more....everything...than I could manage myself. Moments later, I pulled open the first set of doors, expecting to see her walking out but she had disappeared. This puzzled me, because I knew I hadn't imagined seeing her approach. I glanced around, frowning and then it hit me - I had witnessed my own reflection approaching in the store front's glass door reflection. This was one of those moments of epiphany for me. I had, in effect, been granted a silent moment of viewing myself through the eyes of a stranger. The reflection I witnessed, through the trick of mirrored effect, showed me a woman that I quickly glanced at, judged and labeled. I will never forget that moment, for it gave me a 100% authentic example of not only how I present myself in public, but also in how others might glance at me and apply a random label. Happily, my instant judgment produced a positive label.
I learned that I walk with confidence and an assured demeanor. This honestly astonished me to recognize, as inside, I am like everyone else....a mass of contradictory thoughts, doubts and yearnings to be more, better, happier, etc. The woman I witnessed that day, however, appeared to "have it all" and projected a sense of happiness that was attractive to witness. I am not telling this story to blow my own horn, although it may read that way. I am telling it because I wanted to highlight the fact that we rarely are granted a moment such as that one, to see ourselves through different eyes.
In granting the above wish, my intent would be for all of us to pause a bit more often and truly see one another with more clear vision, purpose and intent. Recognize that that other person might be struggling. Notice that the social mask of confidence might hide insecurities that would stun you, and reach out with an encouraging hand or kind word. We are days away from Christmas and this is the time of year where genuine care, kindness, fellowship and embracing our fellow man is encouraged more than ever. If you see a happy person, take a moment to comment on that! There is no harm in repeating the obvious and acknowledging to that person that they simply look happy - smiles will be the result and that's never a bad thing. Conversation could be sparked and a friendship might evolve. You just never know, and you never will, unless you pause and make the effort to delve beneath the social masks we present.
The above wish isn't one that can truly be granted, as none of us are capable of jumping into another person's body and viewing ourselves through their eyes. We can ask, though, what overall impression we give. We can be willing to listen and hear the answer, and learn strong lessons from the results. If we hear negatives and unpleasant things, we can choose to change those behaviors and grow from the experience. If we hear positives and pleasant things, we can congratulate ourselves that we are doing much better than we would have imagined, and continue to strive for higher goals.
This one wish would be a novel thing to experience with longlasting, spiritual repercussions, I think. Definitely something to ponder....
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Usually, by the time we reach our mid- to late 20's, we recognize as adults that all of life is about some form of compromise. Every relationship that exists on this planet involves this concept; relationships with business and professional colleagues, with friends, with family members, with romantic partnerships, with nature, with artistic muse, with education, with health....the list is endless and all of these require learning to compromise.
The intrinsic, gutteral response for many is initially to fight and win at all costs when presented with a difficult situation. Many do barrel in and greet life with this approach, heedless of the chaos, pain and destruction left strewn behind them. There seems to be an innate fear that by choosing to compromise, this indicates weakness. I posit to you that a willingness to compromise is perhaps the better example of strength. It is true that alone, we can accomplish a great deal. It is a stronger truth that by joining with others, we can accomplish so much more. The kicker here is that by joining forces with others...in business, in marriage, in friendship....we have to learn the art of compromise.
"But my way is best." "I am always right." "I don't need any help." "I want what I want now!" Do any of these sound familiar to you? We are all guilty of those moments. It is just human nature. At times, all of those statements are valid ones. Well, maybe not the "always right" one, because that's a physical and energetic impossibility in this world for any one person to "always" achieve.
The art of compromise requires each of us to do the oftentimes incredibly difficult inner work of subverting our ego. This can be a painful process, admittedly. Few of us embrace change on such a personal level with great enthusiasm, because it means looking at ourselves with clear eyes and ruthless honesty, admitting to flaws, failings and things that aren't necessarily very attractive about our behavior patterns. The good news is, none of us are perfect and we all have those less than pretty inner workings. Our job as individuals, I believe, is to operate on a conscious level each day, and recognize those moments that are presented to us to change, evolve and become better versions of ourselves. Compromise is almost an inevitable step in this process.
I am not one who marches through life with an aggressive tilt to my chin. My approach is calmer, more peaceful and thoughtful. Does this approach always serve me well? For the most part, yes. I can admit, however, that there are definitely times where a more aggressive approach is necessary and this is a lesson that I have learned, processed and absorbed over the years. It is important to note that a calm, kind spirit does not indicate any degree of passivity or lack of strength. When the situation calls for it, I can present a harder demeanor and accomplish what I set out to do. The delicate balancing act is to do this with personal integrity and kindness, and that is the tricky part we all wrestle with on a daily basis. In order for me to learn this particular lesson and gain this valuable life tool, I had to compromise and be willing to change in an elemental manner. For many, the converse is true; that aggressive approach is second nature, and for them, the compromise and painful learning process is to embrace a softer, kinder application of energy.
The beauty of this whole concept is that through compromise, through subverting ego, we learn that by joining together with others for various purposes, we become more than would be managed alone. Compromise produces complement. My love of words rears its head and I feel the need to list the definition of these two words:
Main Entry: 1 com·pro·mise
Etymology: Middle English, mutual promise to abide by an arbiter's decision, from Anglo-French compromisse, from Latin compromissum, from neuter of compromissus, past participle of compromittere to promise mutually, from com- + promittere to promise
Date: 15th century
1 a : settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things
Main Entry: 1 com·ple·ment
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin complementum, from complēre to fill up, complete, from com- + plēre to fill — more at full
Date: 14th century
1 a : something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect b : the quantity, number, or assortment required to make a thing complete
So, to paraphrase..."blending qualities of two different things..." "...required to make a thing complete." I find absolute beauty in the marriage of these two thoughts. For those of us who have fallen in love, the merging of these two concepts make perfect sense, for we become a much brighter, more shining, aspiring version of ourselves through loving another. The jarring, perhaps amusing fact to point out is that just beyond the first rosy glow of love comes the prosaic, mundane rolling forth of life that requires....once again, compromise. Subverting of personal ego then becomes necessary; subverting our own immediate wants, wishes and needs, subverting ego in order to create a happy and workable balance with that other person.
Yes, we can be happy alone. Yes, we can achieve success in business by ourselves. The simple, inescapable truth remains that this planet is full of people and operates on the concept of personal interaction with others. Therfore, compromise and subverting of ego is an inevitable part of life. Friendship, companionship and family cannot exist in an isolated state for any of us; this is simply not possible. I find on a personal level that when someone close to me challenges me, or pushes me to adapt and change, ultimately the changes and refining of myself that occur enrich my life. I find more satisfaction in the particular area that was highlighted, and also find the relationships involved in producing those changes become stronger and more resilient.
A better, brighter, stronger version of who You are capable of becoming; this is the end product of subverting ego and considering the other side with a genuine desire and enthusiasm. It cannot be stressed enough - compromise produces complement.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
I received this award from a good friend, fellow blogger and reader of my blog, Marty, which was a pleasant surprise. Along with this award, I'm suppose to list 5 things I like to do:
1. Spend time with family and friends.
2. Go hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
3. Read, study, research and learn
4. Write, whether it be in blog format, or working on various manuscripts meant for future publication, or in my personal journal, writing is intrinsic to my nature and gives me absolute joy!
5. Volunteer with local hospice groups when time permits.
I dedicate this same award to all my readers, out of sincere gratitude and thanks to you each time you take a moment out of your day to read my words. I appreciate each and every single one of you! Pass this award on to those who make a difference in your life.
~ Dawn, aka Healing Morning
That word, peace, has been cropping up in my mind quite a bit recently. It is a presence that I find palapable in my life, those moments of peace. They occur unexpectedly and delight the senses with the moment of surprise. Other times, peace will seep slowly and surely into my bones, surrounding me like a warm blanket. The method of delivery varies, but the end result is that I am reminded that there is order and a sense of logic in this world which applies to all of us. Admittedly, we are living in a world full of distractions, chaos, strife and most days it is a challenge just to survive traffic, work and family issues. Small wonder, then, that we forget to take those moments to experience what is so readily available to soothe our Souls.
One of my friends provides an outlet for me with her photography. She is a gentle, loving spirit who sees the world with such different eyes. Whenever she posts a new set of photos on her Facebook page, I always take time to pull them up because I am confident she will have snapped a shot of something that will just "click" with me on a very elemental level. I also make it a point to tell her when something she has said, done or photographed made a difference in my life; I think that is another important thing we overlook due to daily stressors. We forget to reach out and acknowledge the beauty that those we care for bring into our lives. Friendship in general is a blessing to all of us that we should remember to nurture, cultivate and appreciate.
Another source of peace for me is nature, looking about me to witness the continually unfolding drama of the Tennessee Valley. It is truly breathtaking here, regardless of the season. Finding time to walk in the woods, go up to the mountains, or visit one of the numerous rivers or lakes in the area and just sit quietly allows me to soak in the sense of peace that is unique in nature. I always come away feeling a motherly source of love - as though the earth recognizes one of her children taking a moment to check in with her.
I could go on with an impressive list of experiences from which I draw a sense of peace. They are unique to me, so I won't go into exhaustive detail. I think the important thought here is to take time in your day to access that place of quiet for yourself. It is there, just waiting to be tapped into. Some small moment is fluttering in your line of sight, waiting to inspire you, make you laugh, make you cry, soothe you, uplift you, encourage you. If you take a moment to honor that presence, you might be surprised at how the rest of your day, or your week will open up and flourish with success, satisfaction and happiness. Like begets like, after all. Embracing peace and allowing it to become a thriving daily presence for yourself means that it will begin to compound itself and you will recognize it more and more surrounding you. This thought is not specific just to the concept of peace - it applies to anything that you would desire to have more of in your life. Laughter, happiness, success...they can all become a focal point if you open your heart up to recognizing them in their purest form. I think that starting this practice with recognizing and welcoming peace is a good place to begin, as peace opens doors to so much that is beautiful and desirable.
Enjoy your day, my friends. Peace be unto you!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
So, what is snow cream? It is a simple dessert, very similar to soft serve ice cream, made with snow as the base rather than mixing up wet ingredients and putting them into a machine to spin and freeze. At the end of this blog, I will include my Mom's very basic, easy recipe for everyone to give it a whirl.
We had a very light dusting of snow in my hometown of Knoxville the other day, which is obviously what prompted this blog entry. I also have a few friends who requested more info on the snow cream phenomenon, so here we are.
Snow cream is a very easy thing to create, but there are a couple of logical rules to abide by. Most peoples' first thought is going to be that snow isn't safe to eat with all the air pollution we experience. Not true. As long as you wait approximately two hours into the snow fall, then snow is safe to consume. That two hour time span allows the falling snow to clean the air of impurities, leaving the snow at the surface remarkably clean and pure. Beyond that, to anyone who is concerned about snow cream containing pollutants from the air, consider that we breathe that same air daily without the benefit of the snow falling and filtering. In that regard, I think that eating snow cream once a year, if you're lucky enough to live in an area that gets sufficient snow, isn't that big a hazard to our health. The happy benefits much outweigh any risks. Obviously, collect your snow from areas that have not been disturbed by man or animal, scooping from the first few inches of the surface deposit.
You're going to need two to three times as much snow as you would first imagine to create a good amount of snow cream - think of two or three large sized bowls such as you would use for big batches of popcorn, mounded up and packed firmly. Snow melts upon contact with wet ingredients of the snow cream base, so you'll have to sort of eyeball the process until you reach a good consistency. Once you've created your first batch of snow cream, I can predict with a fairly accurate degree of confidence that you'll be hooked!
I have the most fond childhood memories of collecting snow with my Mom, brother and sister for snow cream and then eating bowls and bowls of it in the warmth of the house. It has a clean flavor from the snow that is unlike any premium, gourmet ice cream that you'll ever taste. Beyond that, it is such a simple joy to share with family and friends, bringing everyone together in fellowship and shared laughter. Eating a sweet winter treat is guaranteed to promote laughter and happy memories.
Another Facebook friend mentioned a childhood tradition of pouring hot maple syrup into snow to make a chewy sweet treat. We did this one as well. My Mom used her large cast iron skillet, packed with snow and would drizzle hot maple syrup into swirls in the snow. The hot, sugary liquid meeting the cold snow would transform the syrup into a slightly crystalized, chewy consistency that we would scoop and twirl around popsicle sticks or forks and consume. Something about snow just encourages those simple pleasures, it seems!
Here is my Mom's recipe to make enough for approximately 5-6 cups of snow cream:
2 cups canned/evaporated milk
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1 tsp of Vanilla
1 very large bowl of mounded, packed snow
Directions: mix sugar and eggs until sugar is well blended, then add milk and vanilla, stir to combine. Add large bowl of snow, stirring and mixing until you have a fluffy, creamy consistency.
The type of snow that you get in your area will also dictate how much snow you will need per batch. I.e., dry, light snow will dissolve more rapidly than heavy, wet snow. You'll be able to quickly see if you need to add more snow to thicken the end product. Just tailor it to your needs; each batch will vary slightly in the amount of snow required.
The above sugar amount may seem like a lot for a yield of only 5-6 cups of snow cream, but remember that snow is watery and will dilute the cream base, requiring that extra sugar for flavor. You can double or triple the cream base to make a larger batch of snow cream. For those concerned about consuming raw eggs, it is up to you to decide if you and your family and friends fall into any health risk groups and omit that ingredient. I imagine you could use egg substitute products in place of the raw eggs, or just leave the eggs out entirely. I have pulled up snow cream recipes online that don't include eggs at all in the cream base; this is just the method my Mom has always used and the one that I prefer.
This is the most basic recipe. If you Google the words "snow cream" you will find a plethora of variations, using sweetened, condensed milk, various flavors, add-ins such as cookies, candy bits, chocolate, etc. You are only limited by your imagination. Another helpful suggestion is that snow cream, like any ice cream, freezes well. We used to make triple batches when a big snow would hit the area and freeze it. It freezes a bit harder than regular ice cream, so zapping it in the microwave to soften or letting sit out for about 15 minutes helps to make it more easily scoopable. Another fun suggestion is to make snow cream popsicles by scooping the mixture into popsicle molds and freezing. They're delicious and have a wonderful creamy consistency similar to a Dreamsicle.
If you do try snow cream for the first time, or if you're experiencing it after many years, please take a moment to post a comment below. I love hearing input and feedback from my readers. This particular blog is another joyful memory to share and I'm sure it will give many of you a new happy tradition to create each year for your family and friends. Enjoy this new approach to snow and enjoy making snow cream!
Friday, December 4, 2009
I want to talk about the whole experience of snow. I once watched a science program of some type that explained in minute detail what has to occur in order for snow to fall. While I cannot repeat those intricate steps here for you, what I can tell you is that the scientist being interviewed offered his opinion that as conditions for snow to exist are so exacting, specific and random, snow could come close to being called miraculous in scientific terms. I liked that! To those who enjoy snow, it is always a delight to the senses and a miraculous thing to behold.
For me, specifically, I grew up out in the country with my family's land way up towards the top of a ridge. It is always quiet that far out in the country, very isolated from the noise of the city. We hear the trains running in the distance, but that's about it. When a snow would come, my favorite thing to do was wrap up, grab my camera and go for a walk. Our property spans a fairly large area, with woods and open fields to explore year round. As we all are aware, snow makes any landscape translate into a veritable fairytale for the eyes. Trees become majestic sculptures of ice and snow, branches dusted delicately, or heavily, depending upon the type of snow. Shrubs and bushes transform into belled out antebellum skirts that capture the mind and evoke thoughts of winter balls and romantic waltzes. Drifting mists of smoke from neighboring chimneys sting the eyes, and errant snowflakes dance lazily on errant breezes, sparkling in the dim light.
Beyond all of this is the absolute stillness. This is what always lured me from a warm house to tramp through the woods and fields with my camera....the urge to be in the midst of that very loud sense of quiet. Yes, those words are contradictory, but silence can, indeed, be very loud and profound. Snow brings a hush to the world, where even during the day, the birds tend not to sing or chirp. Thoughts would come to diamond bright moments of clarity for me when walking in a snow covered world. Only the distant sound of train whistles could be detected, as though from a distant land, while I walked, cocooned in a miniature paradise. Upon my eventual return to the house, there would be large pans set out on the back porch with which to gather snow and make snow cream. (The subject of snow cream, my friends, deserves its own blog and I promise to write one in the coming days.)
The stillness, the cold air, the soft crunch of my shoes sinking through the snow, the velvet gray clouds hovering and nearly touching the treetops would shrink my world to a snow cloaked domain. I reveled in the absolute sense of peace I always felt in those moments and would stay outside for hours, snapping photographs, walking, thinking and feeling what I call the most immediate and tangible expression of God's presence. Many seek, and find, that presence in church. For me, it comes in different ways, with the most touching and lasting being those moments outside on a snow dusted ridgetop. I always returned to my Mother's house, transformed inside from those walks in the snow. It isn't something that can truly be put into words, that moment of being held, cupped, in the hand of God. That's how walking in the snow always makes me feel.
I no longer live at home, up on the side of the ridge and my current home isn't surrounded by fields and woods to tramp through when it does snow. I miss the freedom of those days, but nothing keeps me from walking outside during or after a snow hits our area, even if that means all I can do is stand out on my back patio and absorb the sensations. Opening my office window to glance outside, indeed, snow is in the air - I can smell it. And I smile in anticipation of a chance to experience that awesome, gentle quiet once again.....the benediction of snow.