“Children are even as a branch that is fresh and green; they will grow up in whatever way you train them. Take the utmost care to give them high ideals and goals, so that once they come of age, they will cast their beams like brilliant candles on the world…” Bahaullah
Delicious as they come and the kids can help you bake them.
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- Premade pastry for an 8- or 9-inch 2 crust pie
- 4 small, cored baking apples
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- Combine the raisins, cranberries, walnuts and spices in a bowl and set aside. On a lightly floured cloth-covered surface, roll out the pastry into a 14-inch square, then cut it into 4 squares. Place a cored apple on top of each square and fill the center with the raisin and cranberry mix.
- Cover each apple with its pastry square by bringing the opposite corners up over the fruit and pinching them together. Then, seal together all of the pastry edges, moistening them with water if needed. Place the dumplings in a glass baking dish.
- In a saucepan, bring the brown sugar and water to a boil, and then pour it over the dumplings (a parent’s job). Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven, spooning the syrup over the dumplings a few times, until the crust is golden (about 40 minutes).
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We are soooo going to make these (because we love animal masks around here). From Elizabeth Abernathy, a bird mask made from tyvek and a cereal box!
(photo, elizabeth abernathy)
The next time you’re feeling sad, go hug a tree. Contact with nature may be just what we need to soothe our souls, ease our nerves and mend our heartaches. Research shows that nature has a wonderful effect on our minds, moods, health and ability to heal. When we are outside soaking up the sun, walking in the grass and listening to the birds, all our senses are activated, making us feel truly alive and engaged. We are at home in the world.
Not so very long ago, humans moved through the world at nature’s pace. Time was marked by the changing seasons and the cycles of the sun, moon and stars. Unfortunately, we now spend most of our time on our sofas and on our Blackberrys, in our cars and at our desks. Often our only glimpse of green is a screensaver image.
“We don’t connect with nature as we once did in decades past,” says Sara Snow, green-living expert and host of Sara Snow’s Fresh Living. “I remember when I was in college, and I called my mom and told her how stressed I was about exams and typical college stuff. She sent me a card that said, ‘What you need to do is go outside and watch the squirrels.’ That’s how I was raised. No matter if you were bored, busy or tired, you went outside and connected with the earth. That is one of the most powerful things that we as humans can do. People underestimate that power.”
Ecotherapy to the Rescue
Researchers are just beginning to understand the impact nature has on our psyche and health. A growing number of psychologists are practicing ecotherapy, also called “green therapy” or “earth-centered therapy.” Ecotherapists believe that many of our modern-day maladies—stress, anxiety, angst, depression—stem from our disassociation with the natural world. Linda Buzzell, co-author of Ecotherapy: Healing With Nature in Mind, is convinced. “Despite the fact that we have evolved in harmony with nature for millions of years, humans over time developed this sense that we are somehow separate or apart from nature,” she says. “We’ve lost our life-support system.”
A few simple changes can radically shift how we feel. “Reconnecting with nature results in a host of psychological miracles,” Buzzell says, “including lowering depression, improving our sense of well being, calming our anxieties, raising self-esteem and giving us a sense of belonging to the great whole.”
Increasing disconnection from nature has been especially detrimental to the well being of our children, according to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. Louv, who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder,” makes the persuasive case that interaction with nature has practically disappeared over the last few generations. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, children age 8 to 18 now spend an average of 6.5 hours a day indoors on computers and watching TV.
In response, some schools have begun planting gardens and taking more field trips. The 23 kindergarten students at the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs in New York spend three hours each day outside—rain or shine. Waldorf Schools, which emphasize learning through experience, have long valued being in nature. Students at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., spend at least 45 minutes outdoors daily. “We’re building their bodies by walking and running, climbing over trees and jumping over streams,” says Leslie Burchell-Fox, an early-childhood teacher at the school. “Being in nature impresses on their senses who they are as human beings and how they need to care for the world around them.”
A growing body of research shows that reconnecting with nature substantially improves our health. A 2007 University of Essex study found that daily walks outside can be as effective at treating mild to moderate depression as medication. A study by Richard Ulrich compared the recovery records of gallbladder surgery patients who had a bedside window view of either trees or a brick wall. Patients who could gaze at nature called the nurses less frequently, required less pain medication and were released from the hospital sooner.
Given such findings, hospitals are becoming more willing to incorporate green healing spaces. As a landscape architect and director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, Naomi Sachs raises awareness of the importance of green spaces and healing gardens in health-care facilities. “Research has found that people respond positively when the ratio of hard surfaces—paths, walls and stairs—to plant material is 2 to 3,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be flowers—just greenness and life, which create a contrast to the architecture and buildings.”
According to Buzzell, any form of nature-connection will help us, from animal-assisted therapy to simply imagining nature during meditation. Farm therapy is becoming popular, especially in Europe, where patients suffering from mental distress are prescribed agricultural work. The Netherlands is host to 600 “care farms” that are a fully integrated part of their country’s health services.
Reconnect with our World
To reconnect with nature, find a method that suits your individual preferences. For some, walking outside will do the trick; others may choose gardening or petting their dog. It helps to think of getting outdoors as preventative medicine. Don’t wait until you feel frazzled, overwhelmed, stressed or depressed to check yourself into nature.
Buzzell can even envision a day when your primary care physician will prescribe nature-connection. “Interacting with our environment is a need that is deeply rooted within us,” she says. “Our connection with nature is our strongest experience with the sacred. Whether it’s hiking in the woods or staring at the stars at night, these are things that are, and always have been, deep in the human psyche and soul.” So what are you waiting for? Find a tree, and give it a squeeze. cr
It’s a legitimate question: The news from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster off the coast of Louisiana is getting worse by the day for those of us many miles away, and no doubt by the hour for those living in the area of impact. This weekend we learned that some experts believe the amount of oil leaking may be much more than even the revised estimate of 5,000 barrels per day. More worrisome than that, there is now real concern that the oil may join the Gulf stream ocean current, which would send it around the tip of Florida and all the way up the East Coast of the United States, staining beaches and killing wildlife as it goes.
There are already complaints that BP didn’t act quickly enough, the Federal Government didn’t step in fast enough – but to my mind these complaints are very much beside the point. What would the Feds have done if they had stepped in 15 minutes after the explosion? This disaster – easily on track to eclipse the Exxon Valdez spill – is far, far beyond anything any human agency can do. This picture is a parable for me of the entire situation. Does anyone really believe that these puny streams of water could have made the slightest impression on a blaze of this magnitude? Some genies simply cannot be put back into their bottles.
Which takes us right to the subject of this letter: When you can do nothing else, maybe it’s time to pray. We will skip over a couple of tempting side arguments here: On the one hand, there is an implicit assumption in this statement that prayer is real and worth doing, and on the other, the legitimate argument could be made that maybe one should have been praying long before the disaster arrived. Setting those aside for another time, how should we pray in a time of disaster such as is now bearing down on all those who live in the gulf coast area?
The topic came up in a phone conversation recently. “Maybe we should pray that God will keep the winds blowing offshore to protect the marshes.” But that would only blow the oil somewhere else – and as today’s news suggests, “somewhere else” could be the entire East Coast. We could pray for good weather – but it will take a lot more than a spell of good weather to clean up a leak that is still increasing in volume. We might, I suppose, pray for a genuine miracle – the complete disappearance of the entire slick and miraculous healing for every bird and fish being poisoned.
I can imagine how God might respond to these requests: “But my children: I already did my part – I hid the oil safely away from harm underneath solid rock below 5,000 feet of ocean. Is it really my fault that you thought you could dig it up without any thought for the consequences?”
If we are to pray over this situation, we need to be very clear about one thing: This is not an act of God. We have done this to ourselves. This does not mean we cannot pray – it actually means the opposite, we will find no solution unless we do pray. But it suggests how we ought to pray.
Our model for a prayer suitable for a tragedy we have brought on ourselves might be that of the prophet Daniel. Living in Babylon in the sixth century BC, Daniel was a Jew exiled from his homeland. He had endured the destruction of Jerusalem, a disaster unparalleled in the history of his nation – and one that had been predicted by earlier prophets and directly tied to the disobedience of Daniel’s people.
In chapter 9 of Daniel’s prophecy, we find him meditating on the fate of Jerusalem:
I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
Daniel’s prayer is a model of how to pray when the disaster is our own fault: It is a prayer of confession. It is an important principle that we cannot appeal to God for something that is our own fault unless we also admit to him that it is our fault.
Listen to Daniel:
5 We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws…
7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you…
12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
But why should I, living safely in central Wisconsin, have to confess for the sins of a multinational corporation like BP? What does it have to do with me? Or you?
From today’s New York Times:
“In the furor over the Gulf disaster, a hard-to-overlook fact: America needs the oil.”
As an individual, I do my part to feed our oil- and coal-driven economy by pumping gas into my car, by burning electric lights and using all kinds of oil-derived plastics to sustain my “lifestyle”. As do you. (You are reading this on a computer screen… enough said). Collectively, we have created an economic and political system that cannot run without these fossil fuels, and we bear collective guilt for this. Yes, guilt. We could have designed an economic system that would have functioned in harmony with God’s creation rather than in opposition to it. We did not. We are guilty. [See my article on this topic here.]
Another prophet’s confession comes to mind here: “I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:5) BP may have pulled the trigger, but you and I bought the gun.
If the disaster is our fault, what is the point of confession and prayer? It remains our fault, right? True – but confession allows us to throw ourselves on God’s mercy. Listen again to Daniel:
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
We know historically – and many of us know personally – that God will sometimes step in to help in a situation like this, not because we deserve it but because we don’t. He will act for his own sake when he does not have to act for ours. This is mercy. And we need it.
I’ve been wanting to get on on the whole composting idea but didn’t want to have to buy an expensive bin or make a complicated one. Well, I found the best idea ever from Mama Says Vintage ($10 is all that was spent)! She gives step by steps instructions on how to construct your own.
photo, mama says vintage