Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just a Little Stone

There are those among us who, even as they grow old and hopefully accrue more wisdom...yes, even those...cannot walk along without picking up a Stone or two. It is a child-like thing to do, perhaps, and yet the urge is strong and does not go away, even with age.

Small Stones have an immense power. I am not talking about Crystals and their amazing healing senses; I am talking about the ordinary, small Pebbles that speak or call to us from the ground...the ones who listen and invite us to share our stories with them.

I have a Stone, a special one amongst many. It is small, nondescript. There is nothing about it that would propel anyone to pick it up. But it has unique listening powers and innate wisdom...and it is always with me.

It has become my talisman.

I found this Stone many years ago, as I was about to embark on a completely different path from which I was accustomed.  The Stone...Pebble, really... sat amidst a thousand other Stones, on a gravel driveway.

I recall I was about to enter a vehicle and for some reason, I heard the call to look down, down towards the ground. And there was my Stone, encrusted with dirt, its beauty completely hidden.

I picked it up and put it into my pocket. I was weepy at the time, about to leave a home I had lived in for almost thirty years. I felt I was leaving not only the home, but the memories it contained. I had forgotten that memories exist in the heart and soul, even those which do not come to the forefront on a daily basis. 

They are not kept within a mere house.

I held onto that grimy little Stone as I drove away. And ever since, it has resided in one coat pocket or another. I treasure it above any of the objects I have...none give as much balance as this odd, small Stone. It fits perfectly within the palm of my hand.

No longer encrusted with dirt, it is now shiny and gives off a warm glow. It is brown, with dark lines throughout. It now looks as if it was polished by a machine, but it has not. The shine comes from being rubbed and held and prayed with.

It is a generous Stone. I am not the only one it has given healing to. Others who find themselves overwhelmed or in despair have held my Stone, for only a little while, and have found balance.

I take it with me as I do my rounds for Hospice. Sometimes, the need to take the Stone out of my pocket overcomes me and I will hand it to the patient to hold, for just a little while.

Some are surprised, even as they hold it within the palm of their hand. And some...some hear the song of Mother Earth the instant they grasp onto it. All are grateful for the little Stone which reconnects and balances. Some ask for a Stone just like mine...yet how can I find a Stone for another?

The one time I tried to do so, it did not work. The connection did not take hold, it was not the perfect Stone for them. I already knew by intuition my Stone finding mission for another would not satisfy.

It is a personal thing, this finding of a Stone which holds memories of a long distant time. The immense power small Stones embody are, I believe, peculiar to each individual. I can be attracted to a Stone which does nothing for another.

But my small Stone is different, in that way. Its generosity of Spirit is meant to be shared. Not always does a Stone such as this one come along, although each Stone, Pebble, Rock or Boulder permeates our collective consciousness and the consciousness of Mother Earth, bringing them together.

When I found my Stone, I did nothing other than pick it up. I did not ask if I could do so, and I am grateful for my Stone's ease of Spirit and grace in that it easily allowed me to move it. I know better, now. I know a small prayer or two I use to ask permission when I move a Stone. One never knows the feelings a Stone or Pebble might have; it is best to not just snatch them out of their resting place. They are far older than I and have had many more experiences, learned far more wisdom and knowledge...some of which may not be meant for me.

The Stone brought me a prayer.  It is a common one; I have seen it or variations of it many times on the Internet and in books, since I began to use it. It is simple, sweet and strong.

                          Sky above
                          and Earth below~~
                          I greet you.

Every time I use it, when I go out of the home, that prayer along with my Stone, balances and grounds me. The feeling is similar to the sensation I get when I sit on a large Boulder. 

I learned the power of sitting on a Boulder when I went through recovery from alcoholism. Butt and ground was the saying I learned and have never forgotten, even after all these years. There is instant balance and peace, as I place my "butt" on a Boulder and ground myself.

It is so very comforting.

My Stone is a sacred object to me. It will last is not a fragile thing. It has strong energy...I have seen it cure migraines, if the person knows how to use it. It is alive with imagery and symbols.

It is generous enough to share its stories. Not only with me, but with so many others, some at the end of their lives. It gives the recipient, the holder of the Stone, inner healing and transformation.

It is just a little Stone, brown and unassuming.

I heard it call my name, one day long ago.

I picked it up and life changed. 

And I learned this truth:

"Nothing in the Universe stays the same. Everything migrates with its own inner rhythm of change, of coming from and going to. Everything dances to its unique movement, however small and invisible it might be to the naked eye." 

From the book Sacred Stones, by Maril Crabtree

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taking Time

I get caught up in trying to do too many things at once. All this multi-tasking does nothing more than take my memory can one remember anything when one's brain is besieged by a thousand things to do?

For instance, the other day I was taking photos of a of the Fledglings who was part of a large group decided to interact with me on the Bird feeder. Taking photos is great, if it's the only thing I am focused upon.

But the phone rang at the same time. And so, while I was speaking on the phone, I was taking photos simultaneously. I couldn't let the Bird get away without capturing it in photos.

Except that my attention was diverted; I could not give the person who called my entire focus. As a result,  I missed some important information the caller had to impart. And I had to call back, apologizing for my inattention.

And here's another example.  Have you ever tidied the house, putting this and that item away, and later realizing you have no idea where you put it?

Somewhere safe, is all I know when I try and find that particular object. 

And this would be because I am not focused on the moment, on the one item I am placing in its rightful spot. My brain is working overtime with thoughts of this and that and the other thing; the item in my hand is not part of what I am thinking about.

From Wikipedia on Human multitasking:

Since the 1990s, experimental psychologists have started experiments on the nature and limits of human multitasking. It has been shown multitasking is not as workable as concentrated times. In general, these studies have disclosed that people show severe interference when even very simple tasks are performed at the same time, if both tasks require selecting and producing action (e.g., (Gladstones, Regan & Lee 1989) (Pashler 1994)). Many researchers believe that action planning represents a "bottleneck", which the human brain can only perform one task at a time. Psychiatrist Richard Hallowell[2] has gone so far as to describe multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”

The term multitasking began with the computer, which is well able to open many windows, remember where it was directed to go...even remember which site one visited a few days ago. And much more...

When the brain has too much information, it is compelled to restart and refocus continuously. It actually takes more time to multitask. Some researchers believe the brain can be trained to do many things at once; others believe that multitasking is largely limited by the speed with which our prefontal cortex processes information.

But studies also show that while the brain can become adept at processing and responding to incoming cannot truly multitask. And our brains are only capable of storing a limited amount of information in short term memory.

I have spoken with far too many people who all claim to be losing their memory. They aren't really...there is simply too much information coming at us from media and computers and cell phones and ipods and ipads and, and, and...

Author Steven Berlin Johnson describes one kind of multitasking....

“It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish."

This is called continuous partial attention. And basically, this means we all skim the information coming our way, not studying anything in depth. Attention is spread more thinly...leaving a friend on the phone believing they may not be as important as the photo of a Bird.

My poor brain. I thought multitasking was a good thing...A friend told me the other day that on an application form she was filling out was a question about how well she multitasked.

Obviously the questioner did not do his research. Perhaps his question could have been how well the applicant could focus and concentrate.

Right now, the television is turned on to a talk show, I am writing, I answer the telephone, I go outside to check plants battered by a Hail Storm, I feed the Dogs...what on Earth do I think I'm doing?

I believe I am going to take time back. I am going to focus on only one thing at once. No more making dinner, feeding the Dogs, planting an Herb, talking on the telephone and answering an email...all at about the same time. I ask myself...have any of the above list been done with care and attention?

I am not in the moment when I do all those items at once. Rather, I feel scattered, only able to think about the next thing and the next thing and the next...

It is no wonder my memory is poor...I am only partially focused on any of the above. And without true focus, can I remember any of the details I need?

There is a saying I learned in Hospice. And that is when visiting a client, we are to leave our problems at the door. I am going to take this a step further. I am going to leave everything at the door, all the time, whilst I concentrate on one thing or activity.

Instead of living for whatever the next item on my list may be, I intend to stop living in the future. Time goes way too fast, as it is. Why, I ask myself, would I want to make it go any faster? At my age?

I see many elderly people who remember a goodly portion of their lives. In detail. Will I, at that age?

Multitasking...the computer is good at it.

Why not leave it there?

Sunday, June 06, 2010


It's one of those days...

One of those days where Wind  and Rain blow thoughts of curling up with a good book; where Tea is the comfort drink of choice... with a slice of the brownies I baked yesterday sounding like just the ticket!

When I was a youngster, I was a voracious reader. I read mostly fairy tales at that tender age, and so I already knew a Brownie was a member of the wee folk.

It followed, then, that when I was invited to join the Brownies in my community, I jumped at the chance.  Imagine my surprise when we were not taught the old ways of appearing to Humans in the blink of an eye. Instead, we were taught the old ways of baking, sewing, cleaning, good fellowship...

Disappointed, I nonetheless joined into the group, learning how to be a "good" Brownie along with the other young girls. Even as young as I was, I felt embarrassed that I had ever thought otherwise, that my thoughts had leaned to magic and mayhem rather than the goodness I was being taught.

I still have my little golden Brownie Pin. I was so proud each and every time I earned a badge. I remember the leaders made us work very hard for those badges...I did not pass the test for many of them.  But perhaps this is because I am not the most handy of persons.

Rather, I earned the reading badge, the art badge, the plant badge, the writing badge. And there was that baking badge...

There were a number of levels to the baking badges, I believe I remember this correctly. After learning how to measure, gather ingredients and tools,  two other girls and I tried a simple recipe. We failed miserably.

I do not recall what we made. I only remember laughing almost hysterically when our cake (?) came out of the oven looking like a grey, volcanic mass. (And I will still, to this day, laugh when I am presented with a crisis...firstly there is silence, then laughter, then perspective. Very inappropriate reaction.)

My laughter drew a leader to our group. She commiserated, and told us all her cakes looked like that. I was astounded, and laughed all the harder. It was becoming annoying, I'm sure, but I was beyond help. I drew the other girls with me...and so there was complete mayhem, as other groups came down with the giggles.

Giggling helplessly, I thought to myself that I had at last created mayhem, if not magic.

The leader finally created order and announced there was one piece of baking she could create, and she asked us if we knew what that recipe might be. 

No one knew.

It was the brownie...she told us...what else could it be?

She announced that at our next class, we would all make brownies. I was born in Germany; my mother did not make such a thing as a brownie, that I could recall.

Not wanting to be embarrassed yet again over my lack of knowledge of Canadian culture, I did not ask the other girls what this confection might be. And so I waited with great anticipation for the next group meeting.

It turned out that brownies were made with lots and lots of chocolate. There didn't seem to be much flour and our leader used little sugar and only one Egg. And there seemed to be a lot of butter! But we all took a turn at breaking up frozen chocolate Easter Rabbits, Eggs and a frozen chocolate Santa Claus. For a few years, I thought using frozen leftover goodies from Easter and Christmas was the only way to make brownies...

Of course, it isn't the only way...and later on in life, when I lived with many other young people in an old, run down home, I learned to make brownies with chocolate that bore no likeness to Easter Egg chocolate.

I decided, then, that I would become proficient at making brownies and pies.  There were no finer confections to offer than those, I thought.

It's taken many years to finally learn how to make the perfect brownie. I have used many recipes, making a few of them my own by remembering how my Brownie leader used mostly chocolate, even if it was Easter Egg chocolate, for her brownies.

I slash the sugar amounts, and use as little flour as possible, and much good, dark chocolate...chocolate which is at least 80 percent cocoa the very least. I make sure the brownie still clings to the toothpick when I test for its readiness. is the difficult part...I make sure the brownie sits, covered, for at least a day after baking.  To be sure, this step is much easier these days than it was when I was baking for my kids. Leaving it to sit was often just not possible then...

The brownies I bake are rich, dark, gooey and beyond delicious. Many prefer the cake-like brownie...these aren't cake-like in any manner...these are like dense fudge, only not as sweet. Once a diabetic, I still watch my sugar intake, being sugar sensitive.

I have not tried these brownies with a sugar substitute, since any of those make me ill. Even Stevia does not agree with my system. But I have in mind using Honey, the next time I make these.

With Fog roiling in, even with windy conditions, and Rain battering against the Window...I grab my laptop instead of a book this time. And I sit in the big chair, with the two Dogs lying beside me, with my ubiquitous cup of Tea...and a slice of that deep, dark Brownie.

As I sit and drop crumbs all over the lap top from the delectable, delicious, dark brownie in my hand, I muse over the little girl that was me, so many years ago.  As very young children, we rarely think about being older...I didn't at any rate.

But here I am. At the sweet age of 59.

And still enjoying Brownies, just as I did so long ago.


8 or 9 ounces  good, dark chocolate...I use Lindt.
3/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup of water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9x9x2 inch baking pan by greasing lightly.

In a large bowl, microwave chocolate, butter and water, until butter melts, stirring once or twice. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Add sugars to chocolate mixture; beat with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs and almond extract, beat for two minutes. Add flour, salt, and cinnamon, beat until combined. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The brownie should still be almost liquid in the centre, but it will have formed a crust.

Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Cut brownies when you can see that the brownie has set and will hold a cut edge, about a half hour.

After this, make sure the Brownie is hidden away for a day or two in the fridge, if you can.  It melds together completely after a couple of days, becoming darker and more dense...and even more delicious!

I have also added, at times, walnuts or pecans, just for the crunch!