My Medicine is Connection


You will have to forgive me in advance for this long rambling attempt to assess my progress as I am halfway through my year of practicing self-understanding and self-compassion.  Traci made me think today, so now I must let the thoughts out.

First I thought of how other people have told me that they view me. I think a lot of people view me as not being very social  when that is far from the truth.  I LOVE entertaining and having people over to my house. Truly, I am one of those people you could drop in on any time and I’d have tea on in a flash, but I don’t get out much.

There are many reasons for this.

My husband and I are amazing cooks and it is very rare that we eat someplace that makes better food than we do.  When we do we generally go home and try to duplicate whatever it is that we loved and manage to do it nicely.  We like to play at making homemade cocktail ingredients, too.   I just ordered some quassia chips for a new bitters recipe, we are going to try.   This is one of the ways we connect.

There is a  trade-off for all the loveliness of the work-at-home, school-at-home lifestyle we’ve chosen.   Our abundance does not come in the form of green paper. It comes in the form of produce that needs to be picked and processed.  It comes in the form of colorful bars of soap drying on racks.  It comes in the form of beautiful flowers that need to be hung and dried.  In other words, we have a nice lifestyle, but we work for it. I love this lifestyle because it connects me deeply to my home and hearth,  but it does keep me busy.

I am one of those people who feels all the feelings.  Large crowds overwhelm me as much as small intimate gatherings please me. Generally,  the more people are gathered in one spot, the more I pull into myself, if I am composed.   If not, I am one of those people who gets nervous and talks enough that my own voice drowns out some of the input-kind of like a dog howling when the sirens go off.

So, the  first truth I have come to is that I am not a hermit.  I simply crave meaningful, intimate connections.  I don’t have much time for superficial acquaintance.

Once I came to accept this,  I decided that the loving and compassionate thing to do would be to stop pushing myself into situations I find uncomfortable.

I prefer to hang out at home or go out in small groups.  Music and dancing can occasionally entice me out , but for the most part I prefer to hangout out at home with small groups of friends, or spend time outside. There is nothing wrong with that despite the concern of more extroverted friends.

I don’t need constant physical proximity to maintain a friendship, which is a good thing because my friends are scattered far-and-wide.  My heart walks with my friends wherever they are.

I am connected to my people in a deep and meaningful way. After all,  I have made more than a couple 40 hour round-trip road trips to the Southwest to meet with my tribe at Traditions, braving dust devils and giant tumbleweed to go where my heart pulls.  That is not a journey one sets out on lightly.

I stopped feeling guilty about spending time on social media because that is one of the ways I maintain those connections between visits.    I don’t think I am unique.

I realized as I was writing this that I was thinking a lot about connection. Connection should be considered a basic need, like water, air and healthy food. Connections feed the heart. Conversely, the lack of connection drains life energy.

I’ve seen illnesses resolve simply because a very lonely person establishes new connections.   I’ve seen the loss of connection, or even the fear of that loss, send people spiraling off into self-destructive behavior.

There are many types of connection.  You can feel connected to your place and revel in the beauty of it.  You can feel the warm connection of lying with a friend in the sun-content to just be.  You can experience the close intimate connection of lying curled up next to your partner with your head on their chest and your hands intertwined.

The most important connection though, is your connection to yourself. One thing I realized early in the year that in ignoring  my intuition, and my needs, I lost some some respect for myself.

In really working at the practice of  maitrī  this year,  I have begun re-connecting with my self in a way that has been healing.  I have taken my feelings out and played with them, named them and accepted them, without judgment.   Naming an emotion, helps your lower brain connect it to your higher thinking processes.  Another connection that is very important.

In doing this, I have learned to let go of the guilt involved in setting boundaries which honor  my needs.  I have also made decisions, based simply on my feelings, which may appear impractical or foolhardy to some, but  I know what I am doing is right and feels good.  

As an aside, what other people think of you really starts mattering less as you get to deeply know, and trust, yourself.

Over the last several months,  I have let go of some unhealthy connections and not felt self-indulgent for doing so.  I have also honored some feelings I have as justified.

I think learning to give them voice and then let them go,  so they don’t fester,  will be a large part of my work for the second half of the year. I have learned that is okay not to be busy.  Before I was trying  try to do all the things in a vain attempt to stay busy enough to ignore  what was going wrong in my life, but that also kept me from making the deep connections I need.

Once I realized that, I gave myself permission to slow down enjoy things. The family picked  picked one  meaningful volunteer project for the year. The rest of our time is spent on one another.

The most ironic discovery of the year so far, is that I might actually like it here.  The connection I was trying to force between self and place, grows as I become more connected  with myself, again.

I think it was good for me to take this time at the six-month mark to assess my progress and refine my focus.  But at this point in my path to self-healing, it is clear that my medicine is connection.

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

Cold Brew and Vanilla Simple Syrup

Cold Brew and Vanilla Simple Syrup

I will have to apologize in advance to those of you who have given up coffee, as a vice.  Coffee has been rather unfortunately vilified, for various reasons, however it seems to be making a comeback in a similar way to saturated fat.  Turns out it really isn’t all bad.

Coffee has an antioxidant known as chlorogenic acid (CGA).  There are many of these types of acids but this specific ester,   formed between caffeic acid and L-quinic acid,  is being  studied for its health-promoting properties.

One of the amazing things CGA does is to help slow down how fast your body releases glucose into your bloodstream after you eat. It seems that  those fifties housewives who offered up an after dinner coffee, had the right idea.

CGA is a constituent found in many anti-inflammatory foods. I will grant you that there are more healthful sources. Strawberries, blueberries and pineapple are all good sources.

I maintain a good deal of what makes coffee bad for you has to do with what you put in it.  That is not to say that I don’t treat myself to a latte every now-and-then.   But for the most part, I drink it hot and black and I rather love it.

This time of year, even a cold vata like me knows enough to avoid hot drinks, so sometimes we like a creamy iced coffee.  I always make my own because the commercial stuff has scary words on the label is just far too sweet.

I used to just make a really hot, strong batch of coffee and pour it over a little sugar to dissolve it, but then I had a cold brewed coffee at a friends house and was converted.  There are some people who say that cold-brewed coffee has health benefits, but this has yet to be studied properly.  It definitely tastes better.

There  are all sorts of tutorials out there on how to cold brew coffee, but I’ve found it easiest to just make it in my french press and pour it through a coffee filter.

To make a cold brew concentrate, I coarsely grind 1 cup of coffee and add 4 cups of cold water to that.  You should let this brew, in the fridge, for at least 12 hours.  I highly recommend 24.

After this has steeped and cooled, strain it into a pitcher and add  your “milk” of choice. You know best what works for your body. You could use almond milk, coconut milk or any other dairy substitute you enjoy.  Do take a moment to read the ingredient label though.  If you can’t say it, you probably don’t want to drink it.

My husband and I have our gene pool to thank for lactase persistence,  so we use half-and-half. Nice stuff that we get from the Kalona SuperNatural  folks,  whose farm is about 2o miles from my home.

How creamy you make it is a matter of taste. I use almost 2 cups so I am diluting the coffee concentrate at a 2:1 ratio.

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee


Next,  I sweeten this to taste with vanilla simple syrup or barley malt syrup.   Actually I let my husband decide when it is sweet enough because I would never put enough in. Sometimes,  I just skip the sweetener altogether and sprinkle some nutmeg on top.

Vanilla-Rose Sugar


My roses are blooming like crazy right now and while many petals are destined for rose elixirs and rose vinegar, I like to put up a little vanilla-rose sugar every year to pull out when friends come over for tea. I know other people who like to sprinkle the sugar on grapefruit. You can use the sugar for baking, too. It makes wonderful shortbread.  If you are the type who thinks ahead, make  up a couple of pounds, so that you can include a small decorative jar in gift baskets.

This recipe is a variation of the very old practice of making conserve of roses.  There were as many different methods as their were receipt books but I like the following for its simplicity.


Let your roses be gather’d before they are quite blown, pound them in a stone mortar, and add them to twice their weight in double-refined sugar, and put them into a glass close stopt up, but do not fill it full. Let them stand three months before you use them, remembering to stir them once a day. ~ The Receipt Book of John Nott 1723

It’s really a simple task. First you want to harvest some organically grown rose petals. I like to enjoy my blooms. The center of the R.rugosa variety are bright yellow when they first open and then they turn brown. As soon as they turn, I harvest the petals. If I were working with a less potent variety, I would harvest them sooner.

After you’ve picked a good couple of cups of petals,  assemble your other ingredients; organic sugar and organic vanilla beans.  These vanilla beans are some that have already been used for making vanilla, but they are perfectly potent enough for this use.

Now perhaps you’ve tried rose sugar before and not had much luck, but there is a trick to it. Like the recipe above advises, you need to bruise the petals before using them.  Just pound them up in a mortar and pestle or whatever you have on hand. You can grind them but I find if you just get them to the point where they are darker colored, they work fine and they are harder to sift out when ground.


Now you want to put a layer of sugar about an inch deep in the bottom of a jar. I like to use Fido jars because they are airtight. Cover this sugar with an inch of rose petals and a few vanilla beans like this:


I measured this once and it turns out that an inch of sugar weighs about twice as much as an inch of flowers. Keep layering like until you’ve made as much as you want but be sure to end with a sugar layer and be sure that all of your rose petals are covered in sugar. I also don’t fill the jar because Mr. Nott advises against it and who am I to argue with the experts?

I noticed that one to the left poking up after I took the picture and poked it down a little.

I noticed that one to the left poking up after I took the picture and poked it down a little.

Put this in a dark place for a minimum of 3-4 weeks-shaking it often. (It really is better if you let it sit for the whole three months.)  At that point , if you like, you can sift the rose petals and vanilla beans out. Store in a pretty jar and bring it out for special treat when serving tea.


Green Goodness Dressing


One of our favorite ways to “take” chickweed.

So I’ve been harping on the subject of eating your herbs for a very long time now.

Five years ago, I wrote an article for the Essential Herbal  that talked about spring cleaning your body with spring edibles. It covered the benefits of eating as many of the herbs that poke their head out early in the spring.

It seems like most of us start out well,  early in the season, but is important to remember to keep that going throughout the growing season.  I like to like to keep a list of recipes that incorporate certain herbs in my household journal, so I am reminded of them when doing my menu planning.  If you don’t  garden, you can keep track of the produce as it appears at the Farmer’s Market.

I know...there is more than six tablespoons of chopped herbs here.  I probably used six or seven cloves of garlic, too.

I know…there is more than six tablespoons of chopped herbs here. I probably used six or seven cloves of garlic, too.

Incorporating a variety of fresh herbs into your cooking adds nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals to your diet.  ( I wonder how many times I will type that before I die?)   I recommend medieval cookbooks as a source of recipes that are truly brilliant in the way they incorporate herbs and spices.  But there is a lot of interest in this type of cooking modernly.  Tonight we made a recipe for apricot mostarda that we found in the Food and Wine magazine.

One of my favorite ways to sneak herbs into the kids is to make the following recipe.  We use it on salads and for dipping vegetables.  I am lucky to have a yard where the chickweed grows freely most of the spring and I am still enjoying this dressing made with chickweed, but later I will use dill, fennel, chervil, lovage or one of my other culinary herbals.   It is especially good with lemongrass, too.

Green Goodness Salad Dressing & Dip

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1-4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
4 medium cloves garlic
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp minced chickweed
3 tbsp minced chives

To make:
Place all the ingredients but the sesame seeds in a blender and blend until smooth.  Add sesame seeds.