Inviting A New Year

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Of Joy And Germs

Tonight, the first night of the newest year, will be embellished with a super moon. The first full moon in January has many names; ice moon, snow moon, wolf moon, old moon. Why old moon when it’s the first in a new year? Maybe because it’s the same old moon, just as we are the same old people. Sadly, learning to be new people requires a little more of us than picking a few resolutions to try out. To become a new people, we have to learn to recognize and disarm the triggers for old habits, old ways of thinking and acting, and old ideas about who we are in the world.

Many of us are greeting this new year with hopes and longings for a better one. To get there, we might also invite ourselves to become new/old people who can participate in shaping a world view that’s less about having and holding and more about helping and healing. Gandhi has often been quoted as saying we must be the change we want to see, but what he actually said was a little more complicated (surprise!):
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Who Are We Really?

It seems to me the need is less about changing our nature and more a matter of recognizing that our true nature has become distorted and betrayed. For decades now, social media has been used and manipulated to create a polarized world view, yet by nature, children rarely even recognize all sorts of “differences” in various people unless they are taught to. Despite tantrums and hissy fits, toddlers naturally display compassion and they love to feel themselves to be helpful. I believe our deep nature tends toward unity and compassion, just as the human body strives always to heal itself.

I recently joined a study group in reading Active Hope; How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy. Written in 2012 by Joanna Macy and Christopher Johnstone, it’s a practical primer that lays out a four step process they call the Work That Reconnects. The process is set up as a spiral that gets stronger and more effective with each repetition. The path can begin at any of the stages and keep on keeping on indefinitely. Going Forth leads both to and from Coming With Gratitude, Honoring Our Pain For the World, and Seeing With New Eyes. So here I am, Going Forth. Want to come along, or take it your own way? Both are good. Very good. So let’s go. Let’s go now.

Any Day Deserves A Wreath

I celebrated most of the holidays alone, in the comforting company of my cat and the discomfort of a stomach flu, the gift of an unknown carrier. Before I realized that I was getting ill, I made several holiday wreaths, one of cinnamon rolls and one stuffed with a savory mixture of feta and spinach. Sadly, I didn’t get to try either of them, but I did hear they were delicious. The wreaths are also very handsome and quite easy to make so I decided I don’t need to wait for another year to roll around before making them again. Any day can be a celebration of goodness, and a little playfulness can turn pretty much any yeast bread recipe into a wreath fit for a feast. To make them vegan, use oil instead of butter and replace the cheese with chopped nuts.

Basic Bread For Wreaths

2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons butter or avocado oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar or honey
2-1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 packet)
4-5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
(or whatever kind/combiination you want)

In a large bowl, combine hot water and butter. When melted, add salt, sugar and yeast and let stand in a warm spot until yeast blooms (about 15 minutes). Stir in enough flour to make a ball, cover bowl with a plate and let dough rise until doubled (about 35-40 minutes). Divide in two and press or roll each half out on a lightly floured surface, making rectangles about 30 inches long and 6-8 inches wide. If holes develop, pinch a bit of an end and patch it. Spread with filling of choice, leaving bare about an inch along one long side. Roll up starting from the long side covered with filling. Transfer the rolled tube to a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet, pinch the ends together and shape into a circle. Snip the outer edge every inch or so with kitchen scissors, not cutting all the way through so inner edge is intact. Gently push the inner edge outward to open up the circle a little and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 30 minutes). Bake at 400 degrees F until golden (about 15 minutes). Brush top with butter or oil while hot. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. If made ahead, warm in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving. Serves many!

Savory Feta And Spinach Filling

1 tablespoon butter or avocado oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound young spinach (or 1 box frozen, thawed)
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
OR 1 cup roasted, salted nuts

In a heavy frying pan, melt butter over medium heat, add onion and salt and cook until soft and slightly golden (8-10 minutes). Add spinach (drained and pressed dry of using thawed) and cook, stirring often, until mixture is almost dry. Remove from heat, add feta and lemon juice to taste (should be pretty lively). Cool mixture and spread evenly over rolled out dough, leaving bottom inch of one long side bare. Roll up and proceed as above.

Cinnamon Roll Filling

2 tablespoons soft butter or avocado oil
1 cup brown sugar, not packed
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon (to taste)
pinch salt
1 cup mixed raisins or any dried fruit
1 cup walnuts or any nuts

Spread rolled out dough with butter or oil. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and sprinkle evenly over dough, leaving bottom inch of one long side bare. Do the same with the fruit and nuts. Roll up and proceed as above.





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One Response to Inviting A New Year

  1. Cynthia Miller says:

    I heard you speak at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA years ago. Since then, I’ve thought of you often and bought several of your books. I am grateful now to follow you on your blog – and I’m determined to try a wreath, just because you suggested it. I hope you’ll be back in full health soon. Happy New Year!

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