Finding Ways to Find Each Other (And Stay Warm)
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been colder ’round here, and I like it — the frost on the ground in the mornings, the mittens and scarves spilling out of the basket up in the closet, the starkness of leafless trees in the night sky, and how you can see your breath. Cold is a good thing – it reminds you of your invincibility, and your power to survive, and cold brings people together in ways few other things can.
I was reading a book by Matthew D. Lieberman a few days back. It’s called, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, about our brains and how they work. Seems for almost all of us, the lifelong passion of our brains when they’re not taken up with another activity is to give thought to others and our relationship to them. When you’re cooking or building something or doing your taxes, you’re focused; but close your eyes for a minute and rest a bit, you’ll likely find yourself thinking about other people. To quote the author, “In essence, our brains are built to practice thinking about the social world and our place in it.”
Well, that makes sense to me. It seems behavior in favor of our survival, for how would we survive the winter without people around us? The cold kicks our need for others up a notch, and we find ourselves following impulses to make pie and take it to the neighbors, to gather together around fires and sip Irish coffee and talk long into the night, to put another blanket on a child as she sleeps, to wrap our legs around each other as we fall into dreams.
As the days grow colder, I’m seeing all ’round people finding ways to find each other. A woman paid for my coffee and sandwich at a drive-through on Monday. There’s a tree in the hallway at church covered with ornaments listing gifts one might purchase for a family in need. The bell ringers will start ringing their bells soon, and where I shop for groceries, if you buy a turkey you can donate one free. To someone who for whom a turkey would be a blessing, good warm food on a cold night. There was an offering on Sunday for the people in the Philippines, and that plate was filled on up.
I’ve been invited to an appetizer party a couple weeks from now, and I can’t wait. I’m still thinking about what I might bring — bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, sweet Vidalia dip, maybe some of those pickles rolled up in cream cheese and ham. Something savory. And I’m thinking about the people who will be there and Mr. Sundberg across the room full of people talking and laughing, sipping egg nog or wine, all warm and cozy on a December night. Give some thought then, dear friends, to ways of staying warm, and to the people in your life. Combine the two, and you’ll have yourself a merry time. No doubt in my mind. It’s cold outside, and it’s gonna get colder.
One of my favorite treats is one of the simplest, and anything resembling shortbread gets a thumbs up in my book. Here’s an old recipe that goes well with any warm mug, and would fill up a tin as a fine gift for a hostess, or as a thank you for a walk well-shoveled.
1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 tsp water
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream butter and sugar; add water and vanilla and mix well.
Stir in flour and pecans until combined. Chill 3-4 hours.
Shape into balls or fingers. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes. Cool.
Roll in powdered sugar. Makes 3 dozen.