In the Beautiful Mess

Baked some caramel apple bars on Saturday and they weren’t bad. I was alone for the weekend, as Mr. S had headed out to a lodge in the Boundary Waters to give a talk on the benefits of silence in a rather noisy world. He doesn’t always share his talks with me, so after I did some housework to prepare for the kids’ fall break visit next weekend and some hedge trimming out back, I sat down and did a bit of research, and found an article I’d read earlier this year in the Huffington Post. It was an article referencing scientific research which reveals spending time in silence not only reduces stress and builds up our mental resources, but around two hours of silence every day may kick into gear development of new cells in the part of the brain hooked up with learning, memory and emotion.

Seriously. Who KNEW? Maybe the Great Thinkers knew, and wanted us to figure it out on our own. Like Thoreau, whose walks in silence resulted in wise and simple writings by which we might live. Maybe Emily Dickinson knew, shut up there in her room on the second floor of that house in Amherst, Massachusetts. Perhaps Frost, out there in his little cabin in the Vermont woods. Maybe Billy Collins and Mary Oliver know, their poems renderings of the wisdom gathered in silence. Perhaps it is the great secret of musicians, for whom I cannot imagine silence as anything but a pure gift.

Well. Now WE know. Silence can heal your brain. Huh. Now to find some silence, which – if you ask me – may not exist in civilized parts. There are, always, traffic sounds, birds, children’s laughter, the hum of people moving about, train whistles, alarms, the ring tones of cell phones, sirens, the furnace kicking on (though not yet in my house). And on. And on. You might have to journey to somewhere in Kansas, or Saskatchewan, or Yemen, or the North Pole. Might have to find an unnamed island. Or consider that real silence might very well be inside of you. And when you stop doing all you are doing and go for a drive north or take a walk in the woods or sit by a window awhile, maybe that’s as close to silence as you’ll get in the beautiful mess of your life. Wouldn’t that be something. If you’ve got it in you to grow and heal your own brain.

Somethin’ to ponder while you’re out rakin’ leaves. Sure is.

Here’s one for a day of carving pumpkins, raking leaves, hayrides and gettin’ things ready for winter. Which, I understand, this time around, is gonna be a humdinger.

Caramel Apple Bars

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup shortening
1 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
4 ½ cups coarsely chopped peeled tart apples (3 medium)
3 T flour
1 bag (14 ounces) caramels

Mix brown sugar, butter and shortening in large bowl, then stir in 1 3/4 cups flour, the oats, salt and baking soda. Reserve 2 cups oat mixture and press remaining oat mixture in an ungreased 9×13 pan.

Toss apples and 3 T flour; spread over mixture in pan. Heat caramels over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted, and pour evenly over apples. Sprinkle with reserved oat mixture; press lightly.

Bake at 400 for 25 to 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender. For 36 bars, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows while warm. Store covered in refrigerator.



  1. dkjohnson41
    November 23, 2016

    Your words made me smile! I recently drove from my home in Baton Rouge, LA to Atlanta without turning on the radio (mostly). It was great, although my kids don’t understand me (they put the radio on before we get out of the driveway) and sometimes I do feel guilty about NOT listening to satellite radio (after all, I paid for it) but silence is truly golden. Thanks and keep up your good work! I look forward to seeing “your view”. David

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