I recently received a request for ideas to improve interpretation at ‘stations.’ You know, programs where multiple people have booths or activity stations and groups walk around and ‘drop in’ at the stations to learn what is there. This often happens to accommodate large school groups. The several busloads of kids are divvied into small pods and sent along a trail where interpreters or volunteers wait at stations to give their spiel. This works OK. It accommodates the group, but often the messages are random and not coordinated. It’s as though there are a bunch of unrelated programs rather than one seamless, thematic story. The approach becomes one of expediency rather than purpose, and the result can be confusion rather than understanding.
You also see this in zoos, arboreta, museums, and other places where wandering and seeking are the style of the experience. In these cases individuals and families freely walk and enjoy the grounds and occasionally come upon a docent with a story to tell. These docents add value as well as education to the experience by being a person from the site to talk to. Their presence tells the visitor that the place cares about them and is there for them, and visitors like that. These are usually mini-programs, lasting five minutes, maybe up to 15 minutes, so things must be well organized and the message very clear. Here are some suggestions to get staff more comfortable with these mini-programs and in that short time really make a difference.
#1 – Be sure you have a purpose and a theme and that each station docent knows what it is. Don’t assume they know it, have it written down to hand to them, along with how their station relates to that theme. Craft a theme that rolls off the tongue easily that connects the exhibit or resource to the visitor (see #4). For the student group, be sure every station has a program or activity that reinforces the theme. For a zoo or garden I suggest the same thing, every docent relates his message to the theme. The theme could change daily, but throughout each day visitors learn about the station (bear, deer, lion, azalea) and a connection is made to the larger theme. Think about a universal concept that applies and build your theme and programs around it. Freeman Tilden’s third principle: relate everything to a whole concept. The theme is the whole, a big concept to which you have multiple points of approach. At the end of the day the visitor has a broad understanding of that larger concept.
#2 – Use what I call pocket exhibits. These are items that the docent or interpreter carries, sometimes in a pocket, and can show to visitors. Visitors can touch them, look at them and engage their sense of touch and employ kinesthetic learning. This works very well in museums where the ‘look but don’t touch’ concept is prevalent. This ‘don’t touch’ approach holds true in zoos, too. We usually don’t encourage touching the tiger, but if the docent hands the visitor a tooth, a claw, some fur – WOW! That’s a grabber that catches attention and is something to talk about.
Pocket exhibits can include pictures, food, keeper tools – anything that grabs the visitor’s attention, gives the visitor something to hold, and relates to the subject and illustrates the theme. Pocket exhibits create memorable interpretation. In a recent program about a CCC lodge the interpreter produced photos of the CCC boys as they constructed the very room in which we were standing. Those photos gave the program an added depth and increased our understanding and appreciation of the CCC.
#3 – Find a good teaser. A teaser is simply saying that you have something very important to tell and you’ll get to it in a minute… but first, notice this … (This happens every evening about an hour before the news!) If your staff has trouble getting visitors to stay and listen to what they have to say, they may have too much to say, OR, they may need a good teaser. A teaser is a way of telling the visitor that you are saving the best for last, and when the visitor knows the best thing is coming ‘in a minute,’ they will stay to hear it.
#4 – Realize that it’s about the visitor, not the flowers, not the tiger, not the forest. Freeman Tilden tells us that every visitor is interested in one thing – himself. That’s so true, and we fail when we forget it. Tilden’s first principle tells us to relate to the interest or experience of the visitor or “your interpretation will be sterile.” We want to know how that tiger relates to us, how that flower relates to us, and why we should care about the forest. Every docent should help the visitor answer “So what? Why should I care about this?” Otherwise all that happens is a verbal listing facts, and after one or two of those that’s all we want and we’re outa there.
Beyond philosophy: A Sample Interpretation Strategy
There is a lot of philosophy, training and discussion about the character of a good interpretation effort. A lot of emphasis is placed on planning and delivering a program. NAI’s Certified Interpretive Guide training is 32 hours focused on the elements and character of a meaningful and memorable program to capture the heart and mind. That’s all good – no, it’s great!
If you’ve heard me speak or read many of these blogs you know that I often look beyond the single program to the management of the overall program of a site. I refer to the interpreter, depending upon the specific situation at a site, being the manager of the site’s interpretation program. And, I note the steps of growing a park interpretation program from its infancy through adolescence and into maturity, or the value of site themes, or how managers can better manage interpretation.
Part of the planning and management of an interpretation program is to develop an interpretation strategy, whether it’s accomplished by a lone interpreter at a site who has the task because there’s no other way to accomplish it, or in a site with a team of managers, curators, educators and others,. This could be called a plan, and annual work plan, or whatever you need to call it to get the support to be successful. Here I’m calling it an interpretation strategy.
The purpose is to write specific tasks and identify those responsible for their success so they can be accomplished. The sample here is a beginning that can be fleshed out with many details.
There are several ways to create your strategy. I think one of the most meaningful methods is to identify the site’s significance and associated significant resources, then identify how those will be interpreted. Another is to develop your distinctive competence and essential experiences, then your themes, and develop your strategy around those. A third approach, and that used here, is based on three distinctive audiences: Schools, area residents and park visitors. Each group has special needs and requires different interpretive approaches. It helps to have themes developed first. In this case, five site themes were developed prior to this strategy being written. Audiences are identified, strategies for reaching each audience are listed, and part of the story each audience receives is based on one of those five salient theme statements.
AN INTERPRETATION STRATEGY
Strategies are developed for each identified audience. Some audiences have been identified as special target groups because the site can offer long-term benefits to them and they to the site. If cultivated, a strong symbiotic-like relationship can develop.
Schools are an identified target audience for this site
Place emphasis on school programs when field trips to the park are most likely: spring and fall. Spring is the most popular season for field trips, and spring is most popular, often filling fast. Encourage fall trips, encourage multiple trips, and emphasize accomplishing and reinforcing classroom goals and learning objectives through programs in the park that make the resources and school subjects come alive through contact with your site resources. At all costs avoid moving the students from the school classroom to an indoor classroom at your site. The objective is to be immersed in the resource, not in a room.
1. Complete the Teacher’s Guide. Have it available in print and digitally downloadable from the website.
2. Actively market to private and public schools within a one-hour drive of PMSP. Send Teacher’s Guides and make cold calls to each school’s science department head in February and August each year. A list of teachers will be compiled and then divided among interpretive staff for calls to be made during work time set aside for that purpose. Copies of notes regarding “yes, no, maybe” will be kept in a common Interpreter file.
3. Homeschooled children are included with contacts to their organization and events and programs for them. They are freer to travel and more likely to participate in longer programs such as overnight programs, and to make repeat visits.
4. School groups receive preference for calendar dates from April 15th-June 15th and again from September 1st- November 1st. If school groups have not scheduled a full day of programs (three programs per Interpreter) for a given date during those time frames by two weeks in advance, then public programs will be scheduled.
Significantly increase out of park school programming (in schools) in Nov. Dec. Jan. and Feb.
1. Out of park school programs will be emphasized during these months. Schools seen in the park in the spring and fall will be reminded that we are able and willing to visit their classes at their schools in the winter. Our “cold call” list will be used during the month of November to firm up dates for December, January, and February. Copies of notes regarding “yes, no, maybe” will be kept in a common Interpreter file.
2. Each teacher that brings a school group to the park in the spring and/or fall will be mailed a follow-up letter from the interpreter that served as that group’s primary contact. The letter will include post trip activities that match the theme interpreted during their visit and will include information about out of park programming opportunities available at their school. Copies of correspondence will be kept in the common interpreter file.
Get those schools you have worked with in winter (above) to come to the park that spring and the following fall.
1. A teacher’s guide and other promotional materials will be provided to teachers during our classroom visits.
2. A follow-up letter from the interpreter that visited the school will be mailed to each teacher reemphasizing the benefits of bringing their class to the park for curriculum-related programs in spring and fall. Copies of letters sent will be kept in the common interpreter file.
Two teacher workshops (Hands-on ecosystems; Hands-on geology) will be promoted and offered in late summer.
1. Advertisements and promotional materials will be coordinated through educational cooperatives and distributed in May to school boards presiding over schools within and beyond our 50 mile target area.
Residents of the area are a valued and targeted audience
Become highly visible and seen as an active force in the community by doing programs in civic clubs throughout the area in Nov. through March – always with the intent of building awareness of the beauty, nature preservation, recreation and education opportunities at the state park to increase awareness and visitation.
This task will be shared among all uniform staff, but will be primarily fostered and promoted by the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent.
Hold “adventure workshops” to attract the local audience. These include canoeing; kayaking; backpacking; hiking; map and compass; fire and shelter; campfire cooking and perhaps others will be offered. These attract specific audiences and are offered for a fee to boost revenue.
A minimum of one workshop will be scheduled per quarter. These will be fee based, very interactive, and hands-on instructional programs. Guest speakers/ instructors will be contracted as needed, but the majority will be done with our interpretive staff.
Hold workshops for parents to help them be leaders for their kids: (This has been identified as a need and was a big success where tried, promoted and worked with consistently.) Topics include: Teaching your kids about nature; Taking your kids hiking; Camping with kids; Enjoying rivers with your kids; Showing your kids the wonders of nature in Arkansas; What to show your kids on a walk around your block, etc. This will become a heavily promoted program offered the first Saturday of each month throughout the year. The target audience is parents and grandparents and will be very hands-on. Most classes will be free, but participants will be charged normal fees for use of canoes, pontoon boat, etc.
We will continue to offer a minimum of two, week-long day camps during June.
Cold calls will be made to Boy and Girl Scout leaders and a minimum of one badge workshop will be scheduled each month during June, July, and August. Copies of notes with regards to “yes, no, maybe” will be filed in a common Interpreter file.
Cold calls will be made to senior citizen centers, assisted living centers, libraries, etc. and out of park programs will be scheduled during July and August. Copies of notes with regards to “yes, no, maybe” will be filed in the common interpreter file.
People who choose to visit the site are a primary, valuable and immediate audience. These may be residents or tourists, but they have made the decision to come to our site. We want their visit to be rewarding and memorable.
During high visitation times from April through November we will offer at least two programs each weekend day – one guided trail walk and one activity program, both in the West Summit picnic area. These will become a regular and advertised programs at specific and at dependable times so the visitor gets used to, can depend on, and expects to have good programs at specific times.
From March 15th- November 15th, we will conduct a guided hike starting in the picnic area each Saturday and Sunday morning starting at 9 a.m. to be followed by a demonstration in the picnic area at 10 a.m. At both of these programs, each and every participant will be provided with a printed calendar and schedule of events outlining the activities scheduled for the rest of the day along with promotional materials for upcoming workshops and special events.
An info table/booth will be set up and manned each weekend day from April 1st- November 1st at the West Summit trailhead from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. This booth will primarily be manned by volunteers, but in the absence of such will be staffed by a member of the interpretive staff. Close coordination between Interpreters and the Volunteer Services Coordinator will be necessary.
Summer – At least three programs per day in the park most every day, including a sunset or evening program each day, plus day camps, scout badge programs, and others.
From June 15th-September 1st, each Interpreter on duty will do a minimum of three programs per day. One Interpreter will be assigned an evening/closing shift and will be responsible for an evening/sunset program on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The same Interpreter will be responsible for two other late afternoon and early evening programs somewhere in the picnic area.
Developing a strategy, or plan, need not be difficult, but it requires doing some things that seem to be seldom done: Thinking of the full context of your site, identifying resources and audiences, and writing things down. Pretty soon you’ll have your own strategy.
One more benefit, when people see you have a strategy, or plan, you’ll find that cooperation, and even funding, may soon follow.
Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.
- Jimmy Carter
The Introduction Section:
When people use the word ‘wilderness’ I wonder if they intend for it to have the meaning I associate with it. They could mean the countryside, something you might see if you take a drive in the country. But they usually they are referring to territory “further back” than a countryside with roads, fields, woodlots, cows, beans, and farmsteads.
Maybe they mean backcountry. I see that as something more remote than the countryside: deeper forests, fewer houses and fields, more wild than tame – or maybe that is my southern upbringing talking. Here in the temperate forest our backcountry is filled with an oak, hickory, pine forest. Backcountry could be tundra or plains or desert or alpine or swamp or other somewhat remote, mostly natural landscape. Maybe backcountry is the undeveloped areas of a park. It could be a few hundred or a few thousand acres, but some sees it as ‘wilderness.’
I see even more separation, more distance, less of man and more of nature in wilderness.
I occasionally get the privilege to join Joe Roggenbuck and friends in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. That’s a long and descriptive name; it’s the official name. There is The Boundary Waters, a beautiful mass of lakes and connecting streams in the woods of northern Minnesota. Here you’ll find seaplanes, motorboats, roads, homes, outfitters, and lodges nestled around the clear lakes and the north woods of the Superior National Forest. The area is rustic, charming and beautiful. But within that, there is the Wilderness. When you enter the Wilderness you know it, it’s marked on the ground and on maps, and you feel the Wilderness. It’s as though the atmosphere around you changes, and there are no planes, homes, or motorboats, only the water, the rough portage trails, the glacier-carved land, and you, your canoe, and your paddle. What you bring is what you have, what you take home is more of yourself.
The Digression Section:
We perceive things oddly, yet we think we perceive things completely and entirely. Ultimately, our perception is … about us. It begins and ends with our own memory and our first impression, our first ‘seeing’ of a place. When we see a landscape we accept it as what we see – a field, a forest, a canyon, a trail through the woods, a stream through a forest. That glance of a few minutes or a few days becomes the basis of our naming that place “wilderness.” We can expand our perception into understanding through experiences and study – gaining knowledge and understanding of the place. We slowly change our first-impression perception “sense of place” into an understanding-of-the-story “sense of place,” and it becomes a deeper, more meaningful “sense of place.”
That forest we first perceived as “wilderness” may be owned by a lumber company and may have been logged three times. It may have had roads and railroads crisscrossing it; it may have been homesteaded, even have been a small community. Our glance revealed an untouched place, but history tells a deeper story. With that added knowledge and experience our “sense of place” changes, it evolves as we gain an understanding of the story of the land.
The Back-to-the-Topic Section:
But what about this word, wilderness? Environmental activist and writer, Edward Abbey wrote:
“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.”
Is that just the countryside? Is it backcountry? Is it parkland? Of course the answer is a resounding: YES! … but, not entirely.
In September of 1964 something extraordinary happened. After after over sixty drafts and eight years of work Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Wilderness Act. It created the legal definition of Wilderness in the United States, protected 9.1 million acres of federal land, and created a mechanism for designating Wilderness Areas to the National Wilderness Preservation System.
The Wilderness Act is well known for its succinct and poetic definition of Wilderness:
“A Wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Oh, and one more thing: that little ‘w’ in wilderness changed forever. A capital ‘W’ denotes lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System – rugged, remote, WILDERNESS! This very special status of protection tells you these lands are among the wildest and most remote in the nation. They are even dangerous. You are own your own out there. It’s you and nature, and the challenges can be many. Want nice roads, developed trails, easy rescue, and a soft bed? – There are plenty of places to go for those things, but Wilderness with a capital “W” is not one of them. In Wilderness, man, and signs of man, are short-time visitors who do not remain. In Wilderness the land itself is supreme.
Passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964 was not easy, but it was remarkable. The Wilderness Act is one example of the success of tireless efforts of conservationists and elected officials who worked together for a greater nation, and during that era passed to our generation the gifts of protected places, clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, places for outdoor recreation, wild rivers, and more. Today, we largely take these laws for granted. I encourage you to celebrate the people and legislation that has created America’s great environmental legacy, and work to keep the legacy alive.
Interpreters, include these great environmental laws in your programs, including why and how your own site was selected and preserved. Our audience is two or three or four generations away from these events and have little emotional or physical contact with the places and seldom realize benefits we reap from these laws (like breathing clean air and drinking clean water!).
When people leave your site, they should appreciate the work of those who brought your site into existence. We are good at walking through the forest, patting the bunny, touching the snake, and watching the hawk soar, but in the end, you audience needs to understand that they can enjoy those things only because someone fought to save a special place: your place, they place where they are standing.
You can experience Williamsburg in many ways. Just walking the streets or sitting on a bench; being in this place is enough. Buying a ticket and taking tours and hearing programs in the many historic buildings is wonderful. Specialty tours like the early morning garden tours and the evening theatre are outstanding. Yet most of the town and activities are free and outdoors in public areas. Then, about 4pm-ish, things subtly shift…
We’ll get there in just a minute …
I like going east – all the way to the coast; I like the coast a lot, but I also like the history. The 2012 National Interpretation Workshop was in Hampton, Virginia. That’s almost to the oceanside boardwalks of Virginia Beach and is in the oldest part of the region. Nearby are Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg, and a small church on the Isle of Wight. There are remarkable historic sites, homes, streets of taverns, and museums that are not quite so famous, but each telling a fascinating bit of our nation’s history.
A little over a year ago I was asked to speak at a conference on historic sites and museums. The theme was ‘Telling Difficult Stories.” I was pleased to be last on the program and thereby able to hear other speakers and in my presentation connect their comments to the several things we do that address difficult stories. As I listened to the remarkable speakers my eyes opened to the obligation, yes, obligation, that historic sites and museums have to go deeper into the lives of people and the practices of society as we tell the stories of our sites. When I started working here, our 1870s train station at Mammoth Spring had ‘Colored Entrance’ painted on the back door. Today in that station we tell the story of the ‘separate but equal era.’ At Historic Washington the lovely townhomes of the rich and famous ONLY exist because of the slave population out on the plantations. We are just beginning to tell that story. So it is that I have become very interesting in pushing the depth of interpretation, to peopling our parks with all the population, and telling the whole story, not just the easy, pretty story.
When I saw the agenda for the 2012 National Interpreter’s Workshop, I immediately signed up for a 2-day pre-workshop entitled “Stories That Must Be Told,” presented by NAI’s Cultural Interpretation and Living History Section. I’m glad I did. Both days were outstanding, emphasizing interpretation of African Americans and American Indians. A lot of this was about awakening our awareness that these people were here. Once that awakening occurs, a good interpreter is practically compelled to research, find those stories, and incorporate them into dynamic, emotional, memorable experiences.
The second day of the workshop was held at Williamsburg. I’ve been to Williamsburg many times, but this trip was different. We were behind the scenes talking with people who portray enslaved people. Over half the population of Williamsburg was black, yet for years all interpretation and restored property focused on the big homes and lives of whites. That is changing as they work to incorporate ‘the other half’ into the Williamsburg story. Also, American Indians have been largely ignored. It’s as though once that first Thanksgiving (OK – wrong place) passed, we simply ignore the American Indians. However, we learn that Williamsburg was the center of negotiations with many tribes and American Indian leaders stayed in Williamsburg for lengthy political and other visits and were a fairly common sight on the streets there. They were dignitaries of nations and held in high regard. Their story is important to understanding Colonial and Revolutionary America, which is Williamsburg’s era and story. These stories aren’t all nice and tidy, they tell the ugly side, the difficult side and try to show several perspectives on people and slavery and human and political relationships, and freedom. This has created a new and deeper Williamsburg experience.
We were able to meet interpreters/actors and not only see their character, but hear them talk about their passion for the topic, about their dedication to good research, and their commitment a good portrayal. They are treading new ground for Williamsburg and for each visitor, and they recognize that their portrayal of characters and events is critically important and must be accurate yet sensitive.
I was impressed that there was a clear and specific flow to the Williamsburg experience, but it’s not obvious. You can experience this place in many ways. Just walking the streets is wonderful. Buying a ticket and taking tours and hearing programs in the many buildings is wonderful. Specialty tours like the early morning garden tours and the evening theatre are wonderful. Yet most of the town and activities are free, outdoors and in public areas. Then, about 4pm-ish, things subtly shift. House tours subside and costumed interpreters greet each other on the street, chat about 1776 events and meander toward town center, a block from the courthouse. There a kangaroo court with charges of “Rebel” or “Tory” unfolds around you. Costumed people standing in the crowd with you whisper and engage you in small conversation, perhaps asking where you stand, as though you are their neighbor making the same decisions as they about the dire possibility of a revolt against The Crown. Yelling is heard to the east and the crowd moves as one, downhill and behind the buildings into a not-so-public place and another conversation begins, a secret conversation in hushed tones. Africans are talking about a different kind of freedom and an offer from the British to fight for them and be free.
The crowd is left to think about this as the interpreters run into the bushes away from the authorities. A moment later a canon is fired and fife and drum are heard. The crowd, like a flock of blackbirds careening through the air as a single unit, rushes back to the street where the fife and drum corps is escorting a recruitment officer into the crowd to find men who will volunteer to fight for freedom from England.
All this takes place over an hour’s time with the crowd responding to sounds and action and being moved along the street not so much by will as by osmosis from one point of interest to the next. Now we stand at the gates to the courthouse and a voice rings out from the balcony, in a moment you realize you know those words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.– the Declaration of Independence!
A few lines are read from the balcony as we look and listen, then the next lines are said nearer the street by a common person, then other lines by a person to your right, then another to your left. People you have seen in costume throughout the day are here, stepping out and proclaiming unalienable rights and freedom! … and it is powerful.
The voices fall silent, and you think about rights and the definitions of freedom and the limits of freedom that you have witnessed this day. Suddenly the canon fires, fifes play and drums roll. Shouts of “Huzzah, Huzzah!” fill the air. The crowd moves, breaks into small groups and slowly fades away … the day at Williamsburg is over.
It was interesting to realize the non-randomness, of the randomness of the day. You choose what to do, you craft your own experience, yet whatever experience you choose, each is tied to the day’s finale of events. Is that what John Muir meant when he said: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe?” Probably not, but maybe that’s what well-planned interpretation does – it connects everything to the main thing! And you already know, to be a good interpreter you must know what the main thing is, and – The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!
The Williamsburg finale is carefully planned to capture everyone’s attention, to create in the street a group of unrelated people, then move that group as though with an invisible hand, to a final, powerful conclusion wrapped in the intangibles of courage, values, honor, persistence, hope and freedom. Each of those is now set in your mind from the several and very different perspectives of the different people of Williamsburg. This could not happen with the memorable force it has without including all the people of Williamsburg.
I challenge you to look for the story you are NOT telling. Look for the people NOT represented. Look for the different perspective and tell the difficult story. People your place with all the people, and let their ideas flow.
I’ve been reading “At Home” by Bill Bryson. I enjoy his wandering, circling style of storytelling and how he connects everything, even the simplest things, to something else. That reminds me of John Muir telling us that when we try to separate a single thing we find it attached to everything else in the universe. It’s quite amazing how Bryson does just that. One sentence you are in his English home and the next you are walking with Romans. The connections are interesting and fun, and you see that a home is the culmination of centuries of life. He says: “Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.” That’s a fascinating perspective that opened my eyes in a new way to the things around me.
In the introduction Bryson writes about needing to go into the attic of his old house, once a rectory for the adjacent Anglican church. He shimmies through a hole in the ceiling, and looking around, sees something startling – an unexpected door. It opens easily onto the roof where he has a view of the place where he lives. He’s been around this place a lot, walked the streets, been in the pubs and shops, in the church and cemetery. It’s all very familiar to him. But from the rooftop it’s entirely different. He now sees it from a new angle, a different perspective, and he looks around with wonder.
Of course, this got me thinking about the art of interpretation. Isn’t the above exactly what we do? We tell stories that make connections; we place our visitors in locations so that they see their world differently; we transcend time to show how the past influenced our lives today; we share varied perspectives; and we increase the value of the experience and the sense of place.
French novelist, critic, and essayist, Marcel Proust said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Bill Bryson’s small journey to his rooftop and seeing the place where he lived from a new perspective gave him “new eyes,” and a new and different perspective of his world, and led to a multitude of stories.
We keep marching on at the speed of time: one second per second. Now a new year is upon us, a year never before seen, a new temporal landscape filled with opportunity and promise.
A challenge before us is to see this new year with “new eyes,” and to take ourselves and our visitors to places we have been before and to “see” them new perspectives, new stories and new connections that bring our resources to life in new, meaningful, memorable ways. Sounds like fun.
Best wishes for a wonderful new year!
Finally, and officially, winter is here. For some of you that means a white Christmas. For my friend Leigh it means white until June!
I like winter. It’s a wonderful time to slow down and think, to observe, to plan, to get things in order and prepare for the coming busier seasons. This is one of my favorite times to get out of town and into our parks and natural areas. The leafless trees are like skeletons through which you can see things hidden by the muscle and flesh of leaves the rest of the year. It’s a delight to look off a mountainside through the skeletons at striking rock formations, waterfalls, or into a deep valley to all sorts of hidden things now exposed by winter.
Winter: comfortable boots, a warm jacket, and a hat pulled low—It’s a fine time of year. It should be enough to just say it’s winter, lie low, take a day or two off, enjoy a walk in the quiet winter woods, and enjoy the season. But it’s getting close to one of my favorite times —Christmas. Yes, I’m one of those. I like the lights, the music, the decorations, the packages, and most everything, except shopping. Raised over half a century ago, I yearn for small towns, snowy streets, snowmen in yards, kids playing, and strings of lights hung across main street. I never liked the lame little cutesy things tied to light poles—if you are in the spirit get those strings of lights all the way across the street, or just get out of town!
It’s Christmastime, and I have a gift for you. In going through family things last month I came across a box that held small papers that must have come from my father’s wallet. The papers were wallet-size and looked like wallet stuff. Among them was a carefully folded sheet of notepaper. Written in my father’s handwriting was my mother’s vanilla ice cream recipe.
Now this was a surprise. Why would Dad keep Mom’s ice cream recipe in his wallet?
I do know that Mom’s ice cream was a special treat. It’s not a complex recipe, but the ice cream was, is, wonderful. Sometimes she would add to it – bananas, powered cocoa, or strawberries were most common – individually, not all together. I loved her chocolate ice cream. It wasn’t heavy, dark chocolate; Mom added just enough cocoa to create a hint of chocolate. Oh my – good stuff!
So, my gift to you, though the weather outside may be frightful, is Mom’s ice cream recipe, saved by Dad, found my me, and given to you. Play with it and see what you like to add.
Angie’s Ice Cream
1¾ cups sugar
1 tall can condensed milk
1 carton Half and Half
A pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Put all in a mixing bowl and mix with electric mixer, then pour into ice cream freezer.
Fill any remaining space with milk.
Surround with ice and salt
Crank until hard