Lights out...honey, sea salt...and the magic of presence.
Your weekly dare
This week’s dare is rich and delicious… possibly even... sexy?
I will explain, but to do so I will have to weave together a series of events that co-created yet another masterpiece of a dare. I had written this dare when I first began the souldaring project, but it morphed-as dares do. Over time it took on a life of its' own. The beauty of souldaring is actually contained in this statement; This is what happens; you do something-, in your way, because it is your life- so it looks different. Life is not linear or predictable. When you change one thing, something else happens- you get an idea-you see something you didn't before, and the adventure begins.
If you are busy, like me, you may not want the whole story- you may just want your weekly dare. I get it. So here it is. Reading on is optional- but you knew that.
This week I dare you to have a no-technology night.
That is, turn off all phones, computers, and televisions in the house.
Double dare: Turn off the lights too- using only candles. (highly-highly recommended)
I will be joining you joyfully, because I already know how good this one is.
You see, back in June my aunt, Aunt Honey, had a stroke. She was in a coma- and would not recover.
My first thought was throw some clean clothes into a backpack and drive to Montana- just to be near- be with the family, but the fifteen-hour drive was too much to pull off at the time.
Still I wanted to connect with her somehow. I wanted to find a way to hold a space in my heart while she was in this in-between place. I took inspiration from a clever artist and dear friend, Marina Eckler, who used only candles to light her house for the entire month after her father passed. I loved this idea-an meaningful dedicated and private vigil. I knew it was the perfect way to honor my aunt.
I told my daughter and husband about the idea and they agreed. Surprisingly, Evie, my -tech-savvy teen daughter, was especially into the idea and decided to come home early to be a part of it.
Matt made a fire in the back yard, and I filled the house with candles. I didn’t know exactly what we would do. The though of no distractions seemed both peaceful and lovely and a little vulnerable and scary somehow. I don't know why.
Sometime during the preparation it occurred to me that it would be nice to enjoy some of my Aunt Honey’s favorite foods. The problem was, most of the foods I remember her loving- were fresh seafood. Our family always gathered at the family home on Cape Cod where seafood was abundantly available. In landlocked-Colorado, fresh clams, lobster, and crab cakes are not easy to find or afford- plus it isn’t really the same to eat these things without the smell of the ocean and the sound of distant seagulls.
Seafood was not going to happen- but I did have a more literal tribute; raw honey from local bees. I have a vague memory of eating homemade vanilla ice cream with honey drizzled on top- I don't know if this was something I did with my Aunt or not- but it seemed a fitting choice. I sent Evie to the store to pick up some Haagen Dazs vanilla and stashed it in the freezer for later.
As the sun went down, we quietly put away our phones shut down our devices and sat by the fire. We rolled through phases of talking and silence- easily noticing the change in light and outlandish phases of the sunset- drinking in the moment where the sun disappeared behind the tallest peak that towers above our town. There have never been words that I find adequate to describe the Colorado sunsets-or any sunsets- suffice to say that they are twice as good without distractions- or even the temptation to want to hold on- or grasp the untenable with a photograph.
Although I did not see her often in my adult life- I was able to share some of the things I loved about my Aunt Honey with my husband and daughter, many of which were the impressions of a child- rather innocent and curious. Here is my Aunt as a child.
And here are some of the things I really loved about her.
She was a classic beauty- with Honey colored hair and fine features- yet she did not appear to spend a great deal of time on her appearance- no need really. She would simply comb her hair put on a summer shift or linen pants and pull a hot pink bougainvillea from the bush at the side of the house to put in her hair before dinner.
In the 1950’s portrait of my fathers’ family in the dining room of the Cape Cod summer house she is young – maybe 12- she is wearing high waisted pinstriped gray pants. There is a look of savvy, relaxed defiance on her face. Even then, she seemed ahead of her time.
She never spoke in hushed tones-not even around the children as the other adults did. She swore frequently and openly used inappropriate words, if they best served the story she was telling at the time. As a child, I adored her for this- as I hated to be talked down to. She never did that to me.
She was a brassy raconteuse, Matt likens her to Judy Garland later in life- smart, sassy, sharp-witted and classy with signs of hard-living but obvious charm. She was anything but demure- even when women were expected to be.
She was very capable person-, a professional woman with a stylish modern house we used to visit in Fort Lauderdale. My sister remembers her as a strong person.
But the most fascinating and probably my favorite trait was the fact that never tried to hide her shadow material. She openly admitted her mistakes in her life- shared her misadventures, owned her vices, and told things like they were. She was BRAVE AS F*CK- and no matter where she is I will always honor and admire her for that- and I know not everyone did.
After sharing memories and watching the sky and the fire for a while, we decided to make the sundaes. Evie and I pulled out the vanilla ice cream and honey by candlelight and spooned them into bowls. While drizzling the honey over ice cream ( a beautiful sight by candle light) I spotted some pink Himalayan Sea Salt and decided to sprinkle a little over the top of the sundaes. The result was –delicious. So so good.
Maybe it was twice as good without distractions- maybe not.
I do know that removal of technology and even lights gave this personal little memorial some impact.
Later a friend of Evie’s dropped by. He came to the back yard and sat down and said-
“Evie said I could come by if I left my phone in the car… I’m down with that”
We all sat by the fire for a while longer. Matt played the mandolin and we talked about Tolkien and science. Evie said- I guess- this is what you do when you don’t have your phone- you talk about books and science.
After a while, Evie and her friend left. Matt and I put out the fire and most of the candles. Two of the larger ones we took to our bedroom.
Here is the mild TMI I mentioned so…. Consider yourself warned.
We found ourselves feeling very connected- a side-effect of the removal of distraction.
With not enough light to even read by, we had nothing in the way of intimacy.
The result was...-umm… amazing marital relations.
It seems we found the sexiest thing we had was... presence.
Sexier than a drawer full of lingerie... we had the magic of presence.
Full intentional presence- is, perhaps the best aphrodisiac I have ever experienced.
If I could wrap it and sell it or write a little jingle maybe...
"Everything is better with presence..."
"Give them all a little dab of presence
"Or (said in a husky female voice)... presence... put it on before you put on anything else- your man WILL notice.
or for guys...
"I don't always use presence...but when I do, the ladies find me irresistible."
"The power of presence."
I know I am being silly now. But this dare reminds us, that simple and real presence is so so good. and it is free.
I also know I am not reinventing anything here. The Buddhists, Sufists and Yogis have been saying this for thousands of years. I did not invent presence. I just found it again, buried in a closet- and remembered once again its' magic. Presence is "the wheel" of traits- a design that cannot be improved upon.
Brene Brown has encouraged tapping into the concept of daring- and before her, generations of adolescents playing Truth or Dare. I also know I did not invent daring. The idea is that of tapping into a forgotten power and the beauty of these simple things is that each human manifests them differently.
We have had a couple of subsequent no tech nights since then. We have invited friends over (not to our bedroom, of course!). We’ve played instruments, we’ve laid down and looked at the stars- things we might do while camping but we never left the house.
I hope you enjoy your no-tech/no-lights dare. I would love to hear your stories, thoughts, ideas, or revelations. Tomorrow is our next no-tech night (Matt does not know- he is out of town) – maybe you are somewhere sharing the experience. Tell me about it.
Yesterday we photographed the honey-vanilla sundae for this blog post with the help an artist friend, Sophia Rose. We recreated the sundae for the image. Because the pink sea salt was so pretty I used a lot of it for the photograph- maybe too much. After the photos were finished, we ate the sundae together. I thought I may have added too much salt for it to be tasty. But I was wrong- it was amazing- mmm out-loud good.
The Honey Sundae was like my aunt; unique, sweet, layered, lovely and maybe a bit too salty for some. But not for me.
Aunt Honey Sundae
1 scoop vanilla HaagenDazs Ice Cream
drizzle of raw local honey
sprinkle of pink Himalayan sea salt