When we go home, it’s not five minutes before I’m bounding up the stairs to my room, the room with mocha-colored walls that my dad let me pick the paint for, where the bookcase is still filled with my books and the windows overlook a backyard I’ve watched, year after year, turn from green to brown to white winter snow before my eyes.

timinwisconsin

I plop down my bags and head back to the kitchen, a kitchen where the fridge holds unending options, from last night’s leftovers to fresh cherries and strawberries to kombucha. At night, Tim and I share the big wooden sleigh bed I’ve had since eighth grade, and we hear my parents’ voices in the room below us before we fall asleep. My brother makes us banana pecan pancakes for breakfast, and my mom bakes a chicken pot pie from a book I love, and Tim pulls together spinach-ricotta gnocchi, and I chill a tray of coconut dreams.

coconut dream

More than anywhere else we go, maybe because it’s familiar, maybe because of who’s there, home is refreshing, a place where I’m not just telling myself to relax but where I actually do. There’s no work. Nothing to clean or water or respond to. Nothing pressing. Four people who love me are an arm’s reach away. We drive up north, and it’s OK when my Internet stops working. I don’t have to stay on top of email. Everything slows down.

What’s so wrong about spending peaceful hours on a porch swing, cuddled up with your husband, listening to the wind rustle the trees, hearing the frogs and the birds and a boat buzzing by on the water?

lakeboat
lightwoods

Our grand plans each day involve friends to see, recipes to play with, places to take pictures of, stores to visit. Some days, we’re just sitting around, me and Tim and my family, watching movies or reading books or, even, thinking and being still.

Between the two trips, when we’re back from Wisconsin but still with a few days in Illinois, I read this New York Times article (via Joanna) on busyness, about how our culture of iPhones and emails and pressure has turned us into tense, high-stress people caught up with how important our work is (be it writing or administrating or Web designing), perhaps in an effort to make ourselves feel like we’re important, perhaps without realizing what we’re doing at all. And I think how much I relate to that, even from the perspective of half a week away.

In it, author Tim Kreider says this:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

plantsinthewoods

Necessary to getting any work done. This is not the idleness of laziness or sloth, the idleness that means doing nothing; rather, he’s describing the idleness of being quiet, being still, giving your mind space to see. I keep thinking about that, about how we all need this kind of time to think and to process, whatever or personalities or job titles or geography. We need to find regular ways to disconnect—and in a world that makes it incredibly hard to do so—if we are to have any meaningful connecting at all. It’s the first time I’ve ever really considered getting rid of my iPhone, much as I love it; or finding a way to abandon Facebook and help myself remember to pursue real connections in light of the quick-contact perceived ones.

Could it be that the rest I enjoy when I go visit my family, the ability to put other things aside for a while, is a rest my body, and my mind, needs more often? Could it be that there’s a way to find that in regular life?

lightintrees

I’m still thinking about it.

But along those lines, what I want to know is this: How do you find time for quiet, especially, but not only, in terms of the creative process and work? Do you find it necessary? Is disconnecting a part of your regular routine? Do you schedule it in your days or does it happen naturally?

coconut and almonds

And in the meantime, I bring you those coconut dreams—a raw, gluten-free, six-ingredient recipe inspired by a dessert I love from a local Nashville bakery; one I’ve been wanting to re-create ever since tasting them at The Jam coffee house (which is great! and if you’re in Nashville, go!) but which I only, finally found the uninterrupted creative space for while I was on vacation, in Illinois and in the woods, in the midst of a few days away from it all, resting and remembering what it is to move slowly, embrace where I am and, to see.

coconut dreams




Coconut Dreams
Makes 16

I’m obsessed with these little treats, which are so basic and simple in their ingredients that it’s almost too good to be true. Adjust the proportions to taste if you like, but this recipe is the way we’ve liked them best.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus 1/4 cup, set aside)
3 tablespoons raw honey
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Directions:
Combine all ingredients but the reserved 1/4 cup coconut in a food processor (or Vitamix or other strong blender), stopping to scrape down sides as needed. When ready, batter should be soft and dough-like, easy to form into balls. Taste to see if the sweetness is right for you and add more honey if desired. Place 1/4 cup coconut in a bowl or dish; form batter into little balls and roll them in the coconut, placing them in mini liners as you go. Chill in the fridge and keep cold. I find they actually improve with time.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. la domestique

    I often look for a day between projects and leave my calendar open. On this day off I walk the city, with no real plan. I visit my favorite coffee shop and enjoy a good book, or take myself out to lunch at my favorite restaurant and order dessert- even a glass of wine. Invariably, I run into a good friend and that makes the day even better. This is how I renew my creative energy. Oh, and the coconut dreams look divine.

  2. Lan | angry asian

    first, your vacation pictures are so magically dreamy. they’re hazy and lazy and so perfect. second, your header so precious. :)

    to answer your question, i find i’m most creative when i listen to music, sometimes it’s something new or something that has been around for awhile, i ignored it because it was popular and then discovered when it lost its shine. it happens at the most random times, and often, if i don’t stop to make a note of it, it will pass me by, which is unfortunate.

    these coconut dreams look lovely, perfect to make in this heat, as it requires no turning on any stove or oven.

    1. Shannalee

      Thanks, Lan! I wish you could have seen me and Tim in my hometown’s downtown area, setting up a tripod and taking photos for this header idea we’d talked about, ha! : ) And thanks for your thoughts on creative energy—I am exactly the opposite and often want total quiet to think, so it’s fascinating to hear what works for you!

  3. Kathryne

    Shanna, I love this post so much that I want to curl up in it and take a nap. I was idle a lot last week, and inspired, and came up with so many creative ideas. Now I’m back from vacation and feel stupid busy trying to get caught up. I’m exhausted. Thank you for this post, for this reminder. Lastly, those coconut dreams look and sound heavenly.

    1. Shannalee

      You are too generous and I can’t tell you how much I love knowing that someone else gets it. Love how you wrote ‘stupid busy’ – that is exactly how the online/social/life clutter makes me feel, too.

  4. Nancy @ gottagetbaked

    I wish I were there for vacation too, in that beautiful place, with those coconut dreams to munch on next to the water. The Husband accuses me all the time of not being able to put my iPhone down. It would be fabulous to go away, shut the phone off and really relax! It sounds like you had a wonderful time!

    1. Shannalee

      For the first day, I kept reaching for my iPhone, just out of habit–I think that’s what made me see my dependence most. The beauty of going to the cabin is the lack of Internet actually forces me to disengage. How I need that!

  5. Jacqui

    Writing for pleasure. Stopping to take a photo of a single moment. Reading blogs. Cooking a meal for which there is no real hurry. Sitting outside and drinking a beer. These are ways that I find ways to rest and relax in my everyday. I don’t think it needs to be a vacation. Funny that you mention getting rid of your iPhone when I am thinking about getting one finally!

  6. Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklyn

    “The idleness of being quiet.” I love that, Shanna. Recently, I’ve been super busy, and I looked at my computer this morning and it said it was July 10th and it blew my mind! Half the summer is gone and I feel like I’ve been holed up doing work.
    Strangely enough, I am often struck with my most creative thoughts and moments in the shower! At least I have time to do that fairly often!
    I have shredded coconut leftover from another recipe, shouting out to be used. I think I just found a winner in these Coconut Dreams. Maybe I’ll make them, pack them up and then get lost in a park somewhere.

  7. sarah

    Yes, yes. I need to print this and hang it on my fridge. The [few] times I take for myself – to get away, not check emails, or twitter, and just relax, are always time of inspiration and reflection. It’s so good to be reminded to slow down.

    And, I’m glad you had a lovely time away!

  8. wesley @ the way home

    My husband recently read an article about napping and how all of the most successful people napped, and he’s started to do it! He says it gives him a lot more energy, and one of his friends who is doing it says that weirdly enough he sleeps better at night. I think just being able to shut off our brains, whether we are awake or asleep, is such a huge need that we forget about so often. I mean, God has been telling us for generations that we need rest! I try to take at least a few hours out of the weekend and disregard my to-do list, because if I don’t I’ll just spend my whole weekend working. Here’s a good article on rebuilding your schedule: http://theresurgence.com/2012/06/18/rebuilding-a-healthy-schedule

    1. Shannalee

      Ah, so true, your husband is definitely on to something because, like you wrote, we were made to need rest! Just read the article you linked to and really liked how it emphasized that our need for rest shows us our own finiteness and limits. I think about that a lot when I’m tired—how I eventually become so unable to function, dependent on sleep and how it’s humbling really. I am not sufficient to always work. I am not strong enough. I need to rest. Also – without boundaries between work and rest, we become less effective. That is what I’m learning.

  9. Jennifer T

    Those coconut dreams look amazing. Almond butter is amazing, and it looks like basically homemade almond butter plus honey and coconut — what could be better? Yum, I want some right now…

    I’ve been meaning to tell you that about 2 weeks ago, my mom called me all excited because she had been reading the Publix Greenwise magazine’s article about bloggers and turned the page to see your face! She was so impressed! I told her that I am also very impressed with you. You do such beautiful work, and I’m so happy that you’ve found a wonderful guy who’s so perfect for you and who loves you so much. The Lord is good!!

    1. Shannalee

      That is so crazy that your mom saw it! I’m kind of amazed at the reach of Publix Greenwise, as that’s what your mom’s seeing the piece really shows me. Thanks for your encouragement, both of you. : )

  10. Beth {local milk}

    I cannot express how much I like this post. This is something I think about *a lot*. We live in a culture that makes us feel guilty when we take this time. My partner and I make a habit of sitting on the front porch and having long conversations over cups of coffee and have to constantly remind myself that this is good and okay, that I’m not being lazy or irresponsible, that this is the point of life. And that all the other work I do will be better because of it. It is admittedly a conscious effort to relax and be still, and I have personally found that practicing yoga and meditation helps my perspective greatly. I’m all for quality not speed and quantity! Truly a great piece.

  11. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes

    I always think that progress is a great thing, but it´s going on for too long. There´s little possibility of a fullfilled life if we´re rushing permanently and don´t take the time to enjoy it.
    My way of disconecting and finding perspective is walking. My last post is about that. I walk when I´m mad, excited about good news, tired, worried, need to make decisions, I simply get out and start roaming the streets, sometimes stop at a park and sit down for a while, all the time keeping to myself like I´m alone in the world. it´s my way of meditating. I read that it´s in the silence where answers and the right images appear. I totally agree.

  12. Marissa

    I feel more relaxed just reading this post. We spent a week with my father in law recently and I commented to my husband that I felt like a dry sponge soaking up rest. I left there full of excitement and energy for my regular life. I find that I have to go all out on both sides – work work work then reeeelax. I just accept it as my cycle. I’m not sure I would appreciate the relax part without feeling I really needed it.
    The coconut dreams look so delicious – I love little no bake sweets and these look like a perfect little afternoon pick me up. And one more thing, you made me so happy when you mentioned chicken pot pie. I posted a recipe just a couple of days ago for it and felt like a nutball posting such a thing in July. :)

  13. Erin

    I’ve wrote about this exact thing before. People look at me like I’ve gone crazy when I say I hate how technology can make me feel. I went to a concert at Alpine (since you are familiar with the Illinois/Wisconsin area, I can only assume you know the area.) I didn’t have my phone, camera, or anything else. I just had the music, nature, and love. I really need to incorporate more of that in to my life. Great post and wonderful reminder.

  14. Erica

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post!!! Quiet time is needed and often times is such a luxury when we finally manage to disconnect from the everyday. I find, when I am teaching in the midst of the school year, that coming to the kitchen at night, with music playing quietly in the background, that creating something (even if it is a grilled cheese!) is so important in centering and grounding myself. Now that I am on summer vacation I am trying to do more in terms of quieting the mind – listening to the world around me and responding as needed. Reading books, trying new recipes, listening to music, stepping outside to be with nature, and gathering inspiration with every moment!! Thanks again!

  15. wandering educators

    oh! will definitely make these dreams – ANYTHING coconut and i am in! :)

    and to the time for quiet – it HAS to happen, every day. it might not look like what i’d imagined, but i do try to find it. it might be swimming in our lake, or sitting outside watching the sunset. it might be stirring things very slowly for a meal, so that i have time to breathe. and it might be reading a poem, and resting between lines. but it is critical, isn’t it?

  16. Bethany ~ twoOregonians

    I love the feeling of retreating to my parents’ home in the Oregon countryside… It’s less than an hour from life in the city, but it’s a world away. My husband and I are gone from the U.S. for a year, and tonight after reading your post I’m especially craving coconut and time with family. xo

    1. Shannalee

      Gone from the U.S. for a year! What a cool opportunity! I clicked over to your site and saw you’ve really been all over—sounds like a dream… and yet, if I were there, I’d be craving time with my family, too. Hope you two find some time for rest and quiet in the midst of your travels!

  17. Joanne K

    Shanna, this is something I think about so often (and just blogged about myself). I recently returned from a peaceful vacation (no noise, no Internet, no responsibilities) and vowed to find the quiet in my everyday life. I’m taking action by actually scheduling it in; that’s right, I’m grabbing a chair and going someplace quiet, once a week, right here in my own (not very quiet) neighborhood. In regards to idleness and how it relates to creativity, as Brenda Euland said, “..do not feel, anymore, guilty about idleness and solitude. With all my heart I tell you and reassure you: at such times you are slowly being filled and re-charged with warm imagination, with wonderful, living thoughts… For what we write today slipped into our souls some other day when we were alone and doing nothing.”

    To being alone and doing nothing, I gladly join you! Thank you for such a thoughtful post (and amazing recipe; I’m addicted to coconut!).

  18. Pingback: Simple Peach, Basil and Ricotta Flatbread - Cookie and Kate

  19. Kelsey

    Love the Kreider excerpt you chose, such a great article. I feel like this article was an exceptionally well-written version of the speech I give my partner, Shaun, on a weekly basis. He was raised with that sort of do-do-do mindset and often becomes overwhelmed, overloaded, and forgets to take care of himself. Guilt is such a big word in this discussion. What is it, really? Who created it? Where and when does it manifest? What are we really trying to prove? I have bouts of it from time to time, but I tend to stand on the other end of the fence, relishing idleness when the opportunity is there for the taking… Love that you’re sparking the convo.

  20. The Bachelor

    The coconut dreams look so delicious! You made me stop and think for a while. Everyone should always have a day of rest and — be idle. Being out in the outdoors and commune with nature is actually a better way to revive your spirit and refresh your mind. Great share!

  21. Erin

    I definitely don’t take enough time to step back. Sometimes it happens naturally, but often it doesn’t. I’m not really sure how to make sure it happens though…I feel like if I were to schedule it in, it would just be another thing I have to do.
    I think the key might be just making sure my to-do list is manageable every day.

  22. Pingback: Poached Eggs over Toast | Food Loves Writing

  23. Pingback: Recent Recipes « Dreams on the Porch Swing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>