PEACE IN THE MOUTAINS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

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Turning leaves in Sun Valley

Fall is my favorite season.  After all, it’s the time of year when you can get a Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Starbucks and Costco offers their manhole-sized pumpkin pies.  This year Dairy Queen in entering the fray by offering a dessert consisting of vanilla ice cream, bits of pumpkin pie, topped with nutmeg and whipped cream.  No wonder I gain weight every October.  I come by my love of fall naturally – 20 years ago I had my colors analyzed and it was determined I’m a “Autumn”, meaning I look best in the colors found this season.  But mostly I love this time of year because this is when we make our annual trek up to Sun Valley, Idaho where the air is fresh and the leaves are turning.  And, not by coincidence, the kids are back in school so it is also quiet.

 

Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake

There is something very peaceful about being in the mountains.  I’ve read some recent articles about how people who reside in the mountains live longer.  The research indicates that it’s because of cleaner air, more outdoor activity, and increased aerobic function due to the altitude.  I don’t know about all that – I suppose if the researchers say it then it must be true.  But this week as we drove up to Redfish Lake, near Stanley, Idaho, I thought back to a study that I read years ago.  I have searched the internet to find it again but it’s probably too old even for Google’s capabilities.  The essence of the thesis was this: people who reside in the mountains live longer because they see themselves in perspective.  It went on to theorize that it is hard to take our human problems and even our very existence too seriously when staring at the magnificence of high-peaked mountains.  In other words, when we view ourselves in relation to nature we gain a greater realization that we are only a small cog in a much larger scheme.

Snow in September

Snow in September

That feeling has certainly been forefront in our trip this year.  We have marveled at the vibrant colors of leaves turning and the first dusting of snow on top of Mount Baldy.  When we are outdoors experiencing this magical place, it seems as if all is right with the world.  When we drove home from Redfish Lake the other day, with no satellite radio and no cell service, we had only the glorious scenery, the Salmon River and some antelope to occupy our thoughts.  We were both filled with an overwhelming feeling of peace.  But then, as we returned to “civilization” reality crashed down on us.  A basket full of deplorable candidates for President, racial strife across the country and more terrorist attacks.  I certainly don’t have the first clue as to what the cure is for our collective problems.  All I do know is that  John Denver had it right when he wrote the following lyrics:

“Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake”

We’ll be leaving Sun Valley this week and I will miss this beautiful place more than ever.  Am I escaping reality here?  Probably.  I am just sorry that the whole world cannot feel the peacefulness of the mountains.  God knows we need it.

THE GREATEST GENERATION DIET

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

So good it has its own Facebook page

So good it has its own Facebook page

The other day I was slumped over the kitchen counter, fork in hand, eating a Costco pumpkin pie straight out of the container.  It started innocently enough – I bought the pie on my weekly trip to Costco for purely scientific reasons.  Thanksgiving is at our house this year so I wanted to make sure that Costco’s pumpkin pie was up to snuff.  A pinch too much nutmeg or a surplus of cinnamon can throw off the whole dinner.  So really, it was in everyone’s best interest that I officially test it out.  Of course, I’ve been buying the pumpkin pie at Costco for about ten years and it has remained amazingly consistent.  But still…you never know when some genius is going to mess with the recipe.  Think “new coke”.

When I brought it home my husband’s eyes lit up – pumpkin pie is his favorite.  We each had a piece that day and again the following day.  Then the paragon of virtue that I’m married to says, “Well, I’ve had enough.  You can throw the rest of it out.”.  THROW IT OUT?? I was stuck with a dilemma that would have tested Solomon.  Throw out more than half of a perfectly good pie or, on behalf of all the starving children in China that I heard so much about growing up, save it for another day – or two.  Being the good Samaritan that I am, I opted for the latter.  So that’s how I found myself at the kitchen counter eating pie.  At first I just cut the tiniest of slivers but then the pie was uneven, so I had to cut a bit more from the other side.  Which of course was not at all even so then I had to go back to the first side to even it up.  Before I knew it, I had eaten a quarter of the pie.  But at least it was symmetrical by the time I was finished.  Don’t judge  – I know you’ve all been there.

As I waddled away from the kitchen I began to feel guilty about my gluttony.  I calculated how many hours I was going to have to spend on the treadmill to make a dent in my caloric intake.  Apparently I would have to walk for three days.  And then it struck me – why are we the generation that feels so darn guilty about food?  I  thought about my parents and my in-laws – all four of them lived very long lives. I don’t think any of then ever worried about eating too much. In fact I think the only time they worried about food was when they didn’t have enough. To them, the worst sin was when a hostess served “skimpy” portions. They never heard of gluten-free, cleansing, cardio workouts, sat fat, vegan diets or a gym.  Truth be told, I’d venture that the  only “gym” they got near was Jim Beam.

A thing of the past - the dreaded Jello mold

A thing of the past – the dreaded Jello mold

I think my relatives were pretty reflective of that entire generation.  Maybe it was the deprivation of the Great Depression or the sacrifices they made during the war, but they didn’t seem to obsess about food and exercise the way we Boomers do.  They were the Greatest Generation not only because of all they accomplished, but because they also perfected the sour cream/onion dip and knew how to make a splendid Manhattan highball.  When I think about the Thanksgiving tables of my childhood there was no non-fat gravy or “skinny” mashed potatoes made with cauliflower.  No, we had creamed corn, jello molds, and stuffing loaded with sausage.  Our pies were topped with real whipped cream – and lots of it. In fact one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is brother Bob and I taking the bowl of whipped cream and embarking in a food fight at the table.  And no, we weren’t little kids.  We were both in our 30’s . It’s possible we had consumed a bit too much wine.  But back to my point – our parents lived long lives despite their love of fatty foods and arm chairs.

So what was their secret?  It’s probably not practical to come up with just one hypothesis for an entire generation so I’ll stick with my own family.  When I think about my dad and my mother-in-law in particular they both were just a little plump, they both loved a good party, they both loved to eat and they both enjoyed a daily cocktail.  Sometimes more than one.  More importantly, they were two of the most happy, fun, positive people I ever met.  They were too busy enjoying life to let a few calories get in their way.  And, no surprise, everyone enjoyed being around them too.  And why not?  They were either eating, drinking or laughing.  Not a bad way to go through life.

After giving this some thought I’ve decided that just having a positive attitude is the best recipe for growing old.  So this week on my trip to Costco I’m going to pick up the apple pie.  Purely for testing, of course.  And when my disciplined husband has had his fill, I will happily slump over the counter and eat the rest.  I’m calling it “The Greatest Generation Diet”.