Shine the Divine:

Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happy Place

You've probably heard people say go to your "happy place" before. Perhaps for you this "place" is by the sea, on top of a mountain, deep in a forest or by a crystal clear lake. Maybe it is in a cozy room warmed by a fire and you visualize yourself tucked in with a soft blanket. Your "happy place" might be different depending on the moment. Go to your "happy place" is an instruction to turn inward, toward a heart and mind space of calm, safety and joy...a place we visit for sanctuary when we are upset, when life feels overwhelming. This past week I found a new "happy place". This was a real happy place (as opposed to imagined) that buoyed my inner space to immediate joy and relaxation!

I spent an hour riding through the countryside and surrounding villages near my home. (I know, I know, "only drive for 20 minutes at a time"...but I took lots of pictures, so I reasoned that I was resting every time I stopped.) The truth is, I was getting tired. I was also noticing some anxiety arising as the fatigue was growing. Anxiety adds another layer to the tiredness, decreasing my ability to pay attention when driving. This combination has a potent impact on the functioning of my neurons. Just then, I noticed a sweet looking spot to stop, rest and refuel.

A bakery I had never noticed before. I parked my car, right next to the door, got out, took in a deep breath of spring-like air (we were having a few days of thaw) stepped inside the shop, leaning wearily on my cane. WoW! I felt like I had been transported to a realm of pure sensory delights. The aroma, the golden glow of fresh warm loaves, ahhh, these were not just any loaves. The sign in the parking lot said artisan bakery; these were well crafted works of art indeed. Elegant antler-like baguettes stacked, round loaves dressed with spirals of flour piled in baskets, a perfectly placed sprig (I think it was cilantro) and garlic, like a bud emerging from the center of one particularly striking doughy mound. Edible art. Did I mention the variety of grain combinations and all the seeds texturing the surfaces of the loaves yet? Or unusual dried fruits like figs, baked right in? I have never been the kind of woman to turn down fresh bread (even while others are scooping out the center of their bagels to save on carbs)...I LOVE BREAD! Just don't ask me to bake it is always, always a disaster. Ask my, never mind, don't ask my kids. They will surely tell you scary details about my lead-bread escapades of the past.

So, me being me, I asked if I could take some pictures of their comely loaves because they were so astonishingly beautiful. Go figure, the baker said, "Yes, of course." Hard to know from her smile if this was a regular request, but clearly it made her happy. I went out to the car, put down my glasses, picked up my camera, hobbled back in.

How to snap a photo while using a cane: Set the cane against a table. Position yourself to take stunning pictures of artistically arranged, painstakingly designed, deliciously baked bread. Voila.

Did I mention the scones with sharp Vermont cheddar & chives? I had to purchase some bread to be sure it was as mouth-wateringly delicious as it appeared to be. Again. WoW! These weren't just Good "looking" Loaves.

A cup of Jasmine tea in my left hand, camera in my back pocket; I balance tea, scone and loaf of fresh bread for dinner in hands while somehow opening the car door. Drive home. Rest until the kids return from school. Oh, no. One needs picking up. Get Belin. Drive her to PT. Park in handicapped space. Uh, oh, I forgot to bring my cane to PT. I'm tired, but I can manage, as it is not too far to the elevator and then the correct office. Drive home, debating in my mind...I would love some home-made vegetable soup to go with that bread with the roasted pumpkin seeds for dinner...I'm way too tired and it's too late to put up a pot of soup now. Drive a bit further than planned to purchase soup for the family from a favorite cafe to take home with us. It is now dark and I am really nervous about driving in the dark. My hands are numbing up…my right ankle painful. So much more for my now exhausted brain to process. But we make it home fine, and everyone is delighted by the gift of artisan bread, the best part of dinner.

Fast forward. I cannot find my cane anywhere. It's been 3 days. I've looked and looked. I figure, well, part of having MS (at least for me) is forgetfulness. I probably need to have several canes; this is going to happen sometimes. Some days I need the added assistance of a cane other days I don't, but I have to have one on hand always for the days I do. I say to Gord, "We better pick up a new cane today, maybe several...(I laugh at myself-I was always one to misplace things like keys for example...but a cane is a lot bigger and easier to spot than a set of keys...this is beyond my pre-MS forgetfulness). "Lets play hooky from life this morning" I suggest, "and go for a pretty drive before running errands"...and Gord says, "Show me where that bakery is while we are out."

We take a drive-I'm achy as it's -1F when we leave the house. My neurons are not appreciating the severe cold. I'm grateful to be a passenger, now that we are back to "normal" January temperatures. I snap some lovely photos (to post sometime in the future). We both feel relaxed and happy, joy riding on this cold, clear January morning. I actually remember where the bakery is located and we stop. He is as delighted as I was the first time I stepped inside. My heart sings on the second visit as well. We carefully select a hardy, crusty rye and two more of the cheddar & chive scones and tea (a light morning snack). I chat with the cashier in a friendly way. I don't know why, but for some reason, I look down and to the left edge of the counter. There it is, my cane, just hanging there next to the register! I say, "Hey, that's my cane, I've been looking everywhere for it!" The young woman looks at me more carefully, perhaps remembering my face or that I took photos (or maybe my unique accent). "Yeah, we thought it was some kind of miracle," she laughs, "person walks in with cane, tastes our bread and walks out healed."

I thought about this. In a way it was true. I walked out of there last week with a full, contented heart. I had been to my "Happy Place". I was distracted by JOY, and perhaps too many things in my hands to remember the cane. It was a healing of sorts. Temporary, as I really needed my cane that second morning, as fortune smiled and I found it again...but the lingering memory of the fragrance, warmth, colors and shapes of the breads in the bakery...this will be a healing place, a "happy place" to go to in my mind for a very long time. (Also not a very far drive from the Gnome Mound!!!)

The bakery is called The Good Loaf, click on the link to read an article about this "happy place". If you happen to be passing through southern New Hampshire some day, here's the address: 75 Mont Vernon Road Milford, NH 03055...totally worth the drive!


  1. LOL, what a great story! I'm glad the bread was healing for you on so many levels! I just adore artisan bread too. I could eat every single thing in your photos!

  2. Hi Laura,

    Those pictures of the bread made me hungry!

    Isn't it amazing how we come upon new places at just the right time?

    I am happy that you found another happy place. :)

    Love and blessings to you!

    Nadia - Happy Lotus

  3. I think my all time favorite song is "Strawberry Fields Forever," which, I think, is John Lennon singing about having a place inside his mind where he can go where everything's cool--a theme he explored on a number of songs but, here, he takes it further, with the realization that he can only go there alone; if he wants contact with others he has to get out of that safe space...

    Anyway, I admire your figuring out how to take pictures with a cane. I'll always remember how, immediately after breaking my left hand, I thought about how I wouldn't be able to go on the long bike ride I'd been planning on that fall, and how writing would be more difficult. It wasn't until the next morning, when I found I couldn't button my pants, that I realized just how challening things were going to be.

    Now ya got me starving for some fresh baked bread...and I just ate a big lunch...

  4. Hi Debra and Nadia,
    I know it looks so good right? Oh if you could only taste it! I wonder if they do mail orders? It's such a small little shop, I doubt it.

    So I suppose it will have to just be a feast for your eyes! Who knew my new happy place would be a small bakery in NH?

  5. Ahh Dr Jay,
    Don't you love how reality comes down to the simplest of things? And it's true, we must leave our happy place to connect with others at times...but then again, maybe the people we love are part of our happy place too...then at least for a while we can commune together blissfully :)

  6. Oh, I LOVE bread too. Those look delicious. There's a bakery The Pirate has told me about in his neighbourhood that specializes in breads, as well. I've been promised a visit there next week!

    I have a No-Fail Bread recipe that turns out delicious, home-made, yummy smelling bread every time. Let me know if you want it. :o))

  7. Ok Carolynn, I'll bite. I want it. But I may be the first to fail. someone has to be first.

  8. Oh Laura, the joy of a wonderful adventure! I can just feel the freedom and the bread...Oh, the bread! I can truly smell it!

    So nice to know that we are still capable of forgetting our "canes" in spite of what these illnesses try to do to us! As long as we can still be distracted by the fragrance of hot tea and the mouth-watering deliciousness of warm bread, we will ALWAYS win!

    Love you, friend,

  9. Absolutely Deb,
    There's still plenty to be joyful about, every single day!

  10. oh laura...i am so glad i came here tonight...i am in such need of a happy place right now. my happy it turns my visit here to your place. your story is absolutely heart warming.

    "I walked out of there last week with a full, contented heart. I had been to my "Happy Place". I was distracted by JOY, and perhaps too many things in my hands to remember the cane. It was a healing of sorts."

    sometimes that distraction, that wee bit of "happiness" that makes us forget the sadness or whatever it is that we are feeling is a blessing in when we least expect it.

    thank you so much for this post.
    blessings to you!!

  11. I'm so happy you stopped by too Robin, and that at least for this evening, THIS is a happy place for you. Isn't it amazing how words and images (like fragrances and sounds) can transport us to a feeling of place...or transform the physical place we are in to one that one minute feels overwhelming or blue or suddenly safe and happy and pleasant?

  12. Wow, that is some amazing looking bread and your pictures made my mouth water. As for canes, I've learned to leave one in the car, another by the front door, and one inside the house. One looks pretty raggedy but it still is a working cane.

    Thanks for letting me eat bread without consuming any calories.


  13. Yum! What a wonderful happy place - I can almost taste it now! Thanks, as always, for sharing your joyful journey. You always add much needed light and perspective to my day!

  14. That sounds yummy.

    Thanks for the kind sentiments about Lois' cat Oscar. She is still having a difficult time with this. We appreciate it a lot.
    Try to take it easy.


  15. 'Scones with sharp Vermont cheddar & chives'. Yum. Can I come visit?

    Forgetting the cane, hmmm...maybe there are moments when you really don't need it. Like a safety net, we sometimes want to walk without the need to fall into one.

  16. I love it! The miracle bakery - what a delightful and delicious story Laura - I only wish I could taste these gorgeous baked offerings. So glad you've found a real happy place to visit from time to time!

  17. What a beautiful story, you tell it so well, I can vividly imagine it all. I love the sentiment of the baker, hoping the bread cured someone, not need of a cane anymore.
    The bread looks delightful. There is something infinitely soothing in fresh baked bread, it puts our heart and mind at ease.

  18. that bakery is a FIND!!! wow. might have to emigrate now, heee heee heeee.

  19. What a divine find! I can almost smell the bread baking now. next vacation to NH, we'll have to make sure we stop in. Now I can't wait. I know what you mean by taking a drive. I find peace and comfort in driving through the countryside. There is something about it that calms me. I used to be able to go for long walks or hikes but my spouse has MS and I have my own issues, so we chose shorter walks and long drives to rejuvenate the soul. Many canes in many places are the answer for a lot of people. Check out the folding ones they can slip in a purse or shoulder bag, nice and handy if and usually when needed.
    I love your post. Finding that joyful place is so important. I'm glad you have yet another one to go to! ((smiles)) Blessings to you and yours my friend. Love and Light, Nina P

  20. Hi Everyone,
    I am loving all of your comments and advice for placing canes in different places around the house and car. I'm having a bit of a sore throat thing going on and a mild fever so not up to responding to individual comments at the moment. Please accept this group message of thanks to all of you for stopping by (and smelling the bread)

    If anyone does decide to come to NH for a visit, let me know...I would love to meet you in person!!!


  21. The baking of bread, good and life affirming bread, is a spiritual practice...not surprised that you, laura, indeed found a place of happiness amidst the yeast and flour and movements of kneading. Creating something to fill ourselves from a small bowl of yeast organisms mixed with honey and chaos is a miracle in and of itself! The stuff of life...happy stuff.

  22. Hello Laura, the pictures of the read say it all. I have never seen bread with leaves on them in that way, so pretty.

    Sorry to here you have MS. When I was pregnant this time last year, i got so ill. The doctors ruled out everything except pregnancy as being the cause and tought it micht have been Post Viral Fatigue, teetering on ME. Luckily, in some ways, it wasn't, and i am all right now. But it is awful not being able to do things that we once could. I hope your energy increases now that winter is over x

  23. Hi Laura,
    i so enjoyed reading you and meeting you...
    You positively shine ! what better "happy place" could be found than this pleasant bakery where all the breads look so delicious...i wish i could taste those scones!
    i wish you all the best...
    will be back

  24. i do. I want to visit!

  25. we're so lucky to be enlivened by our own version of a 'happy place'..a my place..a place to touch us in comforting ways.

    and...YUM...i want that bakery closer to me! will check out their site. take care of yourself.

  26. Dear Laura,

    Visiting your blog is not only a pleasure and a stimulation of the senses, it has also been enriching.

    Having worked in an artesian bakery, I can attest to the pleasures derived from visiting a bakery as in your story. Just in case you might have been wondering, the baskets in one of your pictures is used to rest and raise the bread before it is placed into the oven and so the rings around the bread are that of the basket.

    I am glad you managed to get out and find this place that now becomes a routine. Rituals in our day are important to our mental balance. But then you already know this.

    I could not help but laugh out loud and share the shop keepers with my wife, who after hearing a summary of your story until I read its ending to hear, also laughed and we certainly wish it were so.

    Warmest regards

  27. I think I just gained five pounds just looking at those beautiful pictures -- but who cares!?! :)

  28. laura, i love this story and those bakers should pay you in kind with some free loaves for such an awesome bit of personalised marketing

    i love bread too and those loaves, i could smell them all the way down here in Australia !!!!!

  29. There is a good possibility I'll be driving to Maine in the next couple months, and I do believe I'll take a detour and see that bakery. Thank you, Laura! Wow, what a story. You had me at "bakery."

    I love the way you described the whole scene, from starting the drive to where you ended up (home, tired, missing a cane). Thank you for sharing your energy here. You infuse me with love every time you write. (*bow*)

  30. Laura, I love the power of healing--some fresh bread, a pause, unexpected joy, and a special place. Feeling great peace from your story. Feeling like I have a better understanding of what healing feels and looks like. Thank you. Peace, Nicki.


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