“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room . . . “ ~ May Sarton
When it’s cold and snowy out, there’s nothing better than treating yourself to a little cream tea.
I like to split a warm scone, spread on some strawberry jam and clotted cream, and sip a nice cup of Yorkshire Gold.
Gone are the winter blues, and I’m quite content to while away the hours reading, writing, thinking. I’m safe and warm in a room I’ve filled with some of my favorite things: a copper teapot, Dickens books from Foyles in London, a dozen antique teddy bears, an English phone booth, an Addams Family “Thing” bank, a kazoo, and a bone china bouquet of violets (one broken).
On days like these, it’s nice to read a poem about cultivating happiness. Like May Sarton, I think it grows in the quiet recesses of the mind, deeply rooted in the comfortable rooms we’ve made for ourselves, reassuring and familiar.
A writer’s work is inward work, fueled by faith and hope. These walls have heard hundreds of interior monologues reflecting the struggle to overcome self-doubt and to balance solitude with society. I wish you a quiet place and the time you need to nourish your creative spirit. I wouldn’t trade my little haven for anything.
(Special thanks to Nan at Letters from a Hill Farm for reminding me about this poem.)
* * *
THE WORK OF HAPPINESS
by May Sarton
I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.
So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall —
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.
For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a lifespan in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.
~ from The Lion and the Rose (1948)
* * *
PASS THE SCONES!
This lovely recipe, adapted from the one created by America’s Test Kitchen, reminds me of the scones I used to eat in Wimbledon. Dress it up by adding fruit or nuts if you like, but I passed on the currants because I didn’t want anything to detract from the jam and clotted cream.
The secret to getting a tender crumb and a good rise is to handle the dough as little as possible. I used my food processor to incorporate the butter with the flour mixture, though I know some people like to use their pastry blenders or fingers. You can either cut the dough into wedges or use a round biscuit cutter. I brushed a little milk and sprinkled sugar on the tops just before baking to give them a nice brown sheen.
They were so, so good, and held up well the next day wrapped in foil and warmed up in my toaster oven. I wonder if May Sarton had scones with mentor and friend Virginia Woolf — they always had tea together whenever May visited England. Both cherished rooms of their own.
- 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur’s)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1/2 cups currants (optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in large bowl or workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.
3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.
4. Stir in heavy cream with rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Pat into a circle about 3/4″ high and cut scones into 8 wedges (or use a round biscuit cutter). Place wedges (or rounds) on ungreased baking sheet.
6. Brush tops with milk or cream and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake until the tops are light brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Dough wedges or rounds may be placed on baking sheet, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 hours.
* * *
BTW, how do you pronounce “scone”?
I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.
I love them either way. 🙂
* * *
Anastasia Suen is hosting this week’s Roundup at Poet! Poet! Take her a scone and enjoy all the poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere. You can see all the links at a newly created Pinterest Board!
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” ~ May Sarton
“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” ~ Virginia Woolf
*scone with the wind* 🙂
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.