Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To our relations...

Grandmother Red Leaf, a Cherokee Elder, and Uncle Bob Randall, an Aborigine Elder, combined forces last Saturday, October 23, and presented a day of wisdom at Laughing Waters.

Though their cultures have existed for centuries on opposite sides of
the planet, it was inspiring to see and hear how similar their worldviews are. As
evidenced by their names, both cultures place great emphasis on family relationships. In
fact, families are considered to consist of everyone in the tribe or clan. Uncle Bob said
that he didn’ t know who his real mother was until he was grown because all of her sisters
were mothers to him.

Family connections even go beyond human relationships. All
living beings are considered to be cousins or siblings, parents or grandparents; and each
individual, whether human, plant, animal or mineral, is revered as a teacher. When asked
about invasive species such as kudzu and bittersweet, Grandmother Red Leaf answered
that they are expressing their anger about the way Mother Earth is suffering.

If all humans on the planet had this world view, I can’ t help but think that we would not be
polluting oceans, burning massive amounts of fossil fuel, thinning the ozone layer, and
destroying the delicate balance that is needed for all life to thrive for generations to come.

Take a moment in your day to honor your extended family, whether it be to your mother, your aunt, the tree, the birds, or the earth in some way.  Even if it is something simple, like turning the thermostate down a degree or two, do something to show you care.

Peace to all of our relations.

To see upcoming workshops at Laughing Waters go to
For more information about becoming part of a sustainable community near Asheville North Carolina go to

Monday, October 25, 2010

Life in Gerton by Deborah Pustorino

The 3rd Annual Apple Festival held on September 25th was a day of delight for many that found their way to this once abandoned orchard nestled in the mountains.  It has been lovingly brought back to life and the event and apples were free thanks to the owners of Laughing Waters at Hickory Nut Forest.   Basket in hand children were strolling about with eyes in awe as some found out for the first time that “apples really do grow on trees. “
049.JPGParents lovingly held them on their shoulders so they could pick one of their own. Mountain music slowly drifted about the crowd as the sound of laughter mixed with the stringing of an old banjo. Ladders leaned against trees and hands cranked old apple presses to make fresh apple juice for all to share.  As you sipped the sweet juice you could not help but feel the love that was squeezed right into it from the hands that picked the apples to the ones that turned the crank on the press.

046.JPGWhen young and old alike gather to share the bounties of the earth of this beautiful place we call home it is the true sense of community as Gerton, NC and the Hickory Nut Gap area has known for many years. Whether it is the monthly potlucks held on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 6:30 at the Community Center for over 50 years or events such as this you will want to join in on the experience. Neighbors though spread apart by either geographical landscape or generations do not let this deter their coming together and sharing. The true sense and experience of community is here nestled away on top of a mountain and makes for a fine sweet day of life in Gerton.
Check out Laughing Waters at
and Hickory Nut Forest Eco-Community at
get-attachment.aspx.jpgPhotos and Story by Deborah Pustorino


Monday, October 11, 2010


Becoming a Chocolate Magician
(Asheville, NC) Chocolate.  For most of us, it simply tastes good.  It’s sweet and rich, and filled with all sorts of compounds that create positive feelings.  Some use this magical substance to create their art.  Paula is offering to share her alchemical skills in the kitchen to teach participants The Art of Chocolate, on November 20th from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at Laughing Waters Retreat Center in Hickory Nut Forest EcoCommunity.
Chocolate is most one of the top favorite foods in America today  It may be due to the neurotransmitters or specific combinations of chemicals some studies report it contains.  These are responsible for creating that “feel” good response, and are part of what make chocolate good for us.  Around the world it has been revered centuries - used as medicine and aphrodisiac, in spiritual ceremonies and even as the currency in some Central American countries up until the last century.
Most people today eat chocolate in the form of a delicious, decadent sweet in cakes, cookies and other desserts.  And for chefs and chocolateirs, chocolate is their craft and medium.
“Chocolate is simply sexy,” says Jane Lawson co-founder of Hickory Nut Forest Eco-community and Laughing Waters retreat center. “People want to immerse themselves is the lure and lore of chocolate and so we’re providing a workshop that is a serious opportunity to become a chocolate magician for life.”
Chocolate lovers will make and sample to their hearts content dark chocolate truffles, original hot chocolate (made with water, not milk!), raw chocolate treats, chocolate bourbon ice cream, flourless chocolate cake, ganache and more! They are encouraged to bring containers to bring their creations home with them.  The workshop is $50 and participants need to register by November 5th so all the ingredients can be ordered.  To register call 828.712.4926 or email
The Art of Chocolate is just one of the workshops offered by Laughing Waters at Hickory Nut Forest. Laughing Waters is a retreat site and community center offering a deeply rejuvenating experience in a beautiful mountain setting. Our wide diversity of programs and community events help people realize their fullest potential – within themselves, as part of their community, and for the health of the world around them.  The space is also available to rent for conferences, retreats, weddings, family weekends and other events. For more information go to

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rekindle your spirit with great wisdom keepers

TWO ESTEEMED ELDERS from different sides of the planet will come together on October 23 to bless us with a day of shared wisdom. Please join Grandmother Red Leaf and Uncle Bob Randall for this rare, intimate and magnificent opportunity to spend time with two people of great wisdom and heart. Albert Schweitzer said that "In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those who rekindle the inner spirit." Come join Grandmother Red Leaf and Uncle Bob Randall and rekindle your spirit.

Grandmother Read LeafGRANDMOTHER RED LEAF is a Cherokee / Choctaw tribal elder, spiritual teacher and Mythkeeper. She was appointed as Greatly Beloved Woman of the Tsalagiyi Nvdagi (lifetime appointment) and also served as Wisdom Keeper for 15 years. She serves as Clan Mother for the Eastern Circle of the 7th Fire and has been designated as a 'Keeper of the Fire' (She Who Remembers). Grandmother Red Leaf has served as North Carolina's Cultural Consultant and is a member of many other cultural and educational associations. She has received 34 awards for her contributions to education, including one from the United Cultural Convention of the United States of America. Enrolled with Eastern Cherokee Immigrants and with the Metis' Nation in Canada, Grandmother Red Leaf is deeply committed to sharing the beauty of her heritage with others. She has taught Native American history, culture and art forms for almost forty years, from university to kindergarten. She has spoken around the country, is a published author, and is listed in the Who's Who in the World in the 21st Century. 

In her culture, Grandmother Red Leaf says people learn that all things have a connection: "The earth is like a spider web. If you touch one corner, the entire thing trembles."  She joins Uncle Bob Randall as an elder whose example reminds us of how to live with deep respect and reverence within the web of connection with all life.  Grandmother Red leaf lives in the mountains of Yancey County, NC.

UNCLE BOB RANDALL is an elder, a "Tjilpi" of the Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal Nation, and listed traditional owner of Uluru, the great monolith in the Central Australian Desert. He is the subject of the award-winning film, Kanyini, and the author of several books, including his autobiography, Songman. Bob Randall is a visionary educator, story-song writer, and bridge between the spirit and science of ancient indigenous and modern, non-indigenous cultures.  A living legend, Bob Randall articulates the wisdom, lore, and traditions of the Aborigines' way of living sustainably, in environmental, social, and political harmony with All Things.

In the early 1970s, his song "Brown Skin Baby" became an anthem for Aboriginal Australians, bringing international attention to the truth of the "Stolen Generation." Like thousands of other Aboriginal children, Bob Randall was forcibly taken away from his family by white authorities at about the age of seven and placed in a mission institution. Early in life he began the long process of searching for his family and Aboriginal identity. His experiences and a diverse education gave him a unique perspective of two divergent cultures. This has led to a life of service and leadership, working tirelessly for equality, reconciliation, and peace through collaborative, cross-cultural education and sharing. Bob Randall lives and teaches the practical application of "Kanyini," the Aboriginal principles of unconditional love, responsibility, and Oneness with the creative consciousness of the world.

PLEASE BRING YOUR LUNCH. (There are no places to eat nearby.) Modest admission price does not include lunch.  Tea, coffee and water will be provided.  We are keeping this event simple to maximize our support of the elders.
We encourage carpooling.
No recording devices permitted.

Here is the link to register for the event for elders Uncle Bob Randall and Grandmother Red Leaf on Saturday, October 23:

There are only 50 tickets available for this event and we expect to sell out. Sorry, no refunds will be issued. Please register early. Adults only. Please spread the word to anyone you think might also be interested. For more information contact:
Debra Roberts

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sharing our Gifts in the World...

How do you discover the gifts you bring into the world?  These often reveal the purpose for why we are here and what we are supposed to try and achieve in this lifetime, but sometimes finding out what that purpose or gift is can be a challenge.

Once you identify your gifts, what can you do to sustain them and not experience burn-out?  In other words, how do you use your gifts without over-expending yourself? How do you determine the right way to use your gifts that achieve the highest and best good?
How do you keep yourself on the right path in using your gifts and not becoming pulled off center by the distractions and temptations of the world?

When most westerners think about gifts the exchange of material goods is the image that is most familiar. Little time and attention is given to finding, sustaining and sharing the gifts that lay within each person in western culture. However, exploring the spiritual aspects of life and sharing personal gifts are crucial ways to deepen connections to the world and to the best parts of ourselves. Speaker and spiritual leader Sobonfu Somé shares,
"It is always challenging to bring the spiritual into the material world, but it is one of the only ways we can put people back in touch with the earth and their inner values."

Sobonfu will offer rituals and healing from the Dagara tribe of West Africa with participants in the Asheville, NC area on November 12-14, 2010. Her work involves healing and preparing the mind, body, spirit and soul to receive the spirituality that is found inside and all around each person. This deeper spiritual connection can be used personally and to support others in recovery. Sobonfu’s work has moved African spiritual practices from the realm of anthropology into lives of Westerners, to a place alongside the world’s great spiritual traditions, with a message of profound significance and practical application. This experiential weekend will illuminate ways participants can expand personal and communal connection while nurturing ways to share their gifts for a lifetime.

On November 12th Sobonfu will present at MAHEC, 501 Biltmore Ave in Asheville. This evening two-hour event is open to a wide audience and light refreshments will be served. Sobonfu will continue her work with up to 40 participants through the weekend at the Laughing Waters Retreat site located in Hickory Nut Forest Eco-Community in Gerton, NC.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The heartbeat of the earth

The drum is the heartbeat of the earth.  This is the belief of many native Americans with a link to the indigenous people of North America.  While there are different customs related to the drum and different kinds of drums, in general, many are used for prayer and spiritual connect to creator.

The music is said to originate form dieties or spirits, or from particularly respected individuals.  Stories are orally transmitted through song, with the drum keeping the rhythm.  Dance, costume and song inform the ritual.  As the drum takes the consciousness into other states of awareness, there is a conflation of music and power.  The music and the essence of the story can not be separated as they are not different but a unified power being transmitted.

Drums are powerful.  They are the heartbeat of the earth.  And Joe Roberts will tell you much more about the custom at the Drum Building Workshop on October 2nd at Laughing Waters Retreat Center.
To learn more go to or call


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Apple Butter - more fall fun

It takes a half bushel basket of apples to make 8 pints of apple butter!  Making the stuff is definitely an act of love (and persistence).  Gathering the apples was fun, during our workday in the orchard last weekend.  It’s true what they say about one bad apple.  I didn’t get to the peeling/coring for a few days, so when I did, I ended up having to toss out a bunch of the apples we had gathered.  Preparing the fruit was fun, with the three-pronged gizmo that does all the work for you.  Then the apple slices (plus a ton of sugar, some cinnamon, cloves and lemon) simmered in water for a loooong time, until all was soft and sweet and smooth.  Next came sterilizing the jars and the canning process.  All in all, a task that took several days.  But the product is YUMMY, especially on toast with your morning coffee.

- 4 pounds apples -mix several varieties, if possible
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup apple cider or water
- pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1 lemon (optional)
Container: large pans, half-pint jars with lids suitable for canning
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • If you will be canning the apple butter, get suitable jars, lids and rings ready. In a large pot or water bath canner, cover jars with water and boil 10 minutes. Turn off heat and drop lids in.
  • Peel, core and cut up the apples. Combine with the cider or water and cook until the apples are soft.
  • Add sugar, salt, spices and, if using, the juice and zest from a lemon.  Continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the mixture is very thick. (Test by scooping up a heaping spoonful. The mixture should keep its rounded shape and not flatten out.)
  • To process: with tongs, remove a jar from the hot water, fill it to 1/2 inch from the top with apple butter, wipe the rim clean and retrieve a lid from the hot water. Put the lid on, snug down a ring and return the filled jar to the pan of hot water. Continue until all jars are filled and/or the butter is gone.
  • Return the pan of filled jars to the stove. Add more hot water if necessary to completely cover jars, then cover the  pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Allow to cool somewhat (or completely); carefully remove jars to a dry surface. Cool completely before removing sealing rings.  Check for seals following lid manufacturer's instructions. Freeze any that don't seal or refrigerate and use soon.