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by: Sharon Courmousis, Sacred Rocks Reserve

Increase your enjoyment of living

"A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. " -- John Muir


This month's column includes:

Hunkering Down - essay

Chocolate cake with fudge icing - recipe


March 17, 2010 (Boulevard) -- The phrase “hunker down” comes to mind when hearing of wild weather. For some reason, we seem to be closer to the weather here in the mountains. It is more intense – rainier, windier, sunnier, colder. If you like the seasons, then living in the mountains is special, every season. One of the best seasons is winter. And one of the best activities is ‘hunkering down’. According to the dictionary, hunker is usually used with ‘down’ and has three meanings:

1. To squat close to the ground; crouch.
2. To take shelter, settle in, or hide out.
3. To hold stubbornly to a position.


I have also noticed three types of “hunkerers.” The first type waits until the weather is bad, and only then, believing the evidence of their own experience, hunkers down or squats. The second type takes heed of warnings, prepares for storm by laying in supplies in advance, checking flashlights and such, then at the impending signs of bad weather, stays inside, except for work as necessary. The third type simply ignores the warnings, and holds their position no matter the cost. The third type often must be rescued, or buried.


When I watch the critters at Sacred Rocks Reserve, the odd thing is that they all take cover and hide out at the first signs of harsh weather. The snakes hibernate deep in their small caves, birds find places out of the wind and hunch over, and the coyotes and bobcats snuggle close to each other in their caves. Animals know that when there is no compelling reason to be outside, it is better to hunker down.


There is a saying from old Mexico “que bonito ver llover sin mojarse” or ‘how beautiful to see it rain without getting wet’! It is a delicious day when you can snuggle in close to the fireplace with your flannels and slippers, sipping hot chocolate and smelling the pot of chili simmering on the stove. And listening to the rain beat on the roof….seeing the rain without getting wet.


Are we not the most fortunate people in the world? My mind considers the troubles in the world, especially our Haitian brothers and sisters, and grieves their loss. In some way, this disaster, like the tsunami, allows us to watch but not be involved directly. Just like watching the rain without getting wet. How can we offer help? Perhaps along with cash donations, we can be type three hunkerers, the stubborn ones, but focused on prayers. We can hold up our prayers often, over the day and the night as we think about their plight.


Perhaps, there is a lesson for us, that there are some storms in life that come with no warnings – just like the earthquake in Haiti. When I find myself in the midst of such rain and fierce winds, rather than watching from the safety of my burrow, whether it is a financial, physical or emotional storm, can I still hunker down spiritually? Perhaps by strengthening my faith and building my spiritual reserves – developing trust in God and in humankind to be there when I am in need – maybe those are the best provisions to lay aside for the storms that inevitably come in life.

Chocolate Cake with Fudge Sauce – (Comfort Food)


Cake Ingredients: 1C flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp salt, 2/3 C sugar, 2T cocoa,
½ C milk, 4T oil, 1 tsp vanilla, ½ C nuts (optional)

Filling (sauce): ¾ C brown sugar, 4 T cocoa, 1 ½ C boiling water, ½ C semi or bittersweet chocolate ships (optional)

Directions: Grease an 8x8 dish. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients. Add milk, oil, and vanilla and mix only until smooth. Add nuts if desired.

Turn into prepared baking dish. Combine sauce ingredients and pour over batter – DO NOT MIX! Bake for 40 minutes until the top looks dry and firm. There will be a rich fudge sauce under the cake. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

The Purple Mountain Sage is Sharon Courmousis, co-owner of Sacred Rocks Reserve and RV Park, a 163-acre wilderness preserve and campground in Boulevard, CA, which is also home to the Sacred Rocks Artists’ Colony. Sharon can be reached by calling: 619-766-4480. Visit the Sacred Rocks Reserve website at: or email


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Heavenly hunkering

Let's put this all together. Spend a weekend sometime soon at Sacred Rocks, pray for a gentle rain and then hunker down with that incredible cake. Who's with me here?

Like the Article, Love the Chocolate Cake with Fudge Sauce

Oh my goodness, first we have a wonderful photograph of some tremendous clouds and the promise of a story about wild weather in the mountains. And of course that quote from John Muir really gives perspective about being in the mountains. But then we get to the really good part, I don't know about you but when I read DO NOT MIX, I thought wait a minute here, then I looked at the ingredients again and I got it.We are talking major Chocolate here. Thanks Sharon the Purple Mountain Stage, great article, unbelievably wonderful recipe.