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Hidden Gems

Things that make the world a better place

Extraordinary Incense x2

If you don’t have a fireplace in your home or a backyard fire ring, sometimes a relaxing aromatic incense will scratch that same itch. I have two go-to’s when it comes to picking incense:

Incienso De Santa Fe is my go-to for natural wood aromas: alder, cedar, fir balsam, hickory, juniper, mesquite, and my fave piñon. All of their wood is sourced from fallen trees and the incense + burners are handmade in the US. Pair them with clay burners in the shape of mini cabins, tipis and fireplaces. Seeing the rich earthy smoke spiral out of the tiny chimney is surreal!

Rituals Incense, on the other hand, has all of your classics covered: sage bundles, cedar ropes, and palo santo sticks. My favorites are their aeromatic copal resins. Copal is extracted from the tree of the same name; it comes in several configurations for burning. I’m partial to the Mexican Copal Cones, and I have my eye on the gem-like Copal Blanco Resin next. Instagram, here! \ Tom

Organic India Tulsi Tea

The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and you may find yourself reaching for tea more often. If you – like I – tend to like your tea herbal and/or spicy, you’re going to want to buy a box of Organic India Tulsi Tea. Get the classic Holy Basil flavor for a go-to medicinal sip, and try the Masala Chai flavor for a tasty kick that will warm your entire body. Each tulsi (holy basil) based tea has ayurvedic healing properties and is produced through bio-regenerative farming practices that improve the environment with every crop cycle. It’s a win-win for your body and for Mother Earth! \ Carmen

Beware of Cat: And Other Encounters of a Letter Carrier by Vincent Wyckoff 

The author and the protagonist are one in the same in this book that retells the author’s postal route experiences he encountered delivering mail in Minneapolis, MN in the ‘90s. Reading this collection will have you walking along with Wyckoff, through the same neighborhood as he observes the lives of its residents and becomes part of its community. Although it might not be part of a letter carrier’s duties, the author becomes a fly on the wall as the neighborhood grows and changes over the years. Sometimes the most extraordinary tales can come from the most ordinary of circumstances. \ Tom

Dolly Parton’s America

Last October, Dolly Parton’s America, a new mini-series podcast, was released and quickly embraced by Dolly lovers and then some. As someone that is new to the Dolly party, I, too, became quickly infatuated with her kind, twangy voice as she retold stories from her past. In a country that is seemingly divided, Dolly Parton is an American phenomenon that unites everyone. What I’m told is that you will not find a more diverse concert crowd anywhere than at a Dolly concert. The 9 podcast episodes, hosted by Jad Abumrad of Radiolab, dive into America’s infatuation with Dolly and will have you hooked after episode one. I’m sure fans have already listened through, but I would recommend this one to literally anyone. Hop over to Tom’s country music article for some Dolly quotes and tunes, also. \ AL

A Country Western Double Feature

Two of my favorite films are below and they just so happen to fit the country western theme of this volume. I think they pair well together, so I’m recommending both! There’s a lot to compare and contrast in these rich and complex films. 

Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) tells the real life story of Loretta Lynn, one of the most strong-willed and iconic vocalists in country music history. Sissy Spacek’s Oscar winning performance takes us from the porch of Loretta’s family home in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky to the spot lit stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee. There is a lot of truth and intelligence in this film that you won’t see in similar biopics as of late. Cough… cough… Bohemian Rhapsody. You’ll be a fan if you like complicated (aka real) love stories, historical dramas, and biopics ala Walk the Line (2005).

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) is a revisionist Western film directed by Robert Altman that tells the tale of the quiet mining town of Presbyterian Church, WA circa 1902. A quick-witted gambler named John McCabe (Warren Beatty) arrives in town to shake things up. He builds a brothel and meets a woman named Constance Miller (Julie Christie) who offers to grow his brothel business. The town of Presbyterian Church and the relationships within it organically grow as the movie progresses – thanks to the rare decision to shoot the film in sequential order which contributes to a real sense of time and place. One of my favorite details of the film is the distinct musical voice of Leonard Cohen soundtracking the lives of the townsfolk. This film is a more truthful retelling of the Wild West than the rhinestones and heros of Hollywood westerns. It’s a dynamic, inside-look at people living during a fascinating time in American history, while they just try to get by. \ Tom

FarmAid 2020 On The Road Live Stream

FarmAid is an annual benefit concert founded by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellancamp to support family farms and fight against factory farming and the corporatization of our food systems. Each year, it’s been held in different cities, bringing people together to celebrate and raise up a part of the agricultural industry that is often overlooked. While attending an in-person festival is off the table right now, for the first time ever FarmAid was edited down to a three-hour live stream that brings the concert to your home. As someone who has always wanted to attend FarmAid, the live stream is a silver lining of our current state of affairs. The setting for the performances creates a unique opportunity to see some of these artists’ most intimate sets to date. There are especially touching moments like watching Willie (at 87 years old!) perform with his sons and Brandi Carlile singing about her daughter while they sit together in the forest. And then there’s Neil Young, continuing his eccentric legacy while performing solo with his chickens as his only audience. The concert streamed in September but can still be watched on YouTube for free. Do yourself a favor, pour yourself some whiskey from Al & Owen’s bar cart article and dedicate a night to an @ home festival experience. Of course, I encourage anyone to donate if they are able. You can find it all, here! \ Anna