The events going on in the country have been weighing on me, and, specifically, I’m grieving the effects of climate change on our natural world. I struggle to know what’s true and what’s hype. I feel guilty for buying plastic, I feel helpless to make a difference just by recycling, and I feel hopeless for the future. When I see a dead animal by the side of the road, I feel a stab of pain in my gut. I was a blubbering mess when I heard George Bush died this weekend, and, while I’m saddened by the loss of the man, its the kindness and gentleness of his leadership and his respect for the office of the President that I am grieving. What has happened to our country? Just seeing the footage of someone who was articulate, visionary and respectful reminds me of what we have lost.
When I was in Tulsa for Thanksgiving, my friend Michael gave me some sourdough starter. He is persistent. He gave me some when I first moved up here. I made some bread, and I couldn’t eat the white flour so I let it die. He sent me some more last January, and Ashok ate it prompting a really unpleasant task of making her throw it up with hydrogen peroxide. I hoped he’d let it go. But I came home from Tulsa with a bubbling container of sourdough starter, and I decided maybe I should try a whole grain sourdough recipe this time. If I could eat that with no issues, maybe I would start baking bread again.
I ordered some great whole grain flour, and when it arrived Friday night, I fed my starter. I found myself rearranging my kitchen and making room for baking supplies, digging out all of my old bread baking tools and combing through recipes. I made a fabulous fig and orange whole wheat bread with the starter discard. After I was done eating a lovely piece with butter and some fig jam I had purchased in St. Louis, I realized how meditative my morning had been. I felt happy. Sure, the bread was good, but I had created something with my own hands and had spent the morning without a thought of politics or the devastation of our planet.
It reminded me that good comes out of even horrible things. I didn’t want to be divorced, but it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. When I lost my jobs in Louisiana and here, it opened doors to better opportunities. On a smaller scale, I really wished Michael would quit giving me sourdough starter. But it forced me to do one of the things I have always loved to do. If I hadn’t been forced to do it this weekend, I’m not sure I would have ever remembered why I loved baking bread.
When I turned my loaf out of the rising pan today, it cracked across the top. I wistfully let go of the idea it would be perfect. But my house is full of the scent of baking bread. The world seems warm and comforting even though it is rainy and cold outside. I know there are silver linings to what’s happening in our world right now. Young people voted by the millions in the last election. Misdeeds and criminals are finding themselves in the limelight. The truth is setting itself free.
I pulled my bread out of the oven, and it broke into three parts. The cracked loaf grew into a broken loaf. I could quit baking. I could throw the loaf in the garbage. I could sit down in my kitchen and cry. Or I can slice it into misshapen slices, slather it with butter and enjoy homemade bread on a Sunday afternoon. A cracked loaf is a disappointment, but, in the act of making it, I realized what I can do to make myself a bit happier. That is progress.