The beauty of bread.

9 Aug

There’s something beautiful about bread.  There’s something beautiful about fresh bread.  And then there’s another beautiful dimension of baked bread that can only be perceived by the baker himself.  Or herself.   It’s not just the feeling of having created something delicious and heavenly.  It’s not just the feeling of having created something useful; it’s the feeling of having shared in one of the most ancient crafts known to mankind.  Well, let’s be honest: known to womankind.

I remember reading My Antonía in tenth grade.  I hated it.  I mean, absolutely hated it.  But, I cherish one part from that turgid novel; only a little paragraph describing Antonía Shimerda’s mother as she made bread for her family.  Here goes:

“I remember how horrified we were at the sour, ashy-grey bread she gave her family to eat. She mixed her dough, we discovered, in an old tin peck-measure that Krajiek had used about the barn. When she took the paste out to bake it, she left smears of dough sticking to the sides of the measure, put the measure on the shelf behind the stove, and let this residue ferment. The next time she made bread, she scraped this sour stuff down into the fresh dough to serve as yeast.” 

I love it.  I love how Mrs. Shimerda provides for her family: I love her resourcefulness, her thoughtfulness, and her care.  She uses what she can to provide sustenance, even if it does take the form of “sour, ashy-grey bread.”

I used to be apprehensive about baking my own bread, since I’d tried yeast rolls and cinnamon swirl bread before without much luck. I could never wait long enough for the dough to rise completely. Or I wouldn’t use the proper flour, or too maybe too much flour.  Or maybe I added salt too soon and disturbed the leavening.

Yes, there are a million things that can go wrong.  But, oh! But it can go so wonderfully right!

I’ve decided to bake my own instead of buying it. Why buy it when I have all morning before work to use my hands, engage my senses, and create something?  I feel so alive when I create something, even if it’s just a loaf of white bread.  Why is that?  Why do we feel alive when we create?

It’s because that’s what we’re meant to do.  And what’s the definition of happiness, after all?  Fulfilling our purpose; and each day has a different purpose.  Each day, we are given chances to learn, to teach, to discover, to listen, to speak, to think, to pray, to seek, and yes, to create.

Even if it’s just a loaf of bread.

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Out of the everywhere.

21 Nov

You’re nobody till somebody loves you.  Ever heard that song?  If you haven’t, do it.  There are a million versions.  I never thought it was very poignant until I read The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  If you haven’t read it, you should, because you can finish it in under an hour and it’s just so beautiful and funny and sweet and sad…and the drawings are also gorgeous in their simplicity and sort of…existential…whimsy…?

But it’s really just asking one question: what makes us matter?  Is it how smart we are, how handsome we are, or how powerful we are?  No.
It’s about what we love and who loves us.

The only thing that distinguishes you from the droves of strangers walking by is a friend who recognizes you.

The only thing that distinguishes your friend from the other faces in the crowd is that you recognize them.

We see a face we know.  That face is a symbol for the heart that we’ve come to love in another person.  That’s all that faces really are.  Just reminders.

When you think of someone you love, how do you really see their face in your mind?  In his book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis remarks on the blurred nature that a beloved’s face may take on:

We have seen the faces of those we know best so variously, from so many angles, in so many lights, with so many expressions ‘waking, sleeping, laughing, crying, eating, talking, thinking’ that all the impressions crowd into our memory together and cancel out into a mere blur.”

You think of things they said, what they did, what they would think…but sometimes it’s hard to see their face exactly as you remember it.  Sometimes I have to really try to remember the face of someone that I really care about.  I don’t know.  Maybe that’s just me.  But it’s not really that we’ve forgotten what they look like, it’s just that who they are in our minds and hearts overshadows their physical appearance in our memory.  Because their physical appearance doesn’t really matter.  It’s just a reminder of the person underneath.

In the book, the little prince is from a very small planet, with only three volcanoes (that are only as high as his knees), and one flower.  He realizes that he isn’t very powerful or important, and that the flower he loves so much is just a common rose, and that there are millions of roses just like it on Earth.

Then he meets a fox who shares a secret with the little prince: “L’essential est invisible pour les yeux; on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur.
This means that we can only see with our hearts.  The really important things are invisible.

He also tells the little prince that his rose is special, not because it’s different from any other flower, but because he loves it.

Love is where we find our identity.  Not just being loved, but in loving.  Choosing to love something that may hurt us or disappear is not natural.  It is supernatural.  It is the nature of God in us.

If we can love, maybe we can get a glimpse at the divine nature.  Someone Who loves us, not because we love Him, but because we need Him.

You’re too good for this.

23 Sep

You are.  You’re too complex, too interesting, too extraordinary…

You’re too good for this.  This means you.

Do you realize the infinitesimal chance you had to exist?  You.  You were conceived out of all of the possible combinations of DNA and chromosomes and all that jazz.  You were given life.  You were born with a purpose.  With your own mind, your own heart, and your own soul.  You have colors in your face, you have blood rushing through beautifully twisted veins that electrifies you.  You have breath welling up inside you, breath that can be spoken, sung, or silent.

You are.

You live now.  Not in ancient Greece, imperial Japan, or the European Renaissance.  You live in a time that the greatest minds in history have only ever dreamed about.

You live now, in this moment.  There are people who were living yesterday who are not alive now.

You are.

You live now.  Tomorrow may not come for me.  It may not come for you.  No matter who you are, nobody is ever promised that they will live another day, or even take another breath.  But you are alive now.

And you’re too good for this.  You’re too good to be bored, lazy or apathetic.  You’re too good to be angry over things you can’t control.   You’re too good to hate yourself for who you are or who you aren’t.  You’re too good to be used.

You’re too good to be consumed by somebody else’s perception of perfection.  You’re too good to stand in front of a mirror, hating yourself.  You’re too good to be obsessed with something as fleeting as beauty.

That’s too predictable for you.

Because you are a living soul.

You have fingerprints.  You have thoughts.  You have dreams.  You have a heartbeat.  You imagine.  You wonder.  You smile.  You cry.  You feel.  You are.

You are.

 

 

 

Jaffy McApplesauce

15 Aug

Jaffy McApplesauce loved eggs.  Not just for breakfast.  He loved eggs in his salad, in his tuna sandwich, on his hotdog, even on his ice cream.  This is barely surprising, since his parents were chicken farmers, and had twenty giant red chicken coops, filled with speckled hens.  Jaffy liked to help them care for the chickens, gather the eggs in the mornings, and even clean the coops.  You may imagine that he was a very strong boy, considering all of the protein he consumed.  However, one might say that he rather resembled an egg.  His skin was soft and pale and the curly tangle of hair on his small head was a shocking shade of yellow.  And yes, he was quite round.  He was a very nice boy, but he didn’t have many playmates.  Sadly, that was because Jaffy was painfully shy.  He was so shy that he was even afraid to talk to his imaginary friends.

And everyday at school, Jaffy sat by himself.  I suppose he would have dreaded lunchtime in the cafeteria more, if it hadn’t been for the knowledge that there would be a hard-boiled egg and an egg salad sandwich tucked away in his lunchbox.

But you must also know that there was something else that Jaffy liked about school.  Her name was Lolly-Sue, and she was the prettiest girl in the whole class, maybe even the world.  She was tall, with silky red hair the color of apples, and shiny blue eyes.  Jaffy didn’t know much else about her besides her name and aforementioned distinctions, but he was convinced that everything she did and every word she said was absolutely, positively perfect.

Then, one day.  The unthinkable.  The teacher was talking about where food comes from.  Jaffy’s tongue tingled as she described the animals on a farm and where we get milk and EGGS.  Suddenly, Lolly-Sue raised her hand and said in her sweet, lilting voice, “Eggs come from chickens?! How vile! I don’t understand how anyone can eat those horrid things!  Anyone who would go near a filthy chicken is simply not right in the head.”

Jaffy was stunned.  He felt a tightness in his chest, and a shortness in his breathing.  His eyes widened, pulsing with hot tears as he attempted to sniff back his horror.  Of course, he couldn’t say a word.  He could only stare at the lovely Lolly-Sue in complete consternation.

When lunchtime rolled around, Jaffy couldn’t bring himself to eat.  His stomach murmured a languishing growl, and he glanced over at Lolly-Sue’s table as she cheerfully gossiped and devoured her PB&J on white bread.  He was SO hungry. But, suppose Lolly-Sue saw him eat an egg! She’d never speak to him.  If she wouldn’t speak to him, she’d never agree to marry him either.  Oh, the torment!  Then again, she couldn’t possibly even know he existed.  She was far too lovely to stoop to his level.  Perhaps he could manage to slip down just one egg.

He carefully peeled back the plastic sandwich bag from around the hard-boiled egg, and gingerly picked it up.  As he lifted it to his trembling lips, he heard a squeal of disgust.  To his complete terror, it was Lolly-Sue.

“That boy is eating an egg! How foul! How bourgeoisie!  Egg-head! Egg-head! Yuck, yuck, yuck! Cluck, cluck, cluck!”  His cheeks burst into flame, and his fingers went cold.  He dropped the egg onto the table, frozen in fear as the entire cafeteria took up Lolly-Sue’s rueful chant.  Tears ran down his cheeks, and he buried his head in his hands, trying to wake up from the awful nightmare.  It couldn’t be real.

The next thing Jaffy remembered, he was sitting in the nurse’s office waiting for his mother to take him home.  He heard the other children’s voices echoing down the hallway, giggling and telling each other in delighted, rustling whispers about “The Egg-head.”

At dinner, Jaffy was in no humor to eat.  He couldn’t look up at his parents.  He was so ashamed.  Mr. and Mrs. McApplesauce tried to convince him that what the other children thought wasn’t terribly important, but Jaffy didn’t believe them.  He poked at his mother’s mushroom quiche for a good hour until his father told him it was time for bed.  He trudged up the stairs, stumbled into his bedroom and fell into bed, still wearing his school clothes.  As he lay there, he thought about Lolly-Sue, but he also thought about his parents.  They seemed so sad at dinner.  Maybe it was because he didn’t want to eat eggs anymore.  He didn’t sleep well that night.

The next few days were simply dreadful.  It would do no good to document all of the cruel things that the other children said to him, as I’m sure you can imagine.  We all know what it is like to be teased.  Jaffy didn’t eat one egg.  He didn’t even have a heart to help his parents care for the chickens.

You see, Jaffy was torn.  He loved his parents and the chickens, and of course, the eggs.  But he also wanted Lolly-Sue’s approval.  After all, he did plan to marry her.

Then, one night as he lay awake, tossing to and fro, he thought of something.  He had an idea.  A brilliant, frightening idea to get Lolly-Sue to like him.  It was flawless.  The only problem was, he would have to talk.

 

to be continued…

Love.

1 Aug

“We come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” – Sam Keen

“Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.” – William Shakespeare

“So hard times or easy times, what do I care?  There’s nothing I’d change if I could…your hand in mine makes it good…You’re my harbor in life’s restless storm, rose of my heart.” – Johnny Cash

“I will be your ark, and we will float above the storm.” – The Low Anthem

“In the depth of the fragrant night I listened with ravished soul to your beloved voice.  Your heart understood mine.” – Little Women

I was driving home today, and as is one of my guilty pleasures, jamming to a Lupe song on the radio.  Say what you will, I like it.  Anyway, when the song ended, Usher’s disgusting, dull, dry, deplorable song “OMG” came on.  Out of morbid curiosity, I stuck around and listened to it.  I don’t mean to sound like a prim Victorian prude, but seriously, that song is horrifying.

It’s your typical girl-you-so-fine-pop-dat-booty garbage, but the worst part is that one of the lyrical motifs is “There’s so many ways to love you.”

Taken by itself, this is actually a rather sweet sentiment.  But Usher, or rather, the guy who writes Usher’s songs for him, is no romantic.  He means this in the lowest, most banal way imaginable.

What does it really mean to say, “I love you?”  My sister and I were talking about that today.  “Love” means different things to different people.  I love grapes.

Does this mean I’d rather spend my life with a pile of grapes than an exquisitely wonderful person?  Yes.

But really, maybe I throw that word around too much.  To really LOVE someone…I guess that means different things to different people. I think it means a million things.

  1. Being willing to understand a person.
  2. Seeing someone for who they are, not who they were or could be.
  3. Liking what they don’t like about themselves.
  4. Wanting to be with them, even if they’re in a grouchy mood.
  5. Being willing to sacrifice your good for theirs, and wanting to.
  6. Never giving up on someone, even when they’ve given up on themselves.
  7. Knowing that as long as they’re with you, you’ll never want to be anywhere else.

…okay, so I can only think of seven.  But this isn’t just romantic love.  Any sort of relationship.

I don’t know.  I just wish it wasn’t thrown around like it is.  Intimacy is an important part of  growing closer to another person, by becoming vulnerable with each other and seeking to be united with them through the body.  But we aren’t just flesh and blood.  We are beings with minds, souls, hearts and bodies.  To really connect with another individual takes time and vulnerability.  And to truly love someone, maybe we need to be connected to their innermost being, not just their outer shell.

Philosophers, poets, musicians, scientists, artists…the human race has tried to define it for centuries, and I’m certainly not going to get very far in a solitary blog post at 3 in the morning, but I would’ve lay awake musing about it anyway, so I guess it’s just as well that I wrote out my ramblings for you lovely people to read if you got the notion.  It was either this or trying to read Faulkner.  The guy’s a genius, I just wish I knew why.

Well, dear Reader.  Goodnight, or good morning, wherever you are.  And whatever love means to you (as long as your definition does not include committing a felony), I hope you find it wherever you look.

Faulkner beckons.

 

 

 

rest in my arms.

31 May

Have you ever read Lord of the Rings?  If yes, bravo.  If not, you’ve probably still seen the movies.  You know the part in The Two Towers when that greasy low-life Grima Wormtongue is beguiling Eowyn with his slithery words?

“Oh, but you are alone. Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night? When all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in. So fair, yet so cold, like a morning of pale Spring still clinging to Winter’s chill. ”

In this scene, by using her vulnerability and playing on her fears of abandonment, he is trying to control her.  And as incredibly awesome as Eowyn is, she nearly succumbs to him.  I know, gross.

Fear is a powerful agent.  But even more dangerous, is fear combined with exhaustion.  It’s bad enough to be afraid of the one-eyed monster in the closet, but when we don’t even try to fend him off, that’s when he can steal into the room and use you to make waffles.

I can tell you that my worst moments are at night.  It’s when I feel the smallest, when the scary things seem the scariest.  And by “scary,” I don’t mean one-eyed monsters.  When you grow up, you stop having nightmares about sea monsters and deranged candy salesmen.  Instead, they’re about people you love getting sick, someone telling a secret about you, or maybe hurting someone that you care about.

Why is it that we always think about these things at night, when we’re powerless to do anything about them?

I don’t know.  It’s funny though.  Whenever I have nights like that, I almost always remember these words:

“Help me in my weakness, ’cause I’m falling out of grace.” – Jesus, The Velvet Underground

“There’s no other man who could save the dead.  So do what you can to anoint my head.” – Oh God, Where Are You Now?, Sufjan Stevens

“There is a design to what I did and said.” – Vito’s Ordination Song, Sufjan Stevens

It’s really easy to forget that there is someone greater.  Sometimes, it’s not convenient.  When I’m doing something I shouldn’t be, I don’t prefer to remember that I have someone to answer to.  And other times, when everything is going swimmingly, I also forget that he is there.  I think we become so used to our own humanity that we forget his divinity.

It may not seem like there is a plan.  A lot of times, it doesn’t.  But we can only see what’s in front of us now.  Like studying one thread of a tapestry and trying to guess the entire pattern.  The truth is, we don’t have to know.  Even if we want to know, I don’t think we could handle the magnitude of such an ornate design.

I’m sorry. It’s late.  I’m rambling.

But, I just thought you should know, whoever you are, wherever you are, that there is someone greater.  He’s not waiting to smite you or scold you.  He understands you.  He knows where you fit in this amazing, beautiful story.  You’re not replaceable.

but for now, it’s two in the morning. I should be in bed, and so should you.

So, here’s a little something for the road:

http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/04/23

goodnight, you!

nada me faltara. je ne manquerai de rien. i shall not want.

28 May

Feathers of music on the skirts

of

the

snow

Stones locked in time, silenced

By colorless

years

.

Joy

quivers in their throats

Laughing

At the pride of Virginia

and burdened beasts rising from the lake.

As they look for high,

Strange

fruit.

Cold flames glow in a cheap, plastic haze.

Two thousand came then, but no

more.

And each year is born smaller and bears heavier wings.

Grasping for wasps in the swelled amber glass, wedon’tcareifthey Sting us.aslongasit’sfastandwithhardened

hands, we wrestle for more.

and we kill for the shreds as they fall to the floor.