Last night I decided to bake bread. I was feeling a little frustrated, a little lost in the fast urban shuffle; I had a great desire to take some matter into my own hands and see it through from start to finish. Flour, milk, yeast, salt, these things I could, literally, take in my hand to measure, combine, knead and bake.
I took the bread recipe from the box, put on my apron and began to assemble the ingredients on the counter. Flour white Milk white Salt white Yeast to grow Flour, milk, salt, yeast in time in time A mountain of snow A white loaf
I was singing softly to myself, under my breath. Separate on the shelf you stand Separate parts I take in hand and mix within a bowl and mix within a bowl Combined in dough Together you grow Combined in dough and rising
I covered the bowl of dough with a towel and placed it on the stove top. Then I sat down at my kitchen table to think while the dough rose. Snatches of song chants kept occuring to me. My kitchen is warm Outside, the night is cold my bread is rising my bread is taking life
In darkness the sun is moving toward morning
In darkness my bread is moving toward making A meal for me Life for me My bread is rising my bread is taking life
I felt like an instrument through which voices were passing. I felt a welling of well-being, a sense of peace and of energy. Just what was going on?
I thought of the playground where I'd spent half my childhood. I'm the king of the castle and you're the dirty rascal Rain, rain go away Come again some other day!
Nursery rhymes.Wish-fulfillment songs. Songs to spread energy, to declare control. Songs of power.
I thought of the chants and work songs of primitive peoples, the corn planting songs of the Papago Indians who walked their fields at night "singing up the corn." Now I place you in the ground You will grow tall Then they shall eat My children and my friends who come from afar.
I thought about botanists and behavioral scientists, as well as amateur gardeners who swear by the benefits of talking to their plants. It had always sounded silly to me. Now here I was, singing to my bread and feeling terrific. Just what was going on?
Maybe it had to do with being involved in a growing process. Raising a plant , raising bread, raising a child -- there's a miracle in each of these. The ability to bring life into the world is a miracle that everyone has the power to experience. In the crush of urban life, in the speed of modern times, in the grip of technological dependencies, it's easy to forget the benign power is there. It's hard to believe we still have it, even if we do remember. But when we work one of those miracles, we experience a sense of connection, of great joy , of great power.
My bread continued to rise during the night. I punched it down, kneaded, waited, punched it down again and put it in loaf pans for the final rising. I was following a timeless recipe; I knew exactly what to do. I put the bread in the oven an hour before dawn. The sun was rising as I drew the loaves from the oven, steaming and giving out goodness. I ate the first slice as I watched the sun ignite the ice on the street, the sidewalk, the river -- Fire and spangles! Never has sun risen so bright Never has bread tasted so new I am the first to see this sun I am the first to taste this bread Full of life The sun has risen Full of life The bread has risen Full of life I have risen one of many full of life