I'm baking sourdough bread this year, not for the gallery but for my own enrichment. Gifted with a cup of starter from my friend Amy who lives in Folsom, nine miles north of Des Moines, I've been reconnecting with the breadmaking of my younger years. The photo is my most recent batch, my third baking. It looks good and is good! But it also had an extra rising because -- having formed the breads to rise overnight, expecting to bake them as soon as I awoke to my 5:10 am alarm Monday morning -- I discovered 3 pans of bubbly sticky overflowing giant "pancakes" as my husband termed them. I didn't stop to take a picture of the wreck before I began, immediately, to rework the dough. It accepted another 5+ cups of flour, taking 90 minutes of kneading before it was ready for its second second rising. Yes, I meant that second second. ;-)
The whole experience gave me an opportunity to use new skills of mindfulness that my current reading is teaching me. I hadn't even poured my tea yet when I noticed I had been kneading the dough, standing at our kitchen counter, for over 20 minutes. I worked with my frustration by concentrating on my "now". After all, I was healthy in a warm and cozy home, with the time available to correct the bread wreck, my husband happily chatting as he got ready for his day at school, 3 kitties and two pups lovingly underfoot. I relaxed into a deep breath which gave way to a deep sigh and what bloomed was....acceptance. So, I focused on my breath and the pleasure of kneading bread and the need of the sponge for more flour until at last I could think of returning the whole ball of dough to its bowl. While I worked, I thought of how this one event reflected life in general. I know I've thought my recent projects were "online" and ready to take off...only to find that some missed detail, some lack of proper timing, some forgotten skill left unused, has resulted in ... well, a bit of a wreck.
That is the wisdom gained from the loaves baked this week. Slashed in a diamond pattern... revealing the beginnings of an argyle pattern... a pattern referring to part of my own cultural heritage. My grandfather, father and brother all share the same middle name, Fyfe. How Scottish is that! My love of argyle speaks of the DNA in my blood that "remembers" the lives lived in that beautiful country. I've had the pleasure of visiting Scotland, traveling with a friend back when I was working in DC for The Washington Opera as a first-hand/stitcher. That trip opened my eyes to the actual spherical nature of our planet, our precious Mother Earth.
In starting this week's blog, I Googled "poems about bread" and found a poem by A.A. Milne titled The King's Breakfast. I mention this because the national poetry recitation program "Poetry Out Loud" is in full swing with students all across the nation memorizing poetry, developing performance skills, building self confidence and having fun competing for prizes. Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. The New Mexico program is coordinated by New Mexico Arts and our state finals are coming up soon: Sunday February 27th at 1:00 pm in the St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art. Admission is free and open to the public. I am so excited! It is going to be a great day! (I'm going to be part of the public.)
Another book I am reading right now, The Gift ~Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, was a Christmas gift from my stepdaughter: thank you, Darcy! In the chapter I just finished, author Lewis Hyde expands his exploration of the nature of marketplace in relation to "gifts". In looking at the difference between women and men he cites 'advice given to women who would be successful in the "style" pages of the New York Times:' "Women on the way up should avoid associating with 'unsuccessful turkeys,' even if they happen to be friends. Leaving your friends behind isn't disloyalty. You are going to be judged by the company you keep. Seek out the people who can help you. Men have known this for years, and we are playing in their arena." p135 - The Gift -Lewis Hyde
I was struck by that passage as I believe that friends are precious; the idea that one has to leave someone "behind" because they can't help you with your success was a shock to my system. I realize that we all grow and life can take us in different directions but do we really have to calculate who to keep as friends as we steer a career towards fruition?
I've always known that where there is love and connection there is soul... and soul is where the true "success" is nurtured. My heart is filled with love for the friends who have brightened my life along the path. I thank you and keep you in my heart. In fact, the wrecks I refer to above pale in comparison to the love and joy that I carry in my heart for the myriad friendships I've known.
I bring this up in relation to the new series I am about to begin in which I will be exploring identity. Where do we come from? What are the differences between us that matter? How does one become more "authentic to self"? Questions that have been asked for time immemorial. Time brings me to this inquiry... we live on a planet where wars displace millions of people. People whose identity is deeply ingrained in their place. The tragedy of war and lost lives mean generations of family history are lost. Those who survive often have to leave their place of origin to recreate a new life in a foreign land. What will they find in their new home? How will they regain their sense of self in a new place? How will it be for the people who must "make room" for them? What does the loss of personal and familial history bestow upon these people? How do their new neighbors feel about them? Will they be welcomed into the fold? What happens when the welcome wears off? Can we hear the call to create a global culture that celebrates differences and doesn't just "tolerate" them?
That last question is compelling for me. Does it inspire or provoke your response? I recently came across an inspired talk given by Zainab Salbi titled "Women, wartime and the dream of peace". She speaks more eloquently than I and her experience brings depth to the questions. She spoke at a conference presented by TED. (That's technology, entertainment and design)
Feel free to comment with your thoughts on identity and place. I welcome you to share your heritage and insight.
Speaking of writers... Tim Keller has a feature article with his photographs in the current issue of New Mexico Magazine. Titled Max Evans's New Mexico it's all about Max, his writing and his love of New Mexico, including our own "Hi Lo Country"... which is here. We live in the Hi Lo Country. Thanks to a call from Beulah Hittson and the local Senior Center I've ordered two dozen copies of the magazine for sale at Studio C for the regular newsstand rate of $4.99 plus tax. Thank you ladies! I hope to sell out so let me know if you would like me to put one aside for you. Give me a call so we can set up an appointment at the gallery, 575.278.3517, or send an email to StudioC@bacavalley.com. Thank you ladies -- all eleven of you who pre-ordered!
So glad you've made it through this rather philosophical blog. Thank you for reading and for sharing the blog with your friends. This means you, Amy... Thanks!
Be Wonderful, Well and Wise~