Yeast

Here are some yeast stories:

There’s something about being in isolation that makes a person want to bake. I started by trying to make hamburger buns for our first isolation birthday. The practice round was so successful with the kids, that I kept making them, and I played around with the recipe, making spiral rolls and garlic rolls. And then, just like that, I was out of yeast. And Giant was out of yeast. And Sue’s was out of yeast. No one has whole wheat flour either.

I complained on Facebook, and a friend who had just received her mail order of a pound of yeast said she would put some in the mail for me this week. What a tender gesture! I never would have let myself accept such an offer in the Before, but now, Yes, please and thank you. And such a feeling of being cared for.

My sister also ran out of yeast. As she was on a walk the other day, a neighbor who was unloading groceries from the car called out and asked her if she needed paper towels. No, my sister called from a safe distance, but yeast–now that’s a difficult thing to come by. Just a couple days later, her neighbor dropped off yeast at my sister’s door.

The sharing takes on a sacramental edge these days. And yeast. Sharing yeast is sharing something even more elemental than a cup of sugar. No matter how much I research and study what yeast is and how it (they?) does its work, it will always be something mystical, something magical, to me. Bread and wine, the elements of sacrament in more than just the Christian tradition, are both yeast-based. I once heard someone talking about the two kinds of plants–monocotyledons and dicotyledons–and how corn is a monocot and grapes are a dicot, and that the elements of bread and wine bring together those two forms of plants with the magic of yeast and fermentation. And I think I won’t try to wrap that up with a nice essayist’s conclusion. It feels like a mystery that needs to stay quietly behind the veil, hinted at, marveled at, unexplained for now.

While I await the precious gift of yeast from Joan, I have begun to capture my own wild yeasts. They say that the yeast of any place is distinctly OF that place. So these are my Goldfinch Yeasts. Is is a flock? A herd? They’ve been bubbling for days, strong and lively, and today they smell sour and yeasty. Yeast Beings, I greet you.


Capturing Yeast: I’ve done this before, but it’s been years, so I watched some videos and read some tutorials. Here’s the process I’ve been using:

In a wide-mouthed jar, I put 3 Tbsp. of flour and 2 Tbsp. of water. Mixed, covered with a special cotton cloth and rubber band (perhaps any cloth will do), and let stand in a warm place for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, I stirred. Then another 12 hours later, I added another 3 Tbsp. flour and 2 Tbsp. water. The tutorials say five days until yeast is ready for baking. This is the morning of day five for me. Tomorrow, I will find a recipe and bake. Maybe pizza dough for supper, or rolls for the boys to snack on. And some day we’ll find whole wheat flour again. Meanwhile, it’s white bread.

That’s the process. Stir every 12 hours, and feed every 24 hours. Though none of the experts have mentioned it, I suspect it might be helpful to sing to them as you stir, or to speak poetry to them. Greeting them and praising them can’t hurt.


Gratitude List:
1. Yeast
2. People who share yeast
3. Bread and wine
4. Awaiting oriole
5. The promise of a new week.

May we walk in Mystery.


“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
―Ursula K. Le Guin


“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” ―Claude Monet


“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” ―Malala Yousafzai


I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering in the street. Come out!”
“Leave me alone. I’m sick.”
“I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here,
and he wants to resurrect somebody!”
―Jalaludin Rumi


“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
―Jalaluddin Rumi


“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
―Anaïs Nin


“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you should not be afraid of destroying them. That’s what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries.”
―Haruki Murakami


“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” —Richard Rohr

In the Dreamtime, Day 13

We’re still within the twelve days of Christmas, but since I start counting the Dreamtime at Solstice, we’re on to Day 13 now in this little pocket of my counting of time.

One of the things I begin to discover at this point in the process of collecting the words and images from my dreams is that I start to catch echoes of my collection in the world around me. Bridges and boundaries are common enough metaphors, but because they’ve been swirling around in my dream-soup, when I catch references to them in people’s daily speech, it feels like I am receiving secret messages. I am listening for echoes now, affirmation that the words and images I am sanding and honing are the ones I should put in my internal medicine pouch to carry into the coming year.

In last night’s dream, Jon and I and a child (perhaps an amalgam of the two boys) are trying to get somewhere, hitching rides on the trains like hobos. It’s really dangerous, and I am terribly worried that the child will fall off. We finally decide to stop taking the risks and walk, but by this time we are far out in the wilderness, in the woods, and getting to civilization will take days. We sleep in the woods, and find our food where we can. Despite the long walk and the uncertainty, it feels like the right choice. I think the child is really me, and some of the recent choices I am making about the way I work, and the boundaries I set, are making the journey harder and lonelier perhaps, but safer for that inner child. Good choices.

In other dreams I am trying to text Jon that my meeting has gone really short and I can take Ellis home from school after all. Technology and phones never seem to work in dreams. I cannot find the numbers or the right app to text. Typical anxiety dream. Will Deep Self really be able to get the necessary messages across to Waking Self?


Gratitude List:
1. The dawning of women. I was unprepared for quite how relieved I would feel yesterday looking at the images of those joyful, powerful women entering Congress. I thought I had experienced all the joy when I learned they had been elected, but yesterday was a joyful day.
2. The three million women of Kerala who made a chain to tell the world that it is the time of women.
3. It’s the Tuesday of my work week, but it’s Friday. I really needed this slow start.
4. Michelle Obama’s book. She weaves words and ideas well. Her story is so completely her own story and her family’s story, but she deftly weaves the connection of her story to the experiences of black families in the past century, so that as I am learning her own history, I am developing a deeper context for understanding the Great Migration, white flight from cities, and the persistence of structural racism.
5. Dean’s pies. Every year my colleague makes a tableful of pies (8? 10? 12?) for us. It creates truly impossible choices. I take tiny slivers of several. And it’s sublime. Yesterday was a delicious day.

May we walk in Beauty!


“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“We use language to build the structures upon which we hang our ideas. Language is the scaffold upon which we develop whole structures of thought. Language anchors and shapes and breathes life into thought and idea. Conventional thinking, and conventional language, can end up being a pretty tight little box of a windowless building that doesn’t let in the light. The air in there gets pretty stale. When language—and its attendant ideas—become calcified and crippled into arthritic patterns, poetic image and word-use can find new ways to say things, can break windows into the walls of those airless rooms and build ornate new additions onto the old structures. Poetry jars the cart of language out of its constricting wheel ruts. This is why poets and writers can make good revolutionaries—if they know their work and do their jobs well.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014


“The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” —Carl Sagan


Mary Oliver, on the Great Horned Owl: “I know this bird. If it could, it would eat the whole world.” And then: “The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I too live. There is only one world.”


Fierce Wild Joy
by Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2016

May this year bring you joy
like crows rising from the fields

fierce
wild joy

yelling full-voice
into the wind

rowing through the tempest
with nothing but feathers.


“Have patience with everything
that remains unsolved in your heart.
Try to love the questions themselves,
like locked rooms and like books
written in a foreign language.
Do not now look for the answers.
They cannot now be given to you
because you could not live them.
It is a question of experiencing everything.
At present you need to live the question.
Perhaps you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
find yourself experiencing the answer,
some distant day.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”
―Jalaluddin Rumi

Happily Home

“Do you not see how everything that happens keeps on being a beginning?” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
*
“Every soul innately yearns for stillness, for a space, a garden where we can till, sow, reap, and rest, and by doing so come to a deeper sense of self and our place in the universe. Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion A filling up.” ~ Anne D. LeClaire
*
“To me, every hour of the day and night
is an unspeakably perfect miracle. ” ~Walt Whitman
*
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.” ~ Etty Hillesum
*
“Am I killing time, or is it killing me?” ~The Middle Brother Band


Gratitude List:
1. Happily home again, after a satisfying vacation
2. The possibilities the day brings. When the air is so gravid with rain, it feels as though anything could happen.
3. The prospect of coffee with a friend–a friendship that blossomed online.
4. That fuzzy old man cat Fred. I miss him when we’re away.
5. Sharing stories together. I’m reading the Heroes of Olympus series to the kids right now. I love the way the boys are absorbing Greek mythology while we read. I also love the way they get the jokes.

May we walk in Beauty!

Remembering Old Friends

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This is one of the Lehmans’ fields, just about a week ago. Now their heads are all bowed, the petals have faded and dried up, and the seeds are filling in.

Last night I went to the viewing for a childhood friend of mine. When we moved to Pennsylvania when I was ten years old, Linda and her family lived about a mile away from us–a nice bike ride–and our families went to the same church.  Linda was tall and sort of shy; I was short and chatty. I remember hanging out in her family’s cool basement, reading each other the Dear Abby column from old newspapers, playing with her brother’s chemistry set (I think we wanted to make something blow up–what kid with a chemistry set doesn’t?), and riding our bikes down over the field to the Green Dragon yard sale and buying stuffed animals that our mothers wouldn’t let into the house.

We went to different high schools, but we remained friends, going to youth group together, and writing each other long notes during the week that we would give to each other to read each Sunday at church. On really cold winter afternoons, a bunch of us would head over to Leroy and Beulah’s pond for raucous games of MudSucker, a version of ice hockey with players on skates or in big old boots, and lots of body checking and laughter.

Linda was a loyal and gentle friend, always present in conversation, often smiling, thoughtful, and lots of fun to be with.

After high school, our lives went different ways, and I never made the effort to get back together. We each made attempts here and there to connect, but somehow we never managed to maintain the connection.  Every once in a while, I would wonder where she was, how she was doing. I reconnected with our friend Stacey a couple years ago on Facebook, and she at least updated me on Linda, but I still didn’t make the extra effort to get her number, to call her, to see her again.

This is a story about regret. I am trying to learn to sit with these crunchy emotions, to welcome them into my guesthouse (to use Rumi’s phrase). If I don’t sit with the tough emotions and listen to the stories they have for me, they get in anyway, and then they barrel around and destroy things. Regret turns to flaming shame and eats all the food in the house. Perhaps if I invite them in for a while, just to talk, and listen to the stories they have to tell me, I can learn something about myself and about the past.

This is a story about friendship. Treasure your friendships in your heart. Know that the friends you make will be there, ready to pick up the threads again when you reconnect. But never waver at a chance to re-connect, to make contact. Our friends become part of us, they shape and mold us in ways we can’t always name. I could vow to never again take a friendship for granted, to never completely lose touch again with people I have loved, but I think it is the way of the world, that people connect and move on, and the contact fades. I can, however, use this moment to remember the ways in which my friends over the years have blessed and changed me, and to be ready, whenever the moment presents itself, to take the time and attention to reconnect, to make that extra effort.

Gratitude List:
1. This weather. Yesterday’s weather was perfect. Thermal Delight.
2. Pawpaws. Like custardy mangoes. I really need to plant me a pawpaw tree.
3. Asian pears. For lunch, I have been eating a soft and tender pawpaw, and then a crisp and crunchy pear. Perfect crunch, perfect sweet tang.
4. Old friends. Even (or especially) in the painful times of death, it is nice to reconnect with friends I have known and loved long ago.
5. Fridays. Faculty hymn sing, a schedule that sort of teaches itself, and anticipating Saturday with the family. Rest. Breathing. Rejuvenating. (I will love Monday, too, when it comes.)

May we walk in Beauty!

Re-Building Bridges

We watched a couple videos of Turkish Ebru painting, Boy and I.  In Ebru painting, the artist drips ink on to the surface of the water, then manipulates the surface to create beautiful designs which cling to the paper the artist rests on the water’s surface.

Afterward, “Can you get down my painting box?”

“I think we’re out of painting paper.”

“That’s okay.  I’ll find some cardboard.”

P1020389

Gratitude List:
1.  The wild creative imagination of children.  How one thing suddenly becomes another thing, which morphs into a totally different thing.  Well, now.  Isn’t that sort of like life?  Maybe the Divine Source of all Being is a Child playing with colors:  “This one looks like a farmer.  But if I twist this brush a little bit this way, she turns into a teacher.  See?”  Capricious, maybe.  But magical.  Just let this one dry a good while please, Kid, before you go shifting this part of the design again.
2.  Ends of tunnels.  Beginnings of bridges.  Spanning the distances.  Breathe, baby, breathe, while you cross that bridge.  And don’t, whatever you do, hold your breath in the tunnels!  Look for the light–it’s really there.
3.  Re-built bridges, diamonds, rust.  A couple days ago, I heard Joan Baez singing “Diamonds and Rust” on the radio, and it took me back 25 years in one instant.  It took me right back to the happy times before the burning of a bridge, of a friendship.  The bridge has been re-built, of course, and this new one is as beautiful as my bridge that arches over the Susquehanna when the sun hits it just so in the mornings.  But that long-ago burning still sometimes haunts me with the shame of my pettiness and selfishness, despite the great grace of my co-re-builder, despite the years that have passed.  Sometimes I just have to go back and look at the old pilings where the old bridge used to be, to see how there’s moss growing there, and small trees, how the wreck sets off the incredible grace of the new bridge, how the sun shines on it all as Beauty.  This is one of the big gratitudes of my life, one of the constants: the Grace of friendship.
4.  Oh, that slant of light in the mornings in the hollow makes me almost as giddy and obsessed as my oriole did in springtime.  I miss it most mornings these days because I am gone before sunrise.  See, we sit down here in the shadows of the bowl, and we know that it is day because the sky has brightened up above, but then the sun slants down and hits the tops of the trees with a golden shimmer that moves down the trunks.  There comes a point when the sun just spills down the hillsides like liquid gold.
5.  Both.  And.  I like those words.
6.  (Because sometimes you need more than five.)  It’s a long way away, but I am planning my self-care moment, anticipating my Time of Silence.  The thought of my own retreat fills me with energy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Cirque

2014 January 010

Gratitude List:
1.  Reunions.  More reunions.  The college gang.  Such good, thoughtful people, these.  And we really don’t look a day older.
2.  Cirque du Ursa.  A fairy bear with wings.  A cocoon, a butterfly.  Grace.  Watching someone do aerial acrobatics makes me forget, for a few moments, how earthbound my own body is.
3.  Sunrise
4.  Rilke
5.  Warm hats.

May we walk in Beauty.

Revisions

2013 October 103

Gratitude List:
1.  Cardboard boxes and tape.  Easiest and most fun Halloween costume prep ever.  I hope they never grow out of their love of transforming boxes into costumes, play sets, posters, spy centers. . .
2.  Fleece pajamas and fleece slippers
3.  Friendship
4.  Revising poetry (Mockingbird says it’s okay to move on to this step)
5.  Working together

May we walk in Beauty.