Bread and the Bird of Heaven

He’s back! I went out this morning to do Ten Breaths, and the moment I stepped out onto the porch, there was his whistle. One long, clear call in the dawn air. I listened longer, and he kept piping occasionally, one or two or three long notes at a time. I think I saw him, too, pulling apart a sycamore ball to get the nourishing seeds, but the rising sun was behind him so he was in silhouette. I waited, but he was busy, too busy to call more than a single whistle at a time. Then, just as the chill drove me to turn back indoors, there it was, the full trill: “O-ri-ole!” My shining bird friend is back in the hollow.

Yesterday I decided to make sun rolls to celebrate the May. I don’t have a recipe for sun rolls–I’m not sure there is one, really. It just seemed like the thing to do on a crisp May Day to welcome the turning of the season.

So when I went out for yesterday’s Ten Breaths and to wash my face in May Day dew (because that’s what you do), I picked dandelions. I couldn’t resist the violets that grow so thickly next to the locust grove, so I picked some of those as well. The poor dandies looked utterly brutalized by the previous day’s rain. I brought them in and washed them and laid them on a cloth to dry. Within an hour, they’d perked up, as if they were outside on their stalks. The Life Force is powerful in dandelions.

If I were to write a book about magic, I think the second chapter might be about dandelions. The first chapter would be about yeast. Yeast is primordial. Yeast is ylem. I’m pretty sure I am not using that word quite correctly, but I have commandeered it for my own purposes. Ylem, according to Dictionary.com, is “the primordial matter of the universe, originally conceived as composed of neutrons at high temperature and density.” I just stop at primordial matter of the universe, and take my meanings from there. Yeast is ylem.

I used my typical recipe for rolls, warming the milk, adding salt and a little flour and yeast. Because these were to be sun rolls, I exchanged the sugar for honey to celebrate the Little Sisters who have been busy in that dandelion patch. And I let the mix bubble for ten minutes. Really, is there any more magical moment in daily existence than coming to the bowl of yeast and flour after ten minutes to see the transformation that has occurred there? The scent of living, growing Life Force, the eager face of the bubbly risen mix. There’s a sound as well, or perhaps I have imagined it, of the bubbles. . .gurgling, plipping, popping, bubbling. . . Life Force.

I always start mixing bread in the stand mixer a friend of mine gave to me when she moved. It makes the process a little simpler, but I also love the feeling of connection it gives me. Even solitary bread-making is communal. I have my recipe mostly memorized, but I keep the cookbook handy on the counter, because that, too, was written by a friend, and it adds to the web of connections I am building as the gluten is aligning in the dough.

Yesterday, I added about a cup of yellow dandelion petals when I added the extra flour (flowers and flours), and used the mixer to bring the dough together, but I need to knead by hand: I love the feeling of kneading a good dough. Then it was rise and shape and rise and bake.

In the meantime was a bittersweetness. I haven’t seen my parents for seven weeks, and we had an exchange to make. They’re giving their old laptop to my boy, and they were out of whole wheat flour, and my mom needed some more crochet hooks and yarn. I had felt a little sheepish about buying two bags of whole wheat when I was out last week, and now it seems there was a reason. So we went to the trailer at the entrance to their retirement community to make the drop off–we’re not allowed to go on campus, and we’re grateful that they are so protected. There they were, and we got to see them and to say hello, from a distance, and through our masks. I didn’t realize how hard it would be not to hug. That was a challenge. The closeness emphasized the distance, but it was marvelous to see them.

They gave us another bag, too, with cookies and a couple pieces of chocolate cake, and a bottle of elderberry mead, perfect for a celebration of May Day. What a treat! So my May Day was sun rolls and mead and chocolate cake, the Life Force in flowers and yeast and honey, and a glimpse of my beloveds.

And now, this shining morning after, the call of the Bird of Heaven from the sycamore.

Gratitude List:
1. Oriole is back!
2. Elderberry mead
3. Yeasty sun rolls
4. Connections and community
5. Life Force evident everywhere

May we walk in Beauty!


“The only time incorrectly is not spelled incorrectly is when it is spelled incorrectly.”


“There is no such thing as one-sided generosity. Like one ecosystem, we are each at different times receiving or purging, growing or pruning. In those moments when you believe you aren’t receiving enough, consider what you most want to receive might be the thing you need to give away.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.” —Henry David Thoreau


“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.” —Joanna Macy


“What if the Creator is like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s God: “like a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence”?

What if the Source of All Life inhabits both the dark and the light, heals with strange splendor as much as with sweet insight, is hermaphroditic and omnisexual?

What if the Source loves to give you riddles that push you past the boundaries of your understanding, forcing you to change the ways you think about everything?

What if, as Rusty Morrison speculates in “Poetry Flash,” “the sublime can only be glimpsed by pressing through fear’s boundary, beyond one’s previous conceptions of the beautiful”?

Close your eyes and imagine you can sense the presence of this tender, marvelous, difficult, entertaining intelligence.” —Rob Brezsny