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

Combustible Child

I was a little obsessed yesterday with the way the sun shone through the wine and water glasses.

In the dream, there is a combustible child, who is likely at any moment to burst into flame: hair, chest, shins on fire. I am the child, running to escape a mob of children. Their fear and their curiosity and their rage torment me. I just want to be alone, so I can burn in peace. I burn, but I am not harmed. But my fire can burn the buildings of the town, and the trees.

Also I am a child in the mob. I run with the others, trying to catch the combustible child. I want to protect him. I know that some of the others mean to kill him, and I want to be the first to find him, to warn him, to help him. But he is always ahead of us.

We are in the labyrinthine passages beneath an old mill building. I am the child, running and hiding, afraid the light of my burning will show the children where I am. I am also seeking the child, fearful that he will hurt himself, or burn the building down, but mostly that the other children will hurt him.

I have found a way to the roof of the old mill. The others are still mostly down in the underground passages. The building is wood, but it is not burning beneath me, although other buildings have burned in the past. Down below, I am a child in the mob; I hear two children talking. They have discovered one of the secrets of the combustible child: “I think he was the one we thought had drowned there in the lake. Remember?” I have to find the combustible child and warn him.

(I welcome comments and thoughts about my dreams. I don’t feel comfortable with the “Your dream means” sort of interpretations, but speculative and conjectural comments and questions are better for helping me to think through what might be going on.)


Gratitude List:
1. How tears sometimes bless the receiver of tears. Sharing emotion, like sharing bread.
2. Laughing with loved ones
3. Pumpkin coconut pie, venison pie, chocolate pumpkin cheesecake pie
4. Sweet soft cat. I’m a little grumpy because Thor was chasing Sachs all around the house, thumpily and hissily. I could not get him to stop. I came downstairs to the recliner, hoping it would distract him, and I could get back to sleep. No. I held him and gave him a lecture about chasing kitties. No. Every time I settled down to sleep, he was off and thundering. The minute I turned on the light and picked up the laptop, he jumped up beside me, rolled onto his back, and fell into a deep sleep. Sigh. And am I grouchy? No, I just love this soft warm breathing presence beside me. I’ll nap later.
5. Belonging. I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.

May we walk in Beauty!

It’s Really That Easy

“Why are you a Mennonite, Mom?” asked Ellis.
Because, I said, I want to honor my ancestors who died for this path.
Because I like the way we sing.
Because I want to walk this path of building peace.

“This is the way to stop a war,” he told me.
“Tell the people that we were not created to fight.
We were created to love each other.
It’s really that easy.”

I bit my tongue and did not ask
why he still fights with his brother then.
Time enough to absorb the subtleties.
For now, I’ll follow that golden child
and listen to his story.
It’s really that easy.

Gratitude List:
1.  Saying Yes.  Weaving my strand into the story.  Being welcomed.
2.  Largesse.  I like that word, and the idea.
3.  A tapestry of excellent conversation and tasty food and wine.
4.  A nap.  I felt as if I had shifted sideways into someone else’s reality.  Last year it would have been an unimagined luxury to lie down for a nap on a Sunday afternoon with a warm purring cat on my lap, but today my children could sort of end for themselves for an hour.
5.  The good quick-read mystery novels of Ellis Peters.  I am reading A Rare Benedictine at the moment.

May we walk in beauty.