Usually when I sit down to tap out a blog post, I have a vague sense of what I want to talk about, or at least where I want to begin. That is not the case right now. But there is a loaf of bread baking in the oven and I must remain nearby for at least an hour, and the house is infused with its good aroma, and I might as well try to write. It’s a hopeful loaf, the kind that required lots of kneading and punching and rising twice, and its dough was supple and shiny, a heavy rounded mound that promises to be handsome. We shall see.
I think too much, the luxury of a lucky life, but not deeply enough, and usually without any meaningful new insights or resolution, often going over the same tired ground. Maybe that’s why I was so happy to have had the wisdom of the late, beloved poet and philosopher John O’Donohue filling my head yesterday via podcast. He said this, for example: “The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more it seems to me, actually, that the visible world is the first shoreline of the invisible world. And the same way I believe with the body and the soul. That actually the body is in the soul, not the soul just in the body. And that in some way the poignance of being a human being is that you are the place where the invisible becomes visible and expressive in some way.”
The poignance of being human. I think I’ve been trying to get a handle on this all along. I like the thought that we ourselves are the very junction of invisible and visible, a corporeal glimmer of something unseen but yes. It’s such a contradictory state, though, each of us a tangible manifestation of miracles but barely blundering through, acutely conscious and yet so unaware. Perhaps the poignance of being human is in experiencing all this love and pain and wonder without knowing what it means or what it meant, then promptly vanishing into what we can neither imagine or perceive.
“It’s strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you.” That’s another quote from O’Donohue. I like that so much I think I’m going to proclaim it as my motto. Heck, I’m tempted to change the name of this very blog to “It’s Strange To Be Here.” Because yes, it’s amazing, all right, but also challenging, difficult, mysterious…strange.
Everyone wants to have mattered. I had another mother-dream last night. She wasn’t dead after all. In fact, she was dressed up pretty, ready to go out, and happy to see me, as always. A young woman named Maria was passing by, and I called Maria in so she could see that my mother was alive, and there were joyful smiles all around, then pastries proffered, very sweet. Even in the dream I could taste lemon filling, bright yellow, and my mother was licking butter cream frosting from her fingers. She wanted just a little more. Deserved it, too, I think.
But that was all in the tiny visible part of what was and is and will be. No sense getting worked up about that now. Then I’d have to think about my father too, and my sister and my brother and before you know it, that whole tragic epic and the worrisome state of the world. I’d never get out of bed.
Maybe I should think more about the world, though. I get too focused sometimes on my own personal state of being, which is good if it helps me understand more universal truths and yields greater compassion for others, but usually it doesn’t. And this brings me to perhaps my favorite of all the things I heard John O’Donohue say, that one’s identity is not equivalent to one’s biography, and that “….there is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there’s still a sureness in you, where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.”
A place where you have never been wounded, where there is still a sureness and tranquility in you. How beautiful that is! It acknowledges the miracle-ness of each of us, the core and spark that we contained and are, delivered pure and beautiful from the invisible to the visible realm. (Remember, said my poet friend Dan once, you are the light and not the bulb.) That place is one we should treasure, hold sacrosanct, and visit often.
Well, I warned you that I didn’t know what I was going to write about. Meanwhile, the bread has been baking. There it is, at the left. It’s a dense moon of a loaf. I thought it would have risen more. But it smells heavenly and has a very thump-able crust, and if it tastes good, I’m going to declare it a success.
And because of this bread, I can now say that I accomplished something tangible (and visible) today. My friend Jeanne refers to bread-baking as magic…the alchemy of heat and yeast, the traditions of our ancestors…she uses the method passed down by her great-great-grandfather from Alsace-Lorraine. “It requires mostly just my hands, and heat, and flour, water and salt,” she says, “And time for it to ferment.” Afterwards, she dips a chunk in olive oil and eats it with a glass of wine. Which sounds like an excellent plan.