Hot, hot water, pebbles of yeast, globs of oil, silken honey, and cool, soft flour fall into the bowl one at a time. And each one works a change in the look, the texture, and the smell of the ordinary mixture. The silver spoon slips through it easily and rings against the sides of the bowl as the common ingredients begin to bond together into a fragile yet powerful union.
Out of the bowl and onto the floured board it falls and as I touch it, I feel again the wonder of this transformation. How glad I am then for strong simple hands and busy fingers who know and love the bread in a way that my mind never can, no matter how eloquently I describe it. Fold, pat, push, fold pat push, make a circle, fold up the edges and push it flat again, over and over. I hear and feel the rhythm of the kneading, and I love to change the shape again and again.
All too soon, there it is--finished--rounded, smooth, and placid on the floured counter, one final hand print on top. I plop it into the buttered bowl, cover it with a warm towel, and set it on the stove. The house is silent, except that the clock ticks, and I love the solitude.
The dough is busy on the warm over. Soon it fills the bowl and pushes the towel up. I get the bread pans ready and divide the dough, a little reluctantly, into three pieces. A few minutes later neatly folded rectangles go into loaf pans, ready for the oven.
Often in the past they all went to the woods for the afternoon and left me, most happily, to bake and cook and welcome them in from the cold to hot bread and melted butter. Sometimes I could hear the busy chain saws in the distance, the thud of logs landing in the truck bed, and the shouts and laughter carried to me on the wind.
Through all the comings and goings of the people in my life, the bread has been a constant thread, connecting me with the ones I have loved. Wiggly babies have grown into curious toddlers, busy thoughtful youngsters; hurrying hungry teenagers, and young men out on their own, all coming home to countless, crusty slices cut from steamy loaves. How I love to remember those shared experiences--Will proudly carrying his very own "little loaf" around the kitchen, Laurel carefully buttering slices "all the way to the edge, Mom", Kelly bringing his friends out to dinner ("Is there any of your bread, Mom?") and Kevin taking his sandwiches to law school every day.
And so it continues: the constant, the consecrated, the celebration, the sacrament.
From Well, Well, Well Spring 1992 (transcribed by Dan Bentley). Photo at bottom shows Weedle (Donna) and twin brother, Butch (Don), on one of their joint birthdays.