Wednesday, March 3, 2010
This morning, I was standing at my kitchen counter, kneading sourdough for my weekly double batch of Challoh. As I knead, I always keep an eye on the display of my oven, which is situated to my left. Watching my oven clock that way lets me know that ten minutes have elapsed and I can now put my dough to rest, covered with a warm, damp all-cotton dish towel, for a couple of hours before shaping.
I was in the thick of my kneading and if you've never kneaded dough, I can tell you that it's about as physical an activity as is possible to perform. I'm not a physical sort of person, but my arms and hands are very strong from years of piano playing. I really do enjoy the workout I get from kneading dough, even though it leaves me as quivering and breathless as my bread dough.
I am not the first person to suggest that making bread is therapeutic and brings peace of mind. Once I'm into the rhythm, the thrust and parry of the at first uncooperative mass of dough, my mind travels to a place where there is no thought. There is only the hard, manual labor of creating art in the form of a homely loaf of bread. Bread, the act of making it as well as the act of eating the finished product, feels to me about as elemental as, well, giving birth. So nothing much is in my mind as I knead. It's just me and the dough, and a sense of purpose.
All at once, the motor of my refrigerator stopped cold, jolting me out of my bread-making induced mental coma/revery. The quiet was so sudden I glanced at the display of my oven to see if the electricity had gone out. But no. It was just my refrigerator motor, at rest. It occurred to me then that the motor makes a background noise I never notice until it ceases it's electronic grumbling.
That got me thinking, even though I was still kneading. I thought: this situation is ripe for a quotable quote.
So I mulled it over: when I knead bread, I realize that I am content. Even though I may moan about being overloaded with work and housework, I am happy to be at my work. It feels right. Maybe, I thought, my contentment is like that refrigerator motor: I don't notice my contentment until something in my life goes south--goes crazy, haywire wrong. Then I look back and think, "What happened to the normalcy of yesterday? Where did it go?"
So here it is: Contentment is like a noisy refrigerator motor. It's background noise until it stalls.
Of course, this thought was immediately followed by, "Nah. Someone must have already written a quote like that."
Yup. It didn't even take long for me to figure it out. It was Joni Mitchell: "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."
At least it was Joni.