Knead And Listen [on Two Artists Tuesday]

rustic bread copy

I am now among the legion of people that turned to baking bread during the pandemic-stay-at-home era. This loaf is gluten free, made with rice flour, since Kerri is allergic to gluten.

In truth, I’ve wanted to bake bread since I knew Brad the baker in California. He was a genuine hippie, a believer in peace and simple living. “Bread is a living thing,” he once said as I watched in fascination his kneading of the dough. You can tell a true master craftsman at work by watching their hands. They feel something in the dough or the wood that the rest of us do not.

My loaf was not made by a master. Not even by an apprentice.

Bill sent a photo of his first loaf and I asked for the recipe. It came as screen shots and I scribbled them into a recipe on notebook paper. Easy steps to follow but I knew from watching Brad that I would not find in my recipe any easy guidance on how to feel the life in the dough. That would come with time. Maybe. If I was lucky and diligent and practiced listening through my hands.

I’m not surprised people are turning to bread during this time of pandemic uncertainty. It is essential. The making of bread, the cultivation of wheat, made civilization, as we know it, possible. It is, therefore, a central symbol in many belief systems. Separate the chaff from the wheat. A time for harvest. This is my body. Eat.

Brad told me that the dough kneads you as much as you knead the dough. It’s a simple relationship between living things and requires complete focus. Mutual respect. Attention must be proffered.

Perhaps that is why we turn to bread in times like these. Simple relationships of attention and mutual respect are increasingly rare. Bread reminds us of what is possible, what is healthy. It reminds us of the patience that is required if we are to find our way to harvest. It reminds us of the necessity of knowing what is chaff and what is wheat, or remembering that there is a direct relationship between what is planted and what is grown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BREAD

 

ely website box copy

 

Make Quiet

A sanctuary

A sanctuary

It is Thursday night. Kerri is attending a meeting at the church and I have tagged along so I might sit alone in the sanctuary. I’ve always loved entering the quiet spaces. Once, a lifetime ago in Sedona, John called me “guru dude” because I sat for hours nestled in the quiet of a vortex. It felt like minutes to me. I think it unsettled him that I was so completely settled. I know it unsettled him that I would rather seek quiet than make noise.

Sanctuaries, I’ve learned, are everywhere.

My task, my mantra, and my delight of a few years ago was to realize that all the world is my studio. I had some amazing help and more than one universal dope slap before that realization sank in. I used to believe that in order to create I had to escape the world to find the refuge and quiet of my studio. I felt like I had to go to my studio to find my creative place just like I felt like I needed to go to a vortex to experience deep quiet. I had it upside-down. A studio, like a meditation practice, is meant to bring us into communion-with, not reinforce our isolation-from. It is not a place of escape. It is a place of joining. Quiet is not something we find as much as something we allow.

To me, the word “studio” and the word “sanctuary” are now equivalents. They are the places that creating happens and creation is a quiet process: the inner chatter stops, channels open, and something comes through. A few weeks ago, in the second performance of The Lost Boy, we stepped onto the stage and everything was quiet inside. There was no past and no future; there was only the moment – and it joined us, audience and performers, in a single, shared story. Something came through us; together we created. There was no effort, there was no striving; there was, as Jim Edmondson used to say, “a dance of giving and receiving.”

This “joining” is the dirty little secret and great power of the arts. It is something that school boards will never understand but something that dictators across the ages have feared. Artists are the vortex of joining, of shared identity, of explosive quiet, of laughter that crosses lifetimes. The arts do not separate; when at their most potent they unite. They clarify. They delineate substance from chatter en route to a powerful common center that is as holy, as quiet, as it is creative.