As I write this, my two amazing children are engaged in a Kids Baking Show-style challenge. Their assignment? Bake 6 cake donuts with a glaze and a topping. This is the second challenge in a series. Last week they made ultimate brownies. In 20 minutes, my timer will chime and it will be time to announce their twist–you must include a fruit into your donut. We just spun homemade coffee cookies n’ cream ice cream and placed it in the freezer for another day. Over the weekend, I was physically sore and exhausted from clearing the forest, and yet still made homemade french bread because it sounded so comforting.
We seem to be stress baking, a very real emotional and mental self-care strategy.
I am sitting on the sofa, carefully listening to them chatter and read-out their recipes. Liam is learning to make a puree to go into his glaze while Chloe is chastising him on what a mess he’s making. On the table in front of me is a mason jar filled with my beautiful Sarah Bernhardt peonies, which are plump and pink and gorgeous; and make the whole room smell like Spring. My cats are sleeping beside me, occasionally yawning or stretching or purring in that content way only cats can muster. If I look up and out my sliding glass door, I can see the forest, and into it for the first time in years after we spent all weekend clearing it in a very adventurous and humorous way that I will describe in a detailed post here tomorrow.
But not yet.
I’m not there emotionally at the moment. I’m having a hard time right now. We’ve been mindful to talk with our children about privilege–we live in a very well-to-do area in Central Indiana (though we have never been especially “well-to-do” ourselves). We’ve been mindful to talk about race and the way their race provides them privilege. We’ve told them about power and authority, and how theirs will seldom be questioned, though Chloe is more likely to be questioned than Liam based on gender. And so we talked about George Floyd and the events going on in the world around us, so close we can hear the helicopters periodically flying over, but still so far removed from our idyllic small town life. As I sit here looking at our beautiful Homestead and listen to my children, the juxtaposition I feel is acute and disorienting when so many people I love and know, and people I don’t know but still love, are out rightfully protesting and needing to be heard. I ache for them. I also ache for the other innocent lives being lost in the upheaval. I ache for it all.
So, I’m in a bit of a stupor this week. I think most of us probably are. We are, as Thomas Merton described, a body of broken bones. Only love can reset the bones and the body.
“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish. There are two things which men can do about the pain of disunion with other men. They can love or they can hate“(Thomas Merton (2007). “New Seeds of Contemplation,” p.72, New Directions Publishing, emphasis mine).
This does not mean there will not be pain. This means that love, in its very nature, is painful. It requires a bending, disturbing, and at times a breaking if we are to set against another enough to work the body. Love is patient and kind, as the famous Bible verse starts, but it’s also sweaty and hard and inconvenient and self-sacrificing. It means listening without forming a response in our heads and hearts. It means perspective-taking. It means acknowledging our own culpability, failings, and short-sightedness. It means encountering another’s emotions with empathy and compassion–with a desire to understand. It means we do not need to “allow for” or even “account for” difference; it means difference is the constant natural state of our world. We need to learn to dwell within it with one another.
This is the heart and soul of who I am and what I do. It’s the backbone of the scholarly research and writing I engage in. It’s the great quest of my life–every path I’ve taken has been in search of wisdom and understanding, a way to reconcile these broken bones. The rhetoric of our nation’s President right now is more disturbing than normal. It’s the opposite of dwelling within and with. It’s the opposite of love and resetting. It’s turning my stomach.
I know you likely don’t come here to read about politics, and I try to keep this place positive and focused on topics related to our family, gardening, cooking, and our adventures. I will go back to our regularly scheduled programming after this. Thank you for reading and understanding that I needed to write these words in order to write the words that will come next.
Today is a day for contemplation and mourning. So I bake. The kids bake. We talk. And together we garden. A garden is a wondrously healing place. Tomorrow I will share the weekly meal plan and tell you the story of the clearing of the honeysuckle. We laughed. We cried. We cussed. And then we drank margaritas and stared in wonder at our work. I have several recipes cued-up and ready to post, as well. So tomorrow, my friends. Until then, be well and be with one another.