Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Bread, the Yurt, and the New Year

Every year at this time I get to thinking about how I want to change my life. Usually there is some kind of diet involved since I have inevitably been eating too many Christmas cookies and chocolate anything. Last year I decided I was going to write a book. Didn't happen. Let's face it, I haven't even managed a blog post in 3 months. And sometimes I entertain the notion of trying to be more punctual. But the time I spend daydreaming about being more punctual usually makes me late for something and so it's pretty much a losing proposition.

And so this year I don't know that I can take myself seriously with the New Year's Resolution thing. But I've been thinking about something over the last few days and wanting to shift my life in a new direction, although I'm not exactly sure exactly what this new direction would look like.

It all started with the bread baking. I've never attempted to make bread on my own before. I did attempt cinnamon rolls on my mission and it was a monumental disaster. In honor of Y2K I decided I was going to make cinnamon rolls for my district (district=group of missionaries). How hard could it be? Read the recipe, follow the recipe. Well . . . things went amiss when I got to the part about yeast. It said to add a "packet" of yeast. So I dumped in my entire packet. Well, come to find out, a "packet" of yeast is roughly equal to a tablespoon. My "packet" was at least 100 tablespoons. But I didn't even realize I had done anything wrong and went along making the rolls--which were rising quite amazingly as you might imagine. Rising and rising and rising and growning and growing and eating all of the sugar and butter and other goodness I put on them. Still clueless, I even took a bite out of one of them when I pulled it from the oven. I about threw up. That was a sad morning. I had my heart so set on those rolls.

So I labeled myself "yeast-challenged" and decided that I was just not cut out for bread making. But I love fresh bread. I have wonderful people who bring it to me as a gift and I go nuts over it. Finally, 11 years later, I decided that I was going to learn to bake bread. My mother-in-law had given me everything I needed for Christmas--complete with a polka dot apron and white chef's hat. So two days ago I got out my new King Arthur cookbook and King Arthur bread pans and set to work.

I found that I love baking bread. I loved the simplicity of it. Flour. Salt. Sugar. Yeast. Water. That's it. I loved kneading it. I loved waiting patiently for it to become something. I guess what I loved was the ritual of it, and I feel somewhat sad that I am just discovering this after 33 years on this earth.

I also found my new cookbook to be surprisingly philosophical. Here is a quote that I liked from John Fowles:

It is almost as if in the last hundred years we left our old planet and found a new one; and we are all, however brashly contemporary, however much we take modern technology for granted, still victims of a profound cultural shock. We are beginning to realize that we have made a very clumsy landing on our new planet and that we left a number of things behind on our old one that we might have done well to bring with us.

So it was with the taste of fresh baked bread in my mouth--and not just any fresh bread, MY bread, made with MY hands--that I set out yesterday on our family New Year's Eve activity.

We went with our dear friends the Mechams up into the mountains to go sledding. Katie had found this great company that had a sleigh ride to pull you to the sledding hill, where they had warming tents with stove fires going inside and open fires going right outside the door for roasting hot dogs and warming cold hands. We could all wear ourselves out on the hill and then relax and eat in a nice warm tent and get ready to go wear ourselves out some more. It was fantastic.

And as I sat there, in that nice cozy tent, I realized that I might just like living in a yurt.

I saw this show once, on the nature channel, about people who documented wolves and lived in a yurt. I kind of thought they were nuts, but yesterday I found myself thinking, why not? While I am definitely a social creature, there is definitely a part of me that longs for solitude and isolation and a deeper connection with nature. I love the smell of wood burning on a fire. I love the smell of horses. I love the smell of snow. I love the way my food tastes when my body has been working and my lungs have been breathing cold air.

But what does all of this mean in terms of a New Year's Resolution? I have no idea. I won't be selling my house and buying a yurt anytime soon, or ever, even though it might be really cool. And I don't know how often I will realistically be baking bread, but I hope that I can manage to find a regular place in my life for it.

I just hope that this year I can maybe redefine simplicity a little bit. I hope I can choose for myself less of the easy, the cheap, and the convenient, and more of the good, the old fashioned, and the wholesome.

Last night, after coming down from the mountain and with my hair still smelling of smoke from the wood fires, I made those cinnamon rolls I've been waiting for these 11 years. And I ate them. And they were good.