What’s the difference between yeast dough and a question? The first one rises; the second, arises. What do they have in common? They both yield surprising results.
I love making my own bread; in the bread machine. It’s easy, I do not get my hands dirty, and it’s almost foolproof. When my son came back from spending 10 days at his grandmother’s house with raved reviews on her cinnamon rolls, the first question arose in my mind: how hard can it be? I mixed the ingredients, determined to make the sticky delights from scratch and show them off at breakfast. Isn’t simple happiness sharing the first meal of the day with someone you love eating something he loves that was made for him with love?
As the dough rose I pondered that the baking process was very much like my quest for inner peace: you go in with a recipe, usually someone else’s, full of hope and expectations. When everything goes according to plan, you feel confident and in control; you show off your skills. You even think it’s fun. You forget that you’re a party to a show much bigger than yourself. After all, the dough knows what to do. It is not through my personal magic that the gluten reacted to the warm motion of my hands. It’s happened many times before and will happen again and again with fingers much more or less gifted than mine. It is all part of a miracle called life. That’s when my next question arose: if I’m not in control of the process, if there are no guarantees that inner peace will ever be mine, what is the point in even trying?
Time to turn my attention back to the rolls. I pressed my finger in the dough and it deflated in a flash. I grabbed the rolling pin and produced a smooth rectangle that I sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. I rolled, cut, sighed with pleasure, and put the whole thing in a warm place to rise again. The hidden bonus –or downside- of baking is that you get some time to rest alongside the dough. Time to get lost in your thoughts or distracted by the goings of life in general.
What is the point in even trying? Finding joy and a sense of freedom in a life that you cannot control is a daunting task. There are no infallible recipes; there are no shortcuts. It takes time, faith in the process, and the willingness to get one’s hands dirty. So why even bother? Because, like baking cinnamon rolls, it’s the labor of love. Love for oneself, love for others, love for life. Because turning one’s back on the questions that arise is like puncturing that ball of dough and forgetting it on the counter to dry. It is forgetting that life is a gift and that, like yeast and water whisked together become terrain for growth, an inquisitive mind combined with an open heart lead the way to unimaginable discoveries. Questions yield amazing results when one accepts that they may not lie in the answers.
I hummed with satisfaction when I poured the yummy icing on my beautiful cinnamon rolls but it was my whole being that sang with joy as my son started eating the food he loved made with love by someone who loves him.