After shopping yesterday in Charlottesville with my daughter, Polly, I drive her home. As I prepare to go to my nearby home, her friend John hands me an oblong loaf of whole-grained bread that he has made, enclosed in a plastic bag that started life filled with bulk grains from The Cheese Shop.
For me, homemade gifts are the purest gifts that exist and my heart always swells when I am given one. I embrace and thank John, hug and say good-night to Polly and the three dogs: Macy, Lucy, and Blue.
Some hours later, working at my computer, I begin to feel hungry and go to the kitchen to see what I have. There, on the counter, sits the bread. I smile and decide a slice of this bread will be my meal’s centerpiece and I’ll build more around it. In the fridge, my eyes are drawn to the large plastic container that holds several different cheeses, purchased after I decided I’d make that 9 Cheese Mac and Cheese recipe soon. Bread and cheese, along with a glass of wine—yes, that will be my dinner tonight.
I slice off several pieces of Jarlsberg lite swiss and a modest wedge of bread, arrange them on a white china plate, then pour a half glass of savignon blanc. I bring them to my front deck and sit in the silence of the evening’s darkness and let the refreshing feel of the unusually cool night air, and the tastes of my food and beverage embrace me with rich sensory pleasure.
This morning, after lying leisurely in bed thinking about many things, I get up and come out to the kitchen to make a cup of Red Rose tea. My eyes land again on the barely diminished bread and again I want that to be my breakfast focus. I toast a thin slice, slather it with organic crunchy peanut butter that quickly melts, and go out on the back deck to greet this new day.
I spend the rest of the morning working in the master bedroom (I wonder: since it’s just the cats and I who live here, should it not be called the mistress bedroom? Well—um, maybe not, since the word mistress can conjure up a whole other avenue of meaning!) in my new retirement home: scrubbing old grime from the outside sills of the two windows, washing and hosing down the screens, cleaning the in-and-outside of the windows, screwing in new curtain rods, then hanging the freshly-washed, pristine-white lacy curtains from my previous home. The view from each window looks out on lawn that needs mowing and beautiful old trees that need nothing except deep appreciation for their present beauty and graceful passage through the seasons of many decades. The windows frame each scene as a beautiful still-life painting, scenes that will subtly change with each new season, just as I will also, I suddenly realize.
I move my minimal furniture pieces into a new configuration within the serene taupe walls, seeking to find balance and interface between the interior room and exterior views the windows so generously give. I feel the need to bring two green plants into my room, nudged—I’m sure—by a primal urge to have inside a bit of the rich beauty outside. I place them on the bureau. Yes, I love their addition. Then I gather up my tools—window spray, hammer, nail, Phillips head screwdriver, and dirty towels—vacuum the rug and closet, and lean against the doorway to gaze at my morning’s endeavor. I smile and nod as I look slowly around for several minutes. This has been very satisfying work.
Shortly I sit on the bed; put on my sneakers; hug my kitten, Button; scratch my aloof cat, Hilary, under her neck; and start out on a long, brisk walk on the hilly, curvy, tree-canopied, country road I now live on.
Forty-five minutes later I return, do a little weeding as I work my way toward the back door, and realize how hungry I am. Once again, in the kitchen, I look first at that loaf of bread. Hmm…I spoon the rest of yesterday’s tuna fish salad onto a bed of spring mix, slice a tomato from the garden, and complete the plate with a scoop of cole slaw, then take my cup of hot tea to the table and enjoy every mouthful of my simple meal. When done, smiling as if about to engage in hugely sinful pleasure (which is exactly what I am going to do), I walk over to that loaf of bread, slice off a slender piece and pull open the fridge door to get out my raspberry jam, made locally with berries grown around the corner from my other home.
As I take small, supremely delicious bites of my bread and jam, I think about bread being the staff of life. Certainly this single loaf of homemade bread has been a primary nutrient of both my body and my soul since last night and will continue to be for the next several days. And I deeply appreciate, once again, that more and more—as the summer of my life begins to close out into my autumn—it is the simplest pleasures of life that profoundly fill me with joy.