A Loaf of Homemade Bread

 

 

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.

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About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I grew there in so many ways and today I'm a long-time editor for the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal, as well as a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site, another unique place in cyberspace. Then, next year, I’ll again be honored to be program chair for our Stories from the Heart national conference in Austin, TX. I have so many loves: first, my three children: my son, Chip and daughter, Polly, both in Virginia; and my youngest daughter, Susan, in Florida, and also dear family and friends. I must also include my cats Hilary (20) and Button (5). Sometimes I foster cats and kittens for the Humane Society, but Button prefers me not to. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. Now, all these years later, I believe I've sliced through the layers to reach the heart of my story, and am presently working on the final revision of my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life.
This entry was posted in Gifts, Gratitude, Health, In the Kitchen, Kindness, Simplicity. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to A Loaf of Homemade Bread

  1. Ruth Hetrick says:

    Mary Jo – What a beautiful story – I could see your home, your yard, your walk and that wonderful loaf of bread with all it’s accompaniments.
    Sounds like you are loving your new home – did you find it hard to relocate? So nice to be reading one of your stories again!

    Like

    • maryjod says:

      Thanks for once again sharing my words, Ruth. I am indeed loving it here and so do my cats. I haven’t fully relocated yet because I’m still working two counties away, so I live there 4 days a week and here for 3. A gradual transition that could be crazy-making but I’m determined to do it with grace. Hope to retire in about 6 months. So now, you can visit me in beautiful Albemarle County or in the mountainous Blue Ridge in my other home. An open invitation anytime!

      Like

  2. Courtney says:

    Beautifully written. I think I will drag out my bread recipes and do some baking soon.

    Like

    • maryjod says:

      What a great idea! You will be so glad you did and your kids, too, I’m sure. And your new home will delight in the scent of freshly baked bread within its walls. Nice to talk with you here, Courtney.

      Like

  3. Gloria Cordova says:

    Beautiful, Mary Jo. BRAVA for you for launching your personal blog site!

    Like

    • maryjod says:

      Thanks, Gloria. I’m at the novice level of novice. I set this site up months ago and then yesterday decided the bread story was going to open it up. So, here we go…. I look forward to learning more about the technical setting up. And talking with friends here as well as FB.

      Like

  4. Trilla says:

    Definitely food for thought. Delicious! Welcome to the blogging world.

    Like

    • maryjod says:

      Yes, yet another new learning experience propelled by my SCN membership a decade ago. Writing stories, editing, facilitating a writing circle, book reviews, blogging — the list just goes on and on. All treasures in my life, as are you, Trilla. Thanks for your thoughts and good wishes!

      Like

  5. susanideus says:

    Yay! I’m so glad to see you on the blogosphere! I love the story too. I often think about the “bread of life” and how exquisitely simple it is to meet our basic needs. Do you bake? I have a wonderful sounding new recipe for oat bread that I’m going to try tomorrow. It is said to make delicious toast.

    As for your bedroom, it doesn’t need to remain the master bedroom. It could be the Lady’s Chambers, or whatever… You sound so content in your new home. When will you be there permanently?

    Keep writing!

    Like

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      I see that my response to you isn’t here, Susan, so I’m sending another in case it didn’t get to you. I do bake and used to do it extensively during our family’s farm years — and everything had to be from scratch, of course. (Still does, in fact.) Let me know how your oat bread turns out and if delicious (I’m sure you know how to well read a recipe) and you’d like to share, I’d like to try it.
      I liked your thoughts about my bedroom name and they caused me to push beyond the everyday words. I’m somewhere in the “sanctuary” zone at the moment. I’m loving my new home and so many small and larger events keep happening (such as my creative writing explosion in this environment) that affirm I’m exactly where I should be…. I hope to live here full time by next summer.
      Remember you and Harold always have a home in Virginia, should you ever need one.

      Like

  6. Nancy Rigg says:

    Mmmmmmmmm, I can smell the bread! There is nothing like home baked bread and you’ve captured the beauty of this gift perfectly. Welcome to blogland! Don’t forget to set up the ‘subscribe’ thingy, so we can subscribe!

    Like

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      Nice to talk with you here, Nancy. Thanks for your thoughts. I launched prematurely, in terms of site readiness, but felt I had to push myself to get my momentum going. It will progress over the next few weeks, I hope, as I consult with my notes from Katherine Misegades at the Conference.

      Like

  7. Sharon beach says:

    Love your blog. It sounds wonderful where you live. S.

    Like

  8. Linda Hoye says:

    Ah, Mary Jo…this was wonderful! It was like I was there with you enjoying that loaf of bread and the sweet pleasure of making a house a home.

    Like

  9. karen evans says:

    Mary Jo, I hopped over from Linda’s blog. Love your story of the homemade bread. Your words brought a sweet lazy stroll to my soul.
    Blessings**

    Like

  10. Welcome Mary Jo. Well done beginning and your minimalist blog design suits your message perfectly. I especially love that the bread is packaged in a recycled bag. Perfect again. Susan’s suggestion about the Lady’s Chamber tickles me, and everything about the picture you paint is so serenely elegant … I feel as if I’ve been for a visit.

    Like

  11. Claudia Ewers says:

    I popped over to your blogsite from Susan’s site and was delighted with your story about your new home and the “staff of life”…..A lot of food for thought there about the simple pleasures of life…..simply a positively refreshing story to read….A nice way to begin your blogging experience. I also like the title of your blogsite…..”.Musings From a Patchwork Quilt Life”. Will be looking forward to the onfolding of more stories here…..

    Like

  12. kat magendie says:

    I am visiting from Linda’s place – now I want some fresh-made whole grained bread! A beautiful post here . . .

    Like

  13. Wow, Mary Jo, what an entrance into the blogosphere you’ve made with this post. It’s beautiful! Thank you for taking us through this bit of your life.

    I look forward to more!

    Like

  14. Becky Lane says:

    This reminds me of my “Heidi Moment” as a kid. I was probably about eight, and was totally engrossed in reading that book. I had just read a scene where Heidi and her grandfather were sitting in front of a cozy fire, sharing a supper of warm crusty bread and cheese they had made from their own goat’s milk, and something about it really spoke to my 8 year old soul. I just knew with all my heart that life would be better if dinner were more like this, and less like the one my harried mom was throwing together from freezer packages and cans.

    Like

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      I still to this day remember how vividly and strongly I, also, identified with that same moment in the story. I love what you call it: your Heidi moment. And here you are today, Becky, with healthy foods so central to your life and your writing. I wonder how many other young souls were so touched by that scene….

      Like

  15. Pattie Burke says:

    Your new home sounds so perfect for you! What a peace-filled life you are creating for yourself. I felt like I was right there with you, especially when you brought out the Jarlsberg Lite Swiss–my favorite! I always have some in the refrigerator. May have to grab a slice right now!
    Congrats on your blog–terrific!

    Like

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      You always have a home in VA, Pattie, anytime you and John or your sons might be passing through. I’ll get some photos up as soon as I can figure out more…. I loved our visit here and will remember Jarlsberg Lite and a glass of wine when you visit….

      Like

  16. Sharon Beach says:

    Mary Jo,
    I so enjoy reading your stories. You are very talented.
    Sharon

    Like

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