One of my new favorite blogs is Cold Antler Farm. Not long ago, she wrote a post about a salad.
As she goes along telling the story of her salad, she ruminates, You know, I really think if every house had a loaf of bread in the oven the divorce rate would go down about 27%.
Oh, I totally agree. Not because of the bread itself, but because of what that sort of thing represents.
You know why a loaf of bread can save a marriage? Not because it’s darned good eats, not because it is “healthier” or “frugal” or because the smell of it brings an indescribable joy and comfort to anyone who enters the home. (Those things don’t hurt, mind you, but I don’t think they would actually cause people determined to divorce to stay together.)
It saves a marriage because the act of making the bread is an investment of time and touch. It’s an act of love. It’s an investment of self into something mundane…and with such things so readily replaced by the automated and outsourced, they have gained even more power than they held when options were few, or none.
Choosing to go through the mess and bother and time to bake bread when it can be had pre-sliced and conveniently packaged in any supermarket (or gas station, for heaven’s sake) says something, loud and clear…and to do it more than just once or twice turns it into an ocean-wave roar and crash, constant and strong.
I don’t have to say a word. The actions of my hands speak for themselves, in a way that is hard to misinterpret…unlike the spoken word, which has a way of coming out wrong or being heard wrong or being just the right thing said at just the wrong time.
Sometimes I say I love you to my family in bread. Sometimes in clean bathroom mirrors. Sometimes in an ill-sewn patch on a favorite pair of jeans. (My sewing skilz, they are not mad.) Sometimes in a knitted sweater or a hand-dyed shirt in “that” green with blue speckles. Sometimes in a handful of weeds pulled on a day when really on the whole I’d rather have been lying inside watching the Deadliest Catch marathon.
Or maybe in a plate of green beans freshly picked from our own backyard, lightly steamed with a little Mason-jar butter…and buttermilk biscuits to use up what the butter-making left behind.
The human touch is a terribly powerful thing, you know. We can throw others into fits of anger with certain gestures…we can show we mean no harm with others. We can soothe a crying infant who knows nothing of language with gentle strokes along her back. We can transfer courage to a suffering friend with an embrace.
We can make the ordinary extraordinary, simply by applying our hands to it, pressing our spirit into it.
It’s easy to say words that sound shallow, insensitive, derisive.
It’s hard to bake a bread that tastes like sarcasm or indifference. Generally speaking and culinary disasters being set aside for the moment…it tastes like warmth and love and home.
It is infused with touch-speak, the subtle yet transcendent language of the powerful human touch.
It’s the next best thing to flat-out mental telepathy.
Even if they come out a little crooked or too boxy or otherwise not perfect, the gardening boxes my husband is building for me will clearly say he loves me…and for that reason they will be beautiful and perfect.
And if I accidentally iron a perfect crease right down the front of his favorite work shirt, the message that I treasure him won’t get lost.
That’s how touch-speak is.
If there were more of that in all the homes of the world, if more of our everyday were infused with it, I’m sure there would be a lot less divorce…and suffering of all kinds. Less emotional turmoil and mental anguish. Less aloneness and wondering what our place is in All This.
Our place is here, with the kin we were born to and the kith we’ve chosen for ourselves, infusing our simple everyday things with our time and talent, with our selves, nurturing and being nurtured, gifting and receiving gifts not measured in dollars or carets, but in depth of spirit, in the quiet assurance of being loved and treasured…and loving and treasuring.
Tall order for a humble loaf of bread or a well-spliced drip irrigation line; but with the power of the human mind guiding the hand behind it, they can be the epoxy that melds a family together.