January 27

hands at work

This was part of the 30-day challenge from White Peach Photography. I struggled with this challenge. I tried to think up phrases that use “hand.” I came up with “hand off,” “hand out,” “hand up,” “glad handing,” handle with care,” “hands across the water,” “hand clap,” “hands of time,” “clean hands,” and so on, but I either couldn’t envision an image or it seemed too trite or overdone. Then I thought about the things for which I use my hands, those things which are meaningful to me. Playing the piano was my top choice and I had planned to stage it, but then I found myself baking bread today, a favorite winter activity. While my KitchenAid mixer does a lot of the preliminary work, I always reserve the last bit of kneading for myself so that I can feel the dough in my hands–the warmth, the elasticity, the smooth texture. As my hands work the dough, I try to remember to be grateful for their strength and ability.

I found this poem by Carolyn Lee Boyd which I think expresses some of the magical qualities of bread and the process of making it. So enjoy her words while I return to the kitchen to slice my bread and share it with loved ones.


Hands Baking Bread

When my hands bake bread, I knead
Ocean, rock, the flesh of beasts and flora then
Draw down honey moonlight for alchemy’s fire.
My frail, mortal fingers unite all that was to create all that will be and
I embed within each loaf this woman’s power of touch
That can halt the most merciless onslaughts with a caress
That can melt centuries of isolation with a warm stroke.

My hands give away the bread,
Nourishment for body and tinder spark for soul.
Across a hostile desert, a woman’s desiccated hands accept my gift
In an act of graceful courage.

Once she eats
Her fingers tingle in an awakening of the
Sweet, invincible bond between women,
The body of that connection between every element of the universe,
We have created over and over, since ancient days,
In the shared ritual of mixing, kneading, waiting, baking.

Each receiver of bread returns to her oven and bakes a fresh loaf
The aromas rise, restoring the power of our touch
Molecule by molecule, to all women who breathe in air
Making of us one and also many, each stronger in herself for
Being with one another, like grains of wheat or flecks of herbs in a loaf.

Such a simple act, baking bread, a daily chore.
Women’s hands roiling earth and sky together, one with another,
Recreating ourselves as floury bakers of that force that spins every atom
Binding us in joy with yeast and wheat
Feeding each other the miracle of one more day in each other’s lives.

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