banana bread + tiles

I’ve been quiet here lately because I’ve spent the summer in an intense self-immersion course of spirituality and tiling. I’ll explain later (or I won’t… pictures speak for themselves). My point is just that I’ve been feeling more and more like my perspective doesn’t matter, my words don’t matter -that is to say, EVERYONE’s perspective matters and also EVERYONE has a perspective and also EVERYONE is sharing it all the time and sometimes it’s just hard to know why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Am I doing what I’m doing because I want to make the world a kinder, more beautiful, and thoughtful place? Yes. Is it working? I have no idea. Am I doing what I’m doing to share it? Maybe and probably. Because increasingly in this world if we don’t share what we do, how do we keep doing what we do? But also, we live in a comparison economy and I just hate that.

I feel guilty a lot. I’m trying to be aware of this. Guilty because I know that I am fortunate. I balance the fortunate guilt with the knowledge that in many ways I have also been unfortunate. Life can be hard. So there’s that to keep me balanced. But also: I don’t want feelings of “success” or “defeat” to define me. And I don’t want to feel guilty about what I am thankful for. In short: I don’t want to get bogged down by my story. Lately I have been trying to get rid of the story (the stories we tell ourselves about who we are or who we are not). I’ve been working on trying to let go of it in an effort to find truth. Is it working? I don’t know, but I just spent the past hour baking banana bread.

Who is this person baking banana bread? I don’t remember the last time I baked anything. But there I was on a dreary afternoon in September on one of those days where my to-do list was finished more quickly than I expected. And instead of feeling guilty I made banana bread. So many brown summer bananas. The kind of bananas that turn brown overnight because of the heat even though you have a very strict regimen of shutting all the storm windows every morning to keep that heat outside. Even still the bananas turn brown. Green to brown. There were a dozen bananas in the freezer. Now there’s half a dozen. If this banana bread is good then I can really clean out the freezer. Maybe the freezer is a metaphor for my mind. These are the kind of thoughts I’ve been having since my self-immersion course in spirituality and tiling. Do I like this new me? I feel much more peaceful, but I have to admit that writing about banana bread is boring. Do people even write blogs anymore? Do people even read blogs anymore? These are unimportant questions.

I’ve always had an agitated spirit. Maybe it’s why I rip things apart. And why I like rebuilding things. If I were a radio my frequency would be tuned quite high. I get angry when the wind blows for extended periods of time. I frustrate easily. If you’ve ever met me you wouldn’t suspect it. Eric says I’m like the calm ocean. Placid on the surface but if you dive in there are still rip tides (and sharks) and those are the most dangerous days in the water. But my currents have been slowing because they had to. They couldn’t possibly have gotten more frantic. I was so agitated I clenched my teeth until my jaw knotted up and my eyes were tearing 24 hours a day. It took me almost 18 months to discover what the trouble was (no thanks to the doctors, but this is another topic for another time that I will almost certainly not address because I am trying to LET GO). Turns out we are our own worst enemies. At least that’s true for myself.

In the process of unraveling the knots in my jaw I started to wonder who I am and what I’m all about and what it is I’m DOING with my life. But at some point I stopped asking questions. I have a small farm. I grow food. I harvest it and process it. I turn it into dinners every night. I sling spackle and mortar. I find tile spacers in the pockets of my jean shorts along with calendula seeds. I braid onions and cure garlic. I cut vast swaths of lemon balm from the garden because it’s crowding out the beets. I use it to make soap. And also tinctures that help me to calm my agitated ocean. The oregano has taken over the old asparagus patch but I just let it stay. I’ll have to do something aggressive next spring, but for now I let it be. I’m letting a lot of things be. Just like the paint in my hair. This list of things…they are things I DO but they’re not WHO I AM. This is confusing and I’m still trying to separate them. Jen: farmer, soapmaker, musician, producer, writer, editor, designer, handywoman, wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, funny(?), serious, sad, frustrated, thoughtful, hard worker, detail oriented, I’m happier baking banana bread (I can’t believe I’m saying that). But really I think what makes me happy about the banana bread is that those bananas weren’t asking anything of me. I couldn’t even EAT bananas until a few years ago (a lifelong banana allergy suddenly disappeared and opened up a whole new world of bananas to me, although I am sort of conflicted about it because of the inevitable and impending banana blight. I can’t even write about bananas without making it serious and sad. But that’s ok! That is me. And also, not me at all). I could have thrown these bananas into my compost and everything would have been fine. But I saved them the way I save plants. Compulsively. And in the end I actually did something with them instead of letting them sit there for 2 years and then throwing them in the compost. Frozen and liquefied all at once.

This banana bread asked nothing of me and more importantly I’m asking nothing of it. I’m not selling this banana bread. I’m not going on tour with this banana bread. This banana bread, if made wrong, will not cause a catastrophic leak in the house or the floor to collapse. It’s just bread. Bread that I didn’t need to make. Bread that surprised me in how much I enjoyed its making.

***

PS These pics range from March 2019 to the present. We still have finish molding to do. We still have to screw on the last of the boards we salvaged from our front porch to cover the plumbing (see image 1). We still have to build a window sill. There are finishing touches. Fussy work as my Dad calls it. But the 200 lbs of mortar and cement are finally out of my dining room. This project took much longer than we anticipated, but considering we saved the floor from collapsing, moved the shower drain, re-plumbed the shower, insulated a completely bare wall, tiled 3 shower walls in a herringbone pattern and did it all ourselves -save for inserting new bearing beams (thanks Dad) and cutting to size and refinishing the shower’s reclaimed transom window (reclaimed by Uncle Joe, built to our space by our talented friend Dan) -considering all that, I think it took just the right amount of time. Looking back on the before pictures I can’t even believe we did this. All the while it felt like a meditation. A mental test of overwhelm, of stamina, of skill. And in that regard I think we realized those tests will never be over.  Also, more importantly, there were lots of high-fives. We found ourselves saying “is it time to high-five yet?” The answer is ALWAYS yes.

4 thoughts on “banana bread + tiles

  1. Intelligent, entertaining writing as always. And spot on. I really thought by 40 I’d have myself and life “figured out” but that resolution doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. But maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

    • Thank you Andrew! I’ve decided to embrace the perpetually unembraceable. It feels much less tortured. Here’s to letting go!

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