If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve probably seen me complain about doing the dishes. I hate it; it’s my least favourite household chore, made all the more egregious because I don’t have a dishwasher in my apartment. A thing you don’t think about when you start a bakery by yourself out of your home kitchen is that you also have to do all the dishes. My first farmers market weekend, I was still doing the dishes well into the next week. I try to stay on top of them now, using those long proofing hours to catch up and clear out the sink.
Mindfulness teaches one to approach every action with a beginner’s mind, to complete each task before starting another, to focus on the present moment. In these lessons, you’re encouraged to treat everyday chores like a meditation. The instinct will be to distract yourself from what you hate, but don’t. Lean into the moment. Notice it. Feel the hot water. Watch the light reflected in the bubbles. Smell the soap washing away the grease.
I haven’t learned to love washing my dishes, but it’s a necessary task that has become a part of my day. While the kettle is boiling, I run the water and fill the sink. While I put together some breakfast, I collect all the dirty dishes into one place. And while the first batch of loaves are rising under a clean tea towel, I wash up the first bowls.
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat meditation. 2020 is four years since I did my yoga teacher training. And wow, did I need that space during the winter of 2016. At the beginning of this year, hoping to recapture some of that energy, I bought the yearlong pass for the rec centre, which includes the pools, the rinks, and the classes, as well as the gym. It took me a few weeks in January to push myself back to a yoga class, and then immediately afterwards, the country shut down. Thankfully, all passes will be extended into 2021 to cover these months when we couldn’t use them, but the rec centres are still closed. I still haven’t done yoga at home. My meditation cushion is very dusty.
I have to find that space in other ways. And I know I have to work harder because I don’t like how I feel most of the time. These triple-digit quarantine days feel a lot like the single-digit quarantine days. I thought I was growing accustomed to a routine, but I’m not. I’m sleeping more (again), drinking more coffee (again), eating more sugar, and never leaving the house—except those two days a week I teach. I’m attached to my phone, and when the wifi was throttled for an entire day this week, it felt like I was having a breakdown. I’m not exactly proud of that.
But this morning, on the baking day before the market day, I woke up at 6am. I washed a few dishes early to make space for my first loaves. It’s not even 11, and they’re out of the oven and cooling on the table. I took a shower. There are a lot of days when that’s my only victory. With the bread dough already made and waiting, I’m going to shape and bake a few more loaves, some big country boules, roasted garlic knots, and—if I can get the recipe right—sourdough banana bread.
The subject lines for these letters, I choose from song lyrics. It’s a habit I picked up in my early days of blogging, when the title field was required. I like to play music while I’m baking, but it’s a distraction when I’m writing—always has been. I like to read and write in silence, or the low-level hum of a café or food court. But I can’t pick a record today; I can’t decide on a song. I don’t know what I want, but this isn’t it. Something more. I’ve been looking for something more my entire life.
This lyric is from The New Pornographers’s first single off their first album, Mass Romantic, 20 years ago now. They’re a Vancouver band, and I’ve seen them live more times than any other. Though many of the members live in other cities now, most of their families are still here—and Vancouver shows are most likely to get the complete sprawling lineup. That photo above is from their 2008 weekend concert in Stanley Park; I was there both days.
Why can’t I have the moon, if that’s what I want?