Progress, not perfection

A number of weeks ago, while I was home and my spouseman and stepson were out hunting, I got the idea that I was going to try making croissants. Don’t know how to put this any more bluntly: it was a total disaster and I vowed I wouldn’t ever waste my time again.

Then, in early February, we got word that one of our very dearest friends had died very unexpectedly. Sherod drove to Ft Lauderdale yesterday; tomorrow, he and María will attend Bob’s funeral together. Bob was one of the folks who found María and he was her Godfather. I thought about going and then I realized I wouldn’t. The last year of my ministry in Ft Lauderdale was living hell, some of it of my own making, some, because making church sausage can be brutal. I don’t know that I’ll ever be up to stepping foot back at All Saints and that’s ok. I took yesterday off and today’s my regular day of Sabbath time; that meant the critters had someone to take care of them and I have been in good company.

Thinking about how to find my way through these days, I decided that by golly, I was going to take what I had learned with my first attempt at making croissants and try again. It’s a 24 hour process though long. periods of time involve letting the dough rest. Nonetheless, it requires concentration, and slow, careful effort. When I wasn’t working on the bread, I cleaned kitchen cabinets. By the time I went to bed at 11:30 pm, after doing the “second fold,” it took me less than 5 minutes to fall asleep. I was back at it today and in the final steps, I saw clearly that I was learning some more and there was still a good way for me to go to master the art of croissant baking. I have no idea when, or if, I will do it again.

I was immeasurably thankful for the work I could do. Before I fell asleep on Wednesday night the Russian invasion of Ukraine had begun and all day yesterday, I found myself stopping to weep, for the people of Ukraine, for my brothers, their families, and our good friends in Europe, for our country that now has a former president lauding Putin, for the future that waits for our children even as we spend time on war and not climate change. That, on top of the sorrow of losing our friend, made it so tempting to do nothing but stare out the window in despair.

I got through the day, I am now actively shaping my sermon for the Sunday of the Transfiguration, war and death have not had have the last word in or home. And I have the evidence of applied learning in front of me. The croissants will go to neighbors and the freezer, and there is deep satisfaction; these are not perfection, but there was some progress.

You lock a sheet of butter in dough
You go through a process of layering the dough and butter. Lamination, it’s called.
The second to last step involves rolling out the laminated dough, cutting triangles and then forming the croissants
Out of the oven
With some lamination

As Winter Gives Way

We’ve had harbingers of spring for the past couple of weeks. The forsythia is in full bloom, the camellias are too. Daffodils have been popping up, some of them in unexpected places around our little homestead.

This year, I have to admit that the promise of spring feels profoundly different and not in a real good way. Yesterday as part of my sermon on the passage in Luke that charges us to love our enemies, I shared a hard and painful story about an incident of overt, aggressive racism I witnessed in the parking lot of a Publix store in Montgomery. It left me shaken to my core. Today, I was having lunch with a new member of the parish and his wife when my iWatch started buzzing repeatedly. It does that when I have a new text message or when a newsflash comes through from the newspapers I follow. I wondered if it meant that all hell had broken loose in Ukraine.

On Saturday evening, awash in new grief for my dad, I went out to walk through the pecan grove that delighted him. I kept a small handful of Dad’s ashes before we had his burial at the church; a month after he died, I scattered them in a corner of the land he had come to love, where he and Mouse had walked daily. Now, as the sun went down, I went to the place where I scattered those few precious bits of a life to say out loud, “Hola, papi” and just as I got there, a deliciously cute little bunny sprung out of the brush nearby and went hippity-hopping away from me.

We know we have a resident skunk, smelled him or her a couple of times too! More than once, I’ve watched deer graze under the pecan trees. More than once, I’ve also been pretty sure the coyotes we heard yipping, barking and howling were that close to our house. Squirrels and birds, and all kinds of other creatures share that space. In the midst of the sadness, I felt a jolt of wonder and gladness: Dad would be thrilled to know he has so many different friends to keep him company.

But the grim realities weigh heavy and unlike other years, the tentative few signs that spring will be here soon bring to mind Sara Teasdale’s poem. The poem’s structure, with one rhyme after another, feels quaint in the light of more contemporary poems. Nonetheless, the poem speaks a bleak and strangely beautiful truth, at least to me, on a rainy, grey day at the end of February in central Alabama.

There Will Come Soft Rains
(War Time)
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.