My little house smells like cardamom and almonds and coconut oil and maple syrup and oats because I just baked a pan of granola. It’s the first time I’ve baked granola since I moved out of my other house, which was also a bed and breakfast– which is to say since I left my marriage and set out into a hopeful and nearly blank new world less than eleven months ago.
Making granola feels important, because it is. I still know the recipe by heart. A recipe I came across or came up with ten years ago when my much younger family lived in India, and I had the biggest opportunity of my then-twenty-nine-year-old life to say, “This is not working for me; it’s time; I’m done.” For all I know, I might have used the very same Pyrex measuring cup today as I did then– we brought one with us to Mussoorie and back, and I moved one out with me when we divided up the kitchen things last year.
Baking and cooking feel important, because they are. Because, as the brilliant tent maker and kindred spirit Kurt Buetow said to me once, “food and shelter are our most basic instincts,” when I expressed some sheepish confusion at my love of forts and cozy spaces.
I spent seven years making granola and muffins and coffee cake and popovers for guests who stayed at the business I ran with my then-husband. I brought extras around town and dropped them off at the library, the folk school, the art colony, and I learned how to give from excess, not from my essential stores.
I think I learned, and am learning, the same thing with attention and love: giving from the excess, the overflow, the magically multiplying and abundant loaves and fishes, rather than in a way that drains the water table dry or leaves an afteraste of resentment when what’s left for me is not enough..
Earlier this fall, when I baked my first pie in a year, my first pie in my house that I bought with my aunt, I felt sad at first: this rolling pin, this pie plate– they were part of another life. But then I thought about how I have been making pies since I was very, very young. How I stood at my mother’s mother’s kitchen table dozens of times and she talked me through each step. It makes me miss her fiercely now, but as I rolled the crust out it was a comfort: this act reached much farther back than my marriage, farther back than my own lifetime, even. And I felt peace and the sureness of my knowing and my skill, and my love for the women in my family line in spite of all their wounds and human failings.
I didn’t feel sad at all to make granola. I felt peaceful. I’d just had a beautiful, normal, present, easy time with my son and his dad– and I felt so mixed already: to feel rightness and loss at the same time. But the baking was easy. The knowing and sureness and ease carried over into this life, this world.
“Is this the easiest path…? Of course not. But it’s the truest one.”
-Glennon Doyle, Untamed
So I drank my tea and I felt my feelings. I read about Ereshkigal, the unbeautiful Goddess of the underworld, killing the innocent and beautiful Inanna. I think Glennon Doyle is writing the same thing, that we do know the things that need to be killed, not as punishment but as transformation:
“I will not stay, not ever again… When my body tells me the truth, I’ll believe it.”
I made a second cup of tea, and when the timer rang I turned off the oven, stirred and stirred, and served myself a bowl of still-hot granola for lunch.