Grow a starter. Increase its strength. Feed, feed, feed. Build a levian. Wait. Add and stir. Wait. Mix. Wait. Stretch and fold; stretch and fold; stretch and fold. Wait; wait; wait. Rest. Bake. Hope.
I don’t have a job to go to these days or a schedule to keep. I don’t have to get up for a conference call, commute to work, juggle meetings, and find time to meet friends for drinks. I don’t speed to yoga so I can hurry up and relax. Errands aren’t stacked for Saturday. I have empty days and time to bake. I’m not the busiest person in the room. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But I’m not going to lie about the difficulty. Some days the struggle to find something to hang on to when I’m so wholly untethered is too much. I can’t hold; I tear. Chains do give you freedom, even if it’s perceived and sometimes tyrannical. Choice without stipulation is more intricate than snow.
But some days the lake of grace surrounding me is seemingly bottomless. Jack rabbits in the garden; the opportunity (and TIME!) to experiment with making unleavened bread; learning how to turn my bbq into an oven; warm, sweaterless nights; the sound of really, really big surf; every sunset; sailing on the Sea of Cortez; learning Spanish; the smell of salted air coming through the kitchen windows; bright orange orioles; avocado on everything; a gin and tonic with too much (is there such a thing?) fresh lime and those genius, over-sized ice cubes; watching our timid, PTSD-addled cat find his courage in a jarringly unfamiliar place with all new smells and wind that howls through the house like a freight train.
There’s a beach down here where wild horses roam free. It’s quiet, off the beaten path, and a good twenty minutes from the more popular swimming and surfing beach where pretty much everyone–tourists and locals alike–go. There are no signs on the highway, and it’s not an easy approach. To get there, you have to know the kilometer marker, turn off the highway into what seems like wild desert oblivion, drive down a very hard-to-find, and even bumpier dirt road, park at a gate, and then walk about a quarter of a mile through a palm grove. I’ve seen it on travel sites and guide books referred to as a “hidden gem.” It’s true; it is. And it’s worth every single bit of effort it takes to get there.
It’s a long, wide beach, flanked on both the north and the south by tall outcroppings of black rock. The waves are big but not too big, and it’s seldom crowded. The water is somehow always the perfect temperature, even for me, the woman who can get cold in eighty degrees. If you have a nibble of carrot or apple, the horses will eat right out of your hands. And being in the presence of those majestic creatures is profoundly exhilarating, yet calming at the same time. We don’t see the horses every time, but the possibility, along with the promise of an hour or two of sometimes absolute solitude, keeps us going back.
I want to keep going back. Back to the horse beach; back to the words that ground and center me; back to the kitchen where a mistake can almost always dupe yet blissfully please a crowd after dinner; back to pushing myself to the brink of my mental and physical abilities to reap the rewards of the ocean in kind. I want to keep baking bread. Performing windowpane tests on my soul. I want to keep going to these places because for now at least, they’re enough to hold on to. They don’t free me with shackles, but link rings of solace, that, when set against an abyss, release me into the storm of possibility.