A good friend of mine recently told me a story about the day she had set out to make a galette. Busy in her kitchen, she chopped onions, mushrooms and cabbage, folded and rolled out pastry; happily sautéeing away whilst her baby slept. Belting out the words to Hamilton, she was pleased with how she had metaphorically turned a sows ear (a glut of cabbage, a horrible news cycle and a general feeling of ‘meh’) into a purse. Later of course she realised in her moment of ‘killing it’ she had let other things slip, like collecting her older daughter from day camp, but in the moment those busy hands made for temporarily lighter work as she lost herself in the act of doing.
As our family’s fog of grief begins to thin in small pockets, I too have found myself turning to work that keeps my hands busy, allowing for small gulps of fresh air and a grounding of sorts; hands planted either in flour or dirt depending on the weather.
Each morning I open the door to the back garden, stumble out with coffee cup still in hand, and scan the flower beds, plucking ripe fruit or dead leaves as I go, taking stock of the previous night’s activities by way of what my plants need or provide. At that time of the morning there is usually a cool breeze. I revel as it touches my face and forms goosebumps on my arms. I take a breath. And then the day moves forward.
Two weeks ago when the UK hit a heatwave, I proved and kneaded and braided a challah for my daughter’s class, hot but grateful for the excuse to busy my hands and do something physical that was not fill in forms or schedule work, but rather something of the moment. I got lost in the yeasty dough; a vacation from heavy thoughts and emotions.
The wonderful magic of getting lost in the busy hands of cooking or gardening, is that it comes with a second wave of pleasure; when the meditative activity reaps a physical product to share. The girls pluck ripe raspberries off of the bush that I care for each morning. I watch as their classmates eyes light up as they pass the loaf of challah from one to the next, taking turns tearing off a piece and nibbling.
The busy hands of doing and sharing is what is propelling me through this very heavy time. And in the wake of atrocities in so many areas big and small, it is my strong recommendation that we all find ways to keep our hands busy that result in tangible, sharable morsels of joy.