Thursday, April 6, 2017

Knead and Rise

I have been writing and re-writing an an artist statement to accompany my First Friday show at the Missoula Community Food Co-op. The official event is on April 7th, but my pots will be on display for the remainder of the month.

"This will be easy," I thought. After all, the wheat design carved onto the surface of my mugs, bowls and plates is an external expression of a more than a decade long ritual I have created for myself to process the news of violence and conflict present in our world. But still, the words to articulate feelings and motions are hard to construct.

I was 18 for 31 days when September 11th became a date marooned in the year 2001 and we entered a pre- and post- world.

Slightly tipsy, from my first honey brown beer, at an elevation over 5000 ft, in my best friend's college dorm, I watched bright dots flashing across a night sky and I was struck by the surreal beauty of what could have been mistaken as fireworks on screen but what were in reality bombs over Bahgdad.

I graduated college with a peace sign on my cap listening to a president, who-was-not-my president, give our commencement speech. I got married, birthed a daughter, finished graduate school, moved across the country, gave birth to my son, bought a house and got a job.  I plant and harvest my garden, wash laundry, cook meals and bake bread.

I bake bread.

I bake bread because it is an activity that I can do with my children, a moment we can share that nurtures both the body and soul.

I bake bread because there is something intensely grounding in the motions that connect me with women who kneaded warm elastic dough before me in their own places in time, with women whose houses I walk into and see plump freshly baked bread resting on the counter, and with women who engage in the same rhythm of knead, rise, knead, rise and bake all around the world.

Sometime, I bake out of rage, powerlessness, and desperation in an invisible and futile gesture of compassion.

This is Syria.
This is Iraq.

This is where wheat originated.
This is where, 10,000 years ago, ancient grasses became grain.

As I knead, I imagine that life must go on in a war zone the way life goes on everywhere.  People fall in love, get married, have children, have hopes and dreams.  People engage in the mundane tasks of everyday life: go to work, care for their children, do laundry, cook meals and bake bread - until those task of everyday life stop.  STOP.

What then?

What then becomes of hopes and dreams?

As our national rhetoric and even local politics devolves to the level of Muslim bans, the refusal of refugees, and the persecution of immigrants of all kinds, I carve wheat on the surfaces of my pottery.

Wheat tells a story.

The origin of wheat from grasses in the fertile crescent, to an ubiquitous presence all around world, with long histories and varied uses across many cultures and within our own, the story of wheat is not a story about difference but it is a testament to just how much we share in common.