Saturday, January 7, 2012

Prizeless 3 Kings Bread and Priceless Writers and a Poem

If you haven't gotten enough of Christmas yet, you can still celebrate:  today is the day that Orthodox believers celebrate Christmas.

I will probably be putting the decorations away today.  I will miss the twinkly lights, the memories of the ornaments.

Yesterday was Epiphany, the feast day that celebrates the arrival of the three wise men (for a theological direction and photo essay, migrate over to this post on my theology blog).  Inspired by this post by Wendy, the Bookgirl, I started a batch of 3 Kings Bread.  I made the dough in the morning, put it in the fridge, and finished it in the afternoon.

I didn't have any candied fruit, so I used candied ginger, dried cranberries, and pecans, all chopped.  Tasty!

However, I did forget to put any of the treats into the bread that should be there.  Some bread bakers include a coin (wrapped in foil) that indicates good luck for the person who finds it.  Some put a china baby into the bread.  Other customs include a bean, a clove, a twig, a piece of rag.  Some traditions have the person who finds the embedded item doing the clean up, some have the person hosting the next party in February at Candlemas.

My bread is prizeless, which has left me with all sorts of poem ideas.  None written yet, but it's nice to have inspiration.

Speaking of poems, my poem "Heaven on Earth" is up at the online journal The Scream, for their Heaven and Hell issue:  go here for a great selection of poems by a wide variety of people.  An intriguing image accompanies each poem.

One of the advantages of an online journal is that one can include wonderful images.  In the old days of print, we wouldn't see that.  Journals could hardly afford to print words, much less images.

Or maybe you are tired of Christmas, tired of theology.  Today is the birthday of Zora Neale Hurston, an author that most of us would never have heard of, if not for the efforts of Alice Walker.

I adored Alice Walker when I was in undergraduate school.  If she had told me to read the secret love letters of Stalin, I'd have done it.  So when I read of her love of Hurston, I got a copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and expected to be blown away.

I was not.

I found the dialogue tough to slog through.  If you teach creative writing and you need an example of why a little bit of dialogue goes a long way, offer Hurston as the example of what can go wrong with dialogue.  I found the book almost impossible to get through because of the dialogue.  My love for Alice Walker was my only motivation.

Later, in grad school, I came to appreciate Hurston for her activism and to appreciate what she did in terms of advancing the female character (both the character that lives on a page and the character that women demonstrate in their behavior).  I came to love her for the way she lived her life.

In midlife, I'm trying not to think about the end of Hurston's life, the fact that she died in poverty and slept in an unmarked grave until Alice Walker rectified that.  I'm trying to believe that one can live a life on one's own terms without paying a terrible price.

Or perhaps I should take an alternate view.  We hear about the fact that she lived in poverty working as a maid--but that might not have been so bad.  Perhaps a woman who always lived life on her own terms preferred that choice to others available to her.

I think of my poverty years, and frankly, they weren't so bad.  We did a lot of free or cheap activities, things I don't do now because my job keeps me busy.  I'm not the impoverished grad student who couldn't afford to run the AC in the summer, and who had to be miserly with the heat in the winter--but I also don't have weekly gatherings with friends where we would have tea and treats and work on creating Christmas/birthday/wedding/baby presents for our loved ones.

I believe that fear of poverty keeps many of us from dreaming freely about our best lives.  I want to continue to do that.

But for today, I need to tackle something simpler than mapping out alternative futures.

Today is a day for restoring order to my house.  I have laundry that must be done, decorations to put away, a work week that kicks into high gear to think about--perhaps I should prepare a pot of soup to go with my prizeless 3 Kings Bread.


Kathleen said...

I found your poem at the top of the list when I clicked on the Heaven and Hell issue yesterday and was thrilled!! (I love that poem, and was happy to see it again here.)

And I'm so glad to read about your reactions to Hurston. I had some similar difficulty reading that book but images from it have stayed with me forever, and, likewise, her life story.

Ah, I wish I had been industrious enough to bake some 3 Kings Bread, as Epiphany was central to my husband's experience of Christmas, but we are in a slow-motion restoration of our house, too.

Happy New Year!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Great post, Kristin, and wonderful poem with one of the best openings I've read in quite a while. Love those gutter balls. :)