The Sweet Life

by Maria Theresa Maggi on October 23, 2020

"Low Tide Facing North," charcoal memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Low Tide Facing North,” charcoal memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

Tuesday mornings, as early as possible, are the most solitary and quiet times on the beach. It reminds me that while I’d be hard pressed to say our beach is ever actually crowded because it’s nothing like popular beaches in California, Hawaii or Florida, on Tuesday mornings, especially as Winter approaches, it’s a pretty good bet that if the tide is low enough Cotton and I will have a wide open field of  sand for him to run and play on. It reminds me that before the pandemic anyway, Tuesday was also the most common “day of rest” for coastal businesses, who would close their doors on that day after the rush of weekend visitors. The descent down the steps to the expanse of sand before us is one of joyful release and we both enjoy it, as evidenced by these photos a neighbor took of us playing a while back for a “something in motion” assignment in her photography class.

This particular Tuesday morning, there was no one around close to us, but way up the beach I saw people small enough to look like specs as they wandered the edge of the tide. The view of people as tiny specks on the long stretches of sand at the edge of the roiling ocean is one that humbles me.  It  compels me to feel benevolent toward our predicaments as humans, and even potentially tenderhearted toward those whose beliefs stupify and astound me (like the ones who insist the thus far not to be found parents of the 545 children who were separated from them at the border are somehow themselves to blame by trying to save their lives in the first place), because it reminds me how truly vulnerable all of us are, and that some of us choose fearful ways of addressing that vulnerability, hiding it by demonizing others as the cause. Everyone on the edge of the water, made so small by its vastness, is in a state of wandering, reflection, or lost in looking for a lovely stone or shell to take with them as a keepsake. At this distance I can’t see how old they are, how young, what color their skin might be. In a way it reminds me of what the astronauts describe about how it is to look back on our earth as a whole,  and see how beautiful it is, beyond the collection of countries and borders we reduce it to all too often. Tenderness toward people in general in this trying time, even if it has to be generated for me at a far distance, is a welcome feeling.

Like so many others during this pandemic, I, too, have turned to the solace of baking. Baking is in my genes; my grandmother’s big brothers ran a bakery, and I still have a pastry cloth they used that was given to me by her long after their deaths. I’ve always loved the process of making pie crust, cookies, jelly rolls, breads, rolls, largely encouraged my grandmother when I was growing up. When I switched to eating low fat and plant-based (and gluten free) I learned to bake differently. During the time I spent with my son and daughter-in-law during and immediately after the fires, I got the opportunity to teach my son how to make pastry crust (not low fat but definitely vegan) when he wanted to have some homemade pop tarts. I later tried a recipe from Allergy Free Alaska that was both vegan and gluten-free and now I have a go to for a special treat.

Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t tempted to eat a lot; in fact I only had a taste of  each one of the two flavors (raspberry jam and peanut butter chocolate). But what did draw me in was the chance to work with dough again. Suddenly, I was wishing for cinnamon rolls and went looking for a gluten-free vegan one I could try. I found this one on Detoxinista, which uses pumpkin and chia or flax seeds in the dough. I substituted applesauce for the coconut oil in the dough, and apricot simply fruit jam for brushing the insides, and I was off to the baking races.

But once again, though the results are quite delicious and relatively healthy, it was not the eating that is my favorite part (though it’s nearly my favorite part). What drew me to make them twice now, is the experience of making the dough: carefully letting the yeast bubble, carefully folding it in with the warm pumpkin applesauce mixture into the flour mixture I have curated and sifted, and coming up with this soft flexible ball to gently press out into a rectangle and then fill with a jam lined cinnamon brown sugar (with a kiss of flaked coconut and chopped hazelnuts) mixture. But the best part of all is the gentle process of rolling it up, oh so carefully, so the soft, sticky dough comes up and over itself to make that wonderful cinnamon spiral. The tenderness of handling the dough is what really draws me to the whole process: that in these harsh times, there is still room for tenderness, for being careful, for caring how I move something, how I change something, how I prepare something, how I help things transform.

That spirit of tenderness, and the opportunity to  manifest it in this ordinary way, is indeed a sweetness for me beyond sugar. It is a treat I treasure because it keeps me human. Once I roll up the dough and cut it into what will rise into the cinnamon rolls, I am also shepherding a final transformation. Going through these motions is more than baking a treat for me. It is connecting me to my ancestors, and reminding me that acting out the motions of tenderness can send waves of it out into the world where it is so badly needed, perhaps encouraging even more of it to grow.

That is a sweetness I can never have too much of.

Maria (moonwatcher)

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 phebe October 24, 2020 at 10:06 am

Maria,
Thank you for such a sweet post. Before I read it, I unsubscribed from your blog because I have very little time to read all the blogs I am subscribed to. However, after reading this post I realized how hasty my decision was! Now I have to resubscribe. I want more kindness in my life and your blog provides that. I grieve for the children and their families who have been so brutally ripped apart from each other. Thank you for keeping them in our consciousness.
Phebe

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2 Maria Theresa Maggi October 24, 2020 at 10:45 am

OH Phebe, thank you so much for this! It means a lot to me. I try to write here the things that keep me going, and not to judge that they are too small, and I always hope they will resonate for others needing reaffirmation of kindness, tenderness, hope amidst all the sorrow and uncertainty of these years, without sugar coating the painful reality too much. Your comment encourages me I am hitting a meaningful note. My heart thanks you. Deep gratitude for your readership.

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3 Julie Gerard October 24, 2020 at 10:35 am

🥰

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4 Maria Theresa Maggi October 24, 2020 at 10:45 am

🙂

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5 Laura October 25, 2020 at 12:04 am

I am so exci9ted that you are finding comfort in baking. And the comfort of remembering those we love that have moved on to the next dimension. They keep watch over us.
I, too, am finding comfort in cooking & baking but also doing what makes me happiest, and that is by being creative.
I have developed a buckwheat tortilla that is very flexible & I am so excited to share it with you,:
Flexible Buckwheat Tortillas
1 cup raw green buckwheat, soak 10 mins in warm water
1 egg or flax egg or just use 2 heaping Tbsp of flaxmeal or chia seeds
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 handful raw cashew nuts if you use water*
2-1/4 cup any plant milk**
2 heaping Tbsp flaxmeal
*use water plus cashews or sunflower seers or pumpkin seeds
** my cashew milk, 3/4 cup raw cashews, 4 cups + 2 cups of water, 2 dashes cinnamon & 3/4-1 tsp sea salt.
1. Put 4 cups water in Vitamix or blender. Soak 30 mins. Add salt & cinnamon.
2. Process until smooth, pour into pitcher, pour the last 2 cups of water into blender, then pour into pitcher.
Tortillas:
1. Put all ingreds into Vitamix and pulse just until smooth, do not over process, or it can get watery.
2. Heat a large 12-14-inch skillet or an 8-inch size.. When hot, add a little butter or oil , pour or ladle in some batter in the center in a round circle and see if you can tilt the pan or use the back of the ladle to spread the batter.
3. Give it time to cook and flip. Let the second side get cooked. I this they are wonderful.
Thanks for all you do and for the sharing you do. Take care…

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6 Maria Theresa Maggi October 25, 2020 at 10:09 am

Dear Laura, thank you for your kind words and enthusiasm for this post and the comforts of working in the kitchen! I so agree, anything that keeps me creative is a great help in these times. And thank you so much for posting your buckwheat tortilla recipe! It looks delicious! 🙂

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7 Deborah Harris October 25, 2020 at 11:26 am

I identified with Phebe.
I’ve not found time to read your blogs in a while and I’m so glad that I can just let the notifications come and finally when the moment is right, I get to open one and get a full dose of humanity.
Now I have a batch to catch up on which brings me delicious anticipation.
Thanks Maria; please don’t stop being you.

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8 Maria Theresa Maggi October 25, 2020 at 11:44 am

Dear Deborah, thank you so much! I deeply love and appreciate that you have given yourself permission to let the notifications come and that when the moment is right, you get to open one and it is just the thing right then that connects you to your humanity. That’s beautiful. No have to’s there. Just lots of trust. I am profoundly grateful for such graceful readership. You keep right on being you as well. xo

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9 Corinne October 30, 2020 at 5:40 am

Hi Maria, I love your sensitivity to the world. I share that with you. I am so sad so much for the time for so many people and I let myself cry a lot. But I wonder what can I do? Please let me know how I can subscribe to your blog. I’ve tried every which way and I can’t figure it out! Just happened on it from fat free vegan site. Gratefully, Corinne

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10 Corinne October 30, 2020 at 5:40 am

Hi Maria, I love your sensitivity to the world. I share that with you. I am so sad so much for the time for so many people and I let myself cry a lot. But I wonder what can I do?

Please let me know how I can subscribe to your blog. I’ve tried every which way and I can’t figure it out! Just happened on it from fat free vegan site. Gratefully, Corinne

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11 Maria Theresa Maggi October 30, 2020 at 9:28 am

Hi Corrine, thank you sister sensitive, for these kind words. I just went to the page and to the right of the post near the top there is a heading called “Subcribe.” Under it I chose the option to get it in email. When I clicked on it it went right to a request to do so. If you’ve done this a bunch of times and it hasn’t worked, I will ask Susan Voison, who runs this site, if she can investigate what is going on. I’m sorry you’re having trouble with that. Hope we can get it fixed. I am so grateful for your reading and your life connected to mine this way. Namaste.

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12 Maria Theresa Maggi October 30, 2020 at 10:00 am

PS: and if you’re wondering what you can do to help our troubled world, there’s always some way and no way is too small. Like Mr. Rogers used to say quoting his mother, “Look for the helpers.” They are everywhere when we look, and then we can find a way to help them. <3 Even listening to a friend who needs you makes a difference.

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13 Veronica November 5, 2020 at 10:05 am

Baking and cooking is a meditation of its own. A way to be at the start of nourishment – of the body and soul. It’s definitely been a rough year, and stealing little moments of reflection and peace are worth so much more. I love being the only ones on a vast beach – you are quite fortunate to have that!
Sending you love and peace. xoxo

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14 Maria Theresa Maggi November 5, 2020 at 10:25 am

Dear Veronica–so nice to hear from you! Thanks for these kind words. I so agree with you about baking and those not so little moments of reflection and peace–they really do carry us through. And yes, we are very lucky to experience being the only ones on the beach sometimes. Happened again this morning until right when we were leaving–it was such a joy! Sending you love and peace back xoxo

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