Sunday, September 29, 2013


The heavy aroma of spices filled her kitchen, as curries and dal, heated on the stove. I watched admiringly as she kneaded water into four, a splash here, another splash there, till it formed a dense ball of dough in the bottom of her bowl. She told me it was a simple process, making fresh roti, but I watched her, fascinated, knowing it was simple only after years of practice. Fingertips scooped a handful and rolled. A small piece was consistently twisted off and pressed back into the large mound of waiting dough. A small rolling pin was deftly employed, making a sphere into a perfect flat circle. She would roll, readjust the dough, and roll again until satisfied. Then with a flick of her wrist, it would meet a hot pan, where it would swell into a large bubble of fragrant bread before deflating into two layers and being stacked into a waiting dish.

Her practiced gestures spoke of hundreds of warm roti. Her palms and fingertips knew by touch the perfect size, the right texture, they shaped and kneaded with skill. I saw art in what felt to her as a common process. I saw beauty in the simplicity and could feel the hours spent kneading, rolling, and loving her family in that kitchen.

I so enjoy watching people do what they do, and do it well. Sometimes it is intentional, other times, it is "just making roti." Sometimes it looks like bright oils on a canvas, other times it looks like a precisely made up bed, edges and corners tucked in, just so. Sometimes it sings hallelujahs with a chorus, and sometimes it rises and falls with the silly voices living inside a bedtime story. Sometimes it looks like bravery and heroism, sometimes it looks like humble diligence, day after day. Sometimes it tames wild things, swims with the exotic, or studies the rare, and sometimes it knows exactly where to scratch, on a faithful, furry domestic head, calm and sweet. Sometimes it leaps and twirls with grace and rhythm, sometimes it rocks, back and forth, hips swaying to a quietly hummed lullaby. Sometimes it transforms neighborhoods and breathes life and redemption into blighted streets, and sometimes it wipes a table, sweeps a floor, or washes peanutbuttery cheeks, over, and over, and over. Sometimes it preaches words of radical wisdom, changing the future by changing hearts, thousands at a time, and sometimes it quietly shepherds a disobedient little one to repentance and understanding. Sometimes it produces exciting, grand events, manages big businesses, or leads a movement of reform, and sometimes it bakes a birthday cake, balances the checkbook, or leads a classroom of little elementary learners.

I think what I am trying to say is, what you do is beautiful. I bet if you looked closer at your mundane, you would find finesse. You love and serve and create every day. Sometimes it gets framed and hung on a wall, sometimes it gets an award, or wins a bonus or receives an accolade, but sometimes, it is quiet, simple, slow and unnoticed. But it is beautiful.

You are marvelous and what you do is amazes me.

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