Berry by berry

Yesterday morning we made some blueberry muffins. (A variation on this recepie here; we reduced the sugar, added the baking soda and the pinch of cardamom, mashed up some rasin bran flakes and stuck ’em in.)

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Per usual, the kids loved the cooking process nearly as much as the eating process.  But not more so.  They ate their muffins at totally different rates of speed, boychild ramming his in his mouth, girlchild slowly picking berries out of what she called “their little caves.”

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This is the simplest of all pleasures: baking something with my kids, watching them eat it. And yet yesterday, I would say this activity — particularly watching them eat the muffins, with such total absorption in the task — ranked as what Lily Tomlin’s “Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” character Trudy would call a “peak experience.”

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I have little doubt that this muffin-making expanded to fit so much emotional space because the recent sudden death of a friend — and the impact of that death on those who love her — has blurred so much of what used to occupy my daily attention.  There’s space now for me to see.

In 1908, what is thought to have been a meteoroid or comet exploded in a Siberian forest, flattening roughly 80 million trees over in an area of over 800 square miles around the blast site.  (The Tunguska event.) Oddly, some trees still stood  among the ruins, though shorn of their branches. This visual image has always stayed with me, and often seems to be one of the few means to convey what it feels like to inhabit a space after a great shock has taken place.

I’m way out at the 700 mile marker, but I have a fairly unobstructed view of the epicenter.  At least I can picture it very clearly in my mind’s eye, having spent so much time lately at or near others of these epicenters. Strewn about in that quiet, post-shock landscape are a great many treasures, and you could fill your hours walking around in wonder, looking at each one.  A basket of blueberries, pregnant to plump with their freshness; a dozen crumbly-soft blueberry muffins;  the sight of children — your children — eating them, berry by berry.

6 thoughts on “Berry by berry”

  1. You describe it perfectly and I know what you mean. I use a different image to describe similar but different circumstances that I’ve experienced. May you have more berries than shockwaves…

  2. My favorite two things here: the photograph of the muffin with your daughter’s face so beautifully hanging back in the bokeh, and the fact that your daughter extracted the berries from their caves. What a lovely post…and I’m so sorry about your friend.

  3. Some of my greatest memories of my childhood–which now lacks a lot of remembrance altogether–are of days baking with my grandmother. She made sure I knew very early on the recipe for our family bread, for I’m the only grandchild to carry it on. When I grew older, we spend summers making jelly of all sorts: apple cinnamon, grape berry, strawberry. It’s a warm feeling, like safety. I fear we don’t bake with children hardly enough anymore.

    Those muffins looked scrumptious, by the way.

  4. Ah, yes indeed. The “magical thinking” of which Joan Didion so eloquently spoke is not limited to wishing the absent person back into the world. It is the recognition of a new “normal”, where nothing has changed and yet everything has.

    May the recognition of such simple beauty last far beyond the time of fresh aching grief. Our hearts are with you.

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