Life Lessons from the Bakery

I crossed off a bucket list item this spring.

After reading Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish several years ago I became enthralled with making artisan bread. As an overworked and at times overwhelmed marketing professional baking became a refuge.

So, when I saw that the local organic market needed a weekend artisan baker I jumped at the opportunity. I baked my best boule and drove down to convince the powers that be that they should hire me.

I am now several months into the job. Yes, I get up at 3 am Friday through Sunday which at times is a bit difficult especially after a full “corporate” week, but there are surprising advantages too. Waking up before most of humanity gives one a unique perspective. The mornings are quiet and still, unbroken by the urgency of the day. There is a cusp, a moment in time when night becomes dawn and the birds begin twittering and chirping. Sitting with my coffee I try and discern this moment of transition but it is so subtle I have yet to pin the moment down. It just is. Getting up this early also gives me time to myself. There is a stillness to the house which is meditative and calming as I go through my routine of getting ready to leave. This peace does not happen during the regular work week. There are always emails to check, animals to feed and chores to be done before I get to work.

My commute is down time for enjoying my current audio book and carefully avoiding the nocturnal critters returning from foraging along the twisty Northern Idaho roads. I have seen elk, porcupines, opossum, deer and after 20 years a cougar in the early morning hours. At the bakery, there is a moment when I pause to savor what is yet to be created. The potential of it all. I have learned while coaxing the elemental ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast to rise, proof and become crusty, hot loaves of bread provide lessons for life and work.

There is a rhythm to baking bread, a natural order to things of which I have only minimal control. The following lessons, I have learned and am subsequently trying to apply to my work and life overall:

· Bread like anything you value and find important needs to be nurtured, coaxed and guided. But there is a critical point where you have to leave it alone and let it be.

· Patience is needed.

· Practice, practice, practice, and practice some more.

· Failure is inevitable.

· It’s just bread. Do not get attached.

· Finally, there is profound joy in creation.

I have read and heard these truths said before in other guises but having had to use them in the creation of something so fundamental as bread they seem to make more sense. Maybe it is the physicality of bread making or the orderliness? I am not sure, but they have permeated my consciousness and I have been able to take these lessons and apply them to my writing, marketing, and business enterprises. Now, when I feel the weight of work, tight deadlines and my crazy need for perfectionism come crowding in upon me I take a step back and remember the lessons of the bread.

And if all else fails- add peanut butter and eat.