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Bread Time



Please feel free to knead the dough.

What is time? I remember my son’s absolute fascination with colourful bugs, resulting in a  painfully slow progression along the streets. Each bug, each stick had  to be examined at length! I remember my words ‘hurry up, we don’t have time to waste’. 


When I used to think of time I thought about little squares on a calender, segments on a clock. I thought I had to squeeze every bit out of them, otherwise I was wasting time.


In 2020 I was a busy mum working for a University and doing a PhD. Every second must be utilised, allocated to the highest priority activity, but also balanced between work and family - and washing. As I got busier and tried to pack more in, I needed more time saved from activities I once enjoyed. Instead of spending an hour cooking my family a meal, I wanted something I could shove in the oven. 


It was a vicious cycle, the more time I spent working, the more money I had, but then the more I had to spend to allow myself to spend more time working. Time felt like an unstoppable conveyor belt bringing me new tasks just as soon as I could complete the old ones. Being more productive just made the conveyor belt speed up.


But then this way of living just stopped making sense. During the 2020’s we lived through fires that engulfed half the country. We lived through a pandemic that locked us in our houses. We lived through floods that rushed into our homes and left them full of mud. As we came together as communities to help each other repair the damage, or online to help each other repair our hearts - time became elastic again, as perhaps it used to be when we worked with the rhythms of the land.


Now, my son a teenager, I look back and think how much precious time I wasted being productive. I believed I was successful because I was fitting more and more into my roughly 4,000 weeks on this planet. I believed that at the end of my life I could look back, self satisfied at all the things I accomplished. But I barely remember them. I was so busy, spending time in service to an idea that if I worked harder I would be rewarded. But what could I be rewarded with that is worth more than time? 


In the last 10 years time hasn’t changed. We’ve changed. Nature's extremes have taught us that our deadlines and schedules mean nothing in a world that is constantly changing. So we need to hold them lightly, knowing that just like a perfect loaf, things will take the time they take - I call it bread time.


I never would have made bread 10 years ago. Making bread is not a quick thing because bread does not work on a schedule. It works on relationships between microbes and air temperature and my hands, and the dance between all of these elements. I have to wait, I have to be patient, I have to care enough to watch it grow. And to do this I have to let other things go. 


Writer and monk Thomas Merton wrote "we do not live more fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more that we have ever before. On the contrary, we need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual'


My life is now less full. I have given up on that future self that is concerned with a list of accomplishments, and instead I focus on the seeds I plant and how I care for them as they grow. Instead I sink my hands deep into bread. I feel the life inside it react to my fingers and I succumb to bread time.


4,000 weeks by Oliver Burkeman

Less is More by Jason Hickel

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