Susannah loved autumn. Trees shifted from dull green to vibrant yellow and warm amber, before catching fire in a blaze of triumphant red. Traffic-stopping colours begged her to pause and marvel at the culmination of a season’s growth.
She’d done her part earlier by hanging codling moth traps, feeding, and carefully pruning. But the real work of growing belonged to the trees that produced a harvest with or without her help.
It seemed a pity to dissect this bounty. Still, slicing through the scarlet skin and crisp flesh revealed buried treasure. When fruit ripened to its maturity, it released the seeds of its regeneration.
Smiling at the memory and anticipation of her grandkids’ demands for more, Susannah baked her apples into fragrant pies.
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There’s nothing like a home cooked pie, is there? It could be sweet or savoury; that’s not important. Glossy brown crust, fragrant steam, and delicious filling combine to create a flavour unlike any other.
You might try to recreate it in your own kitchen years later. But even though you follow the recipe to the letter, you’ll never get the balance of sweet memories and bitter regrets just right. Accept that and know that nonetheless, it’s still the taste of home.
I’m stuck. Just forty minutes ago the words were flowing, full steam ahead. Now they’ve dried up. I stand, stretch, sit again. Still no words.
It’s time to follow my own advice. I say that writer’s block can be overcome*, so this is my opportunity to walk the talk. I resist the temptation to fall into a social media vortex. The weather is too hideous for gardening or a walk, so I head to the kitchen.
Flour, butter, sugar. The basic elements for baking are all there, and it is truly amazing how many variations flow from them. Like Lego blocks, they can build many things. I grab my trusty recipe for oat and raisin cookies.
Not enough butter, so I make up the shortfall with avocado oil. It’s supposed to be super healthy, and it ought to be at that price. Must have been feeling well off that day.
The recipe says raisins. I substitute mixed fruit and chopped ginger. Little changes make these cookies uniquely mine, raisin and oats and something else.
Creaming butter and sugar is repetitive and soothing. I can’t get this wrong and there’s no pressure of time. I sift the dry ingredients together and inhale the aroma of cinnamon, noting the random speckles of brown against white flour.
While I combine ingredients, the story problem simmers in the background. It’s meditative, this focus on a single thing. I lose the plot. I start clean up while the oven preheats. Blobs of dough sit unevenly on assorted baking trays. They’ll all taste great.
The aroma of baking is heavenly and I inhale deeply. The kitchen is quiet and tidy again. After hours of mental effort, turning the focus outwards and creating order restores calm. I feel more in control and the nagging voice of doubt recedes, because the cookies are a small but certain win.
And then the protagonist whispers, “I fell asleep on the train and now I’m waking up in Sheffield with a dead phone and no money. Help.” Oh yes, I can work with this. The next steps light up in my brain and I return to work energised, with tea and a warm, delicious cookie.
*No more writers block
Simple repetitive tasks are calming, approached in the right mindset. Step away from the keyboard. Let your subconscious work on a problem while you occupy your brain elsewhere. Engage all your senses and pay attention.
Limitations create problems. Solving those problems demands creativity.
Making something tangible is satisfying in a way mental work is not. Small wins help enormously on the way to the bigger goal. Enjoy your cookie.