Wild Yeast – a New Year’s Desire

Last year my wild yeast starter was accidentally tossed away.

It took me a year to summon the energy to begin a new one.

Did I have the time or attention for daily feedings, maintaining a constancy of nutrients and the proper temperature? I didn’t think I had it in me last year.

But this January I tried again, setting aside flour and water in a bowl, whisking it all into a paste, and letting it be.

And the yeast began to grow.

And I fed it and watered it, daily, discarding most and nurturing what was left.

It is like a pet, someone said. Indeed it is.

The yeast already exists – in the air, on the flour, and on your hands.

And what I realized was that the culture, the mother, the starter, the now bubbling leaven living on my counter top was simply a well taken care of home for what was already there.

Which reminded me of my painting practice and my yoga practice and my writing practice.

The daily practice is the regular creation of space for the thing that is already here to have a place, to be nurtured, fed and watered, aerated.

In bread making, it is the discarded portion that becomes the bread, or the beginning of the bread.

A lot of time is needed for the yeast to power up the loaves into risen edible delicious food. There is mixing and rising and waiting, and shaping, and more waiting and more rising, and more shaping.

But when you smell the loaves baking in the hot oven — when you take a bite — when you feel the loaves alive in your hands — the reward is immediate.

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