Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rising to the Occasion

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain...

A wonderful, rich aroma wafts through the kitchen as my automatic bread machine bakes a batch of “homemade” bread. It’s so easy these days that I wonder why I don’t do it more often, but many things compete for my time and attention.

The evening news spews the latest political rhetoric from the current candidates. I try to pay attention, and I am interested, but it seems they all spend their precious time, and ours, telling us what they think we want to hear and berating their opponents. I want to believe what they say, but actions speak louder and we won’t know what they will really do until the election is over.

I grew up surrounded by wheat country, but never knew much about wheat. In elementary school we took a tour of a local flour mill, so learned what happened to those truckloads of wheat hauled in to, and the box cars of flour hauled out of, my home town. After that, I did view bread on the grocery store shelves a bit differently.

As an adult, I taught myself to make bread because I wanted to learn how and find out if it really did taste better than the store-bought kind. I enjoyed mixing the ingredients together, kneading the dough, and watching the yeast do its work in making the dough rise. There were times of trial and error and more than once, failure. The bread machine makes the job easier, but old yeast does not work well whatever the method.

Old rhetoric does not work well either, although the politicians do not seem to notice. It is obvious that they want to stir us up, get us to cast our ballots for them as they set out to save us from ourselves. Passions will build and rise up to Election Day and then what? Will the great American loaf fall or rise further toward the perfect ideal we want so much to believe in? Politics, economics, societies - none are perfect and none change quickly.

Pikes Peak, Colorado - by David Shankbone

Katharine Lee Bates did not perfect her lyrics to America the Beautiful immediately, either. An English literature instructor at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, she made a lecture trip to Colorado in 1893. While there, she journeyed to the top of Pikes Peak. Because of the altitude her stay at the top was brief, but she viewed the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away under ample skies and the opening lines floated into her mind. The resulting poem first appeared in print in 1895, but she revised the lyrics in 1904 and again in 1913. For two years after it was written it was sung to just about any popular or folk tune that would fit with the lyrics, with “Auld Lang Syne” being the most notable of those. Not until 1910 were the words published together with the tune “Materna”, which was composed in 1882, nearly ten years before she wrote the words. Even after that, the tune to be used was challenged to some degree. In 1926 a contest was held to put the poem to new music, but no other entry was determined to be more acceptable. And so the issue was decided, but Katharine never did indicate publicly which music she liked best.

The bread machine beeps, and I remove a tall, lovely brown loaf of fragrant bread. The yeast was good and did its job - now let’s see how the politicians do. Hopefully, they’ll rise to the occasion.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

...”What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Luke 13:20 - 21

Pikes Peak picture file from Wikimedia Commons


  1. I hardly ever use my bread machine. I dislike the weird shaped, hard loaves it makes. My son used to love the garlic basil bread that I made in it and that was all I used it for.

  2. Well I can certainly understand that. It is a differnt shape but, like anything, one can get used to it. I do still enjoy making bread totally from scratch with the kneading and all, but find the machine helps a lot when crunched for time or on those days when I'm involved in other things at home. Either way, I know for sure what goes into it, and that is worth a lot to me...Thanks, Becky, for taking the time to visit here and comment.