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February 02, 2015
Life on Planet Kathy
Talent by the Loaf
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Fluffy got a new computer for Christmas, and in the process of installing the new computer he has had to do some major office cleaning so that he could set up his new computer next to his old computer. This has caused a flurry of activity, with bags of trash being hauled out and things being relocated to more appropriate places.

In the middle of all this, I was puzzled last week to see him leave the office and start a mysterious bread-making project in the kitchen. Fluffy often makes bread, but this was a different project. In fact, he was pretty secretive about it, and when I asked what he was doing he said, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Fluffy just loves secrets, and he loves them all the more because secrets drive me absolutely crazy. The more he can get me in a tizzy, the happier he is. He’s all boy in that regard. If he can have a secret project that will annoy me to pieces, he is just as happy as he can be.

So I ignored him while he performed his magic in a cloud of flour and yeast. A delightful aroma soon wafted from the kitchen, and I only hoped I would soon be tasting something wonderful. Sure enough, dinner that night consisted of freshly-made sourdough bread, along with Fluffy’s frozen freezer jam and lots and lots of butter.

Although Fluffy is a champion bread-maker, this was his first experience making sourdough bread. I had given him all the equipment to make sourdough bread a year ago, as a Christmas present. But shortly after Christmas, when company had arrived and Fluffy had wanted to clean the family room, he had put all his Christmas presents into a box and stashed them in his office.

As the year passed, he would remove presents from the box as he needed them or remembered them, but there were still a few forgotten items still hidden away more than a year later. At the beginning of the year I just assumed he hadn’t liked the gifts I had given him. As the year progressed, I forgot about them altogether.

There they sat, forgotten by both of us, until Fluffy rediscovered them in the process of cleaning his office so he could make way for something he had received as a present this Christmas. He looked at that forgotten sourdough-making kit, decided he liked it, and then decided he liked it enough to make some sourdough bread right now.

He wasn’t sure if the bread would be successful, because the small jar of sourdough starter said it was “best if used by December 31, 2013.” But the started was still moist and smelled like starter, so he decided to give it a go.

So he temporarily abandoned this year’s Christmas present, went into the kitchen, got out the flour, and made us some sourdough bread for dinner. He has been making sourdough bread ever since. In fact, I like his sourdough bread better than his regular bread, and I like his regular bread extremely much.

What can I say? Fluffy is a man of many talents.

All of this brings me to the topic of this little essay. We as human beings are pretty creative at burying our talents. We don’t all literally put them in a box and put them on the floor of our office the way Fluffy did with his sourdough kit. We all have our personal ways of doing it.

I always wanted to be an artist. I didn’t have any dreams of going to Paris and wearing a wimpy little beret, but I would have taken art classes in college if only I could have afforded the supplies. After I got married, I finally took a class in charcoal drawing at night as part of a community education program. To my surprise, I was talented. No — I was really talented.

I don’t know if it makes sense to say this, but I was too talented to be a casual artist. I wanted something that could be a nice little hobby for me. Instead, it became something where my teacher took it upon herself to convince me I needed to drop everything else in my life and become an artist, full-time and to the exclusion of everything else.

Eventually I quit drawing and painting altogether because every time I took it up, my teachers tried to convince me I had to be an artist and nothing else. I had to give up writing. I had to give up being a person. I was born to be an artiste. I had the gift.

Well, I don’t deal well with being told what I have to do. The more pressure you put on me, the more I run in the other direction.

I still have all the supplies, but I haven’t picked up a brush in years. At this point, if I ever did pick up a brush I’d have to start over. I’d have to take lessons again, just like a beginner. And I don’t know if there will ever be time again.

In the vernacular of the teenagers, that ship has sailed. In a Biblical sense, I’m afraid my talent may have been buried so deeply that I may never find it again. I only hope I don’t get in trouble for that in the next life. I hope that the talents I have chosen to use are more important than the one I have chosen to hide away in the earth.

Since our introduction to sourdough bread this month, Fluffy and I have laughed about all the good bread we have missed over the past year because we had a treasure that had been buried and then forgotten.

I’m sure all of us have multiple such treasures in our lives. I have read that squirrels spend so much time finding and burying food in the summer, because they aren’t so great at finding those little caches of goodness when they are covered with snow. Perhaps more than 50% of their treasures are never located again and just rot in the ground. I hope our percentages are a little better than that.

It’s still early in the year and not too late to make a resolution. Try to think of at least one treasure you’ve buried, and resolve to dig it up, dust it off, and put it to good use this year.

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