Saturday, February 23, 2013

Deconstructing the Baker

We live in the hills above the Temple, just below the trailhead to Squaw Peak. The architecture of this home is such that the entire eastern face of the mountainside is open to view through floor-to-vaulted-ceiling windows. Snow is falling and Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis is playing loud and piercingly clear. I'm supposed to be working on my second paper for Lit by Women on writing the body. I even know exactly how I plan to lay it out--discovery of self through the work of climbing metaphorical mountains--but I'm not starting.

Instead, I'm wrapping my head around a 38-year-old woman and her imaginary friends.

Last night I dreamed of the Baker. Contrary to popular belief, the Baker and Mr. Philosophy are not one and the same, though the former certainly sprang from the latter. When we workshopped the poem in class I was asked to expound, but I chose to leave its meaning ambiguous. Today, for myself, I need to explore.

This is what I came to understand in writing the poem: 

The Baker is both imaginary figment and embodiment of emotional complexities which belong to me alone. He contains all of the flaws I'm willing to forgive in others because if I am to be realistic I must forgive them also of myself. This I offer in exchange for all of the perfections I need, perfections that similarly I believe I have to give. 

I am aching for the loss of dreams and expectations. I have no desire to return to my husband, rather I yearn for the finality of this divorce. But there were times during this marriage that I was truly happy. Though those moments became more and more sparse as time wore on I held fast to the original idea of the union, believing it would return to where we had been, to days of sheer delight at being together and loving unabashedly. 

I think I dream of the Baker because he is that idea and the faith that I will have this joy again. In the end, my husband was not the Baker, nor did he want the love I had to offer probably because he does not love nor forgive himself. And I must take responsibility for projecting my ideals where they did not exist. 

The idea of the Baker is complex; he challenges and nourishes all at the same time. But I believe, in writing The Affair with the Baker I came to understand that he exists at present only in fantasy, walking in and out of the frames of dreams, and the snapshot glimmers of hope during waking hours. Looking for the Baker is the best way to miss him. Expecting those ideals to be filled when I haven't completely healed, when I am still aching from betrayal, it's silliness. Time will come when I'll be ready to look for my loaves. Ignoring the mess of flour and lard that I haven't yet dealt with doesn't speed up the process. More hours in the Temple; that's what I surmise. Find God and allow the bread of life to stop up the gaps in my soul. It may take a long time. 

And while I wait, the Baker holds me in my sleep, and I know I am both safe and unmistakably cherished.

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