The Gear: Which water filter? (Working ourselves into a job, but its not a job if you like it.)

I was remembering all this as it became my “job” to get water at the campsite, dipping my cup into the clear cold stream.  (sorry no pictures, because I didn’t want to bring the phone on that excursion.)

You see, my man had brought his mini-Sawyer water filter, super lightweight and perfect for one person.  I had been thinking of something a little easier for quantity, and brought a Grayl water bottle.  Guess who got the why-dont-you-go-get-the-water chore?  I didn’t mind in the least, since it doesn’t feel a job to me.  Since we are sharing chores anyway, thats the one I want.  Look where I am at, in comparison to where I was.  I get to walk down to the river, gaze up at the trees, enjoy the waterfall, dip my hands into such clear water… this is paradise.

– – – – – – – – – – –

A flashback:  Pregnant with my first daughter, my future in-laws had decided she wasn’t theirs, and Future-ex Husband decided he wasn’t ready to be a father. I had to leave, hopped on a bus yet again, and set out across the country yet again. A nut rolling west, I ended up in California reluctantly staying with my mom, wondering what kind of adoption options would be best for my daughter.

Mom was a certifiable narcissist, herself the priority most of the time, but she had done the best she could.  Half mad half the time, abandoned by her husband from suicide, she was left to raising her two children on her own with only social security survivor benefits. When I was growing up, she made sure to have dinner on the table, except when she thought the government was poisoning her, then food got kinda scarce.  Otherwise, she baked most everything fresh instead of buying it.  Luxury was having enough for seconds, so my brother and I in eternal competition knew to grab each of our servings fast, each sibling for themselves. If I knew how to ask her on her less moody days, and how to ask her, she might show me a few things. For example, when I was around 6, she taught me how to make applesauce cake, and how to knead bread dough by hand.

So there I was, pregnant, jobless, and friendless, staying at her house.  After about a week there, I started to feel somewhat teary about the general outlook of my situation, facing the fact it was best to give up my daughter to be raised by someone else.  My mother in her motherly, somewhat judgmental, sarcastically harsh tone said, “Are you feeling sorry for yourself now?” a lack of sympathy which felt like it cut to the bone.

No, I decided not to feel helpless, so I left. With no where else to go, I gratefully found a bed at a women’s shelter. A mansion on the outskirts of a city, it housed 75 women and children. A room was set aside on the ground floor with beds for five pregnant women, so we wouldnt have to walk up stairs. The top floor was the main residence, the halls and bedrooms converted into converted into dorms with bunk beds offering little privacy, so our little room was a sanctuary. I stayed there over 4 months, and met the most inspiring women, in the most desperate circumstances, and received some of my own counseling as well. Since it was a home for battered women, the address was kept secret because the nuns knew that the most danger a woman could be in was from their own partners.  No new residents were allowed to call out for at least a week, since the first instinct in a new environment is to return to the familiar, and so most go back to their original predicament.

These women and children were all races, from all walks of life, and all generations.  We had just escaped chaos with little experience managing our own homes, if we even had them. The younger ones had little experience cooking, and zero had experience baking. Can you imagine how these Nuns kept some semblance of order in this home, so the women could actually recover their independence and learn life skills? They were saints.  The nuns divided the chores equally onto a list, which rotated by the week. One chore was making breakfast for everyone, another was sweeping and mopping all the floors, another was baking bread. Remember, this was for 75 people.

At weekly meetings, they tried to teach us to read the instructions on the cleaner bottle labels. “A few tablespoons in the bucket is all that’s required, dont just pour it in the bucket.” Or they would mediate arguments flaring over the smallest things, one woman upset that another had run the dishwasher with window cleaner. But we were all in it together, doing the best we could. When we all sat down together for breakfast, sometimes it meant we all sometimes ate soupy porridge made by a young woman who just poured the whole container of oatmeal into a huge pot without measuring. Our bread might just as well been sliced from bricks suitable for doorstops, because no one knew how to bake.

Until it was my turn, and looking around the huge bright old fashioned kitchen, I spied a treasure: a practically new, unused Kitchen Aid Heavy Duty Mixer.    People thought that if the bread wasn’t rising, they kept adding more yeast.  But life isn’t about quantity, but focusing attention on the needs of the yeast, on that particular day.  First, the water must be warmed up to 105 or 110 with some sugar dissolved (as long as it feels warm on the wrist and not burning) in order to wake the yeast up and give them something to eat.  When the water is a little frothy, they are awake enough to add to the flour, which needs to be room temperature.  The dough is brought to a certain texture, not to sticky or too dry, and the amount of water added can change due to the humidity.   The dough is kneaded for about 10 minutes, then carefully set aside to rise for an hour, then punched down before setting into the pans to bake.  Its pretty doable for a loaf or two, but 10 or 12?  That mixer was the ticket.  It just so happened it was a big Sunday meal, and the bread rose so high it almost burned on the top of the oven.  I almost got the job as baker every week after that, but I tried to teach other people how to bake instead. It still takes practice.

I was remembering all this as it became my “job” to get water at the campsite, dipping my cup into the clear cold stream.  (sorry no pictures, because I didn’t want to bring the phone this time.)

You see, Rich had brought his mini-Sawyer water filter, super lightweight and perfect for one person.  I had been thinking of something a little easier for quantity, and brought a Grayl water bottle.  Guess who got the why-dont-you-go-get-the-water chore?  I didn’t mind in the least, since it doesn’t feel a job to me.  Since we are sharing chores anyway, thats the one I want.  Look where I am at, in comparison to where I was.  I get to walk down to the river, gaze up at the trees, enjoy the waterfall, dip my hands into such clear water… this is paradise.

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