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By Lorna Derksen

HAVE YOU EVER thought of your kitchen door as the gateway to transformation? Whether this everyday room conjures feelings of drudgery or joy, it certainly can stage much of our lives’ activities. Scanning various sources for recipes, choosing a weekly menu, chopping up vegetables or stirring a bubbling sauce, my energy is often taken up in the domestic arts.

At times the demands of these activities has me feeling like a cog in a relentless machine - the feeling I remember having as a girl drying dishes every night. What was the point when we’d have to do the same tedious task 24 hours later? Domestic artist turned household prisoner. But when seen through a contemplative lens, engaging in the domestic arts can invite us to live creatively, give generously of our creation and move us toward service of the sacred.

I have often noticed after a hectic day at work how I love making supper. Taking the dough out of the bread maker, my fingers sink into the elastic texture, forming loaves that are set aside to rise in the warm oven. Soon the aroma of sautéed onions and garlic fills the house whetting the appetites of those waiting to eat. Spices, herbs, freshly cut vegetables and meat sizzle in the pan while pasta cooks, water bubbling over in the pot. As I prepare a meal my attention is focused on measurements and directions as well as smells and sounds. Maybe because I’ve ruined enough dishes by hurrying through the process, I now more often give myself over to the step-by-step creation of delicious food. At the best of times, I forget about my worries, forget about myself, and enjoy the art. Just like flour dissolves as I whisk it in butter while preparing a cheese sauce, a part of me dissolves into this process of combining ingredients for our dining pleasure and nourishment, connecting me to the ancient practice of making meals.

Our Watershed community feasts add another dimension to the contemplative invitation of the domestic arts. We eat well during our potluck holiday meals, a ritual that has expanded over the past two years in our celebration of 40th birthdays. Here we enjoy shared domestic creativity. It is popular knowledge that eating together does something to human beings. The benefits of feasting, where close friends and family share their individual lives with each other around the table may be based on more than sharing a good time. When we eat in a group, our bodies can produce higher levels of the hormone oxytocin thought to affect our ability to bond with others. In our community feasts our individual culinary gifts come together and are absorbed into a common goal – the enjoyment and nourishment of the group. Just like the individual becomes part of a bigger process when cooking, the individual offering becomes dissolved in the group gift, in service of something bigger.

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