At night, I set the croissants on a tray to proof, allowing them the extended hours, the dark warmth of the stove top to sit and rise. I'm patient with them, gentle even, placing them, setting them aside from other activities like film viewing in bed and late night trips for water, and in this time they perform the beautiful task of rising, that tight dough growing into large puffed pastries looking gloriously hopeful. They bake as the coffee is made, and once out of the oven we shatter their thin buttery layers, pressing every wayward crumb between our fingertips and the plate, leaving no remnants unattended. I'd like to think these croissants are that good because I give them time to do their own thing.
I'd also like to think I'm smart enough, and really, observant enough, to take my own advice. It's funny how blind we can sometimes be to our own practices. I've been thinking a lot lately about the act of proofing, of allowing something, usually dough, the time to rise, to come into its own, to prepare itself, if you will, for what it will become. I like the idea that you can work to create something, put together all these small pieces, compiling, shaping, mixing things around, and then, just when you think you're done, that you're home free, you stop - you wait.
I'm not sure of specifics, but I can say with all certainty that I don't offer this same culinary kindness to myself. My expectations for who I'll be and what I'll do almost always outweigh the concept of taking time, of being patient with the pause of growth. Some days, I want it all right. this. minute. I want the classroom, the published works, the writing cottage, the knowledge that I'm doing what I'm meant to do. It's lofty, I know, that concept of "meant to," and I harbor no false pretenses that my search is more original than any that have come before me; I do not believe I am the first to wish myself patience. Still, regardless of rationalizations and reassurances, I'd like to know why I extend more care at times to the frozen dough on a Saturday night.
Sometimes, it's not about the answer. Sometimes, it's about noticing the small, caramel colored breakfast bits and feeling so much joy for them and their process that sitting there on a handmade quilt filled with wonky, persistent stitches, you remember to feel a little more thankful of your own. For now, I'm working on this proofing business, the rising of all these layers of myself that I've not yet allowed the patience and time to come forth. I'm betting, with some pretty good genetic odds, that there's something in there that's worth the wait.