#223: Bread and Fife

#223: Bread and Fife
Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI

I’ve been baking bread. Two loaves at a time, and today will be the third time in the past week. It was an idea first incepted by the “Air” episode of Cooked, on Netflix, then re-fed by Robin’s latest novel, Sourdough, which you should definitely read. I even started a sourdough starter (though I haven’t baked with it yet); am first learning the basics with store-bought instant yeast and Ken Forkish’s excellent book. The process has been surprising forgiving, the results delicious. Forgiving/delicious seem like solid foundations for a new hobby.

Otherwise I’m packing for the coming travels, working when I can on GRACE. Something I’ve discovered about the book’s process this week is that I can conjure enough fortitude at a time (over several days) to finish one act of the book. Then I need a few days off to recover emotionally. So it goes.

I went to the Cranbrook Art Museum on Sunday. It was the last day of an exhibit on mid-century designer Alexander Girard. What moved me the most was not the textile patterns he came up with for Herman Miller, or his airplane liveries and restaurant interiors, or his large collection of folk art objects that inspired his work. It was, instead, a small plywood room, with the geometry of wooden building blocks, that I’d passed on the way in and almost missed on the way out. When Girard was in boarding school, said the panel on the wall inside, he spent all his free time developing an imaginary country called the Republic of Fife (in the larger empire of Celestia). He invented a language for it, a calendar too; designed flags, postage stamps, coins (drawn on flat river stones), a board game, and a set of playing cards, among other things. It was a world built on small details; it seemed to hold the key – no, a key – to everything.

And I wonder now, sitting here back at my desk, how much Girard, once he was much, much older, still thought about Fife and Celestia and those swollen days of kidhood. I could guess, probably, but it’d say more about me than him.