I have a beast in my kitchen.
It's white, it's gooey, and it reeks of hooch. I feed it once a week, my arm stretched as far as it can go, nose closed again its pungent odor. It gulps up the flour and water I toss in its cage with loud, smacking, bubbly chomps.
For this beast, consumption is a science. To grow means to transform.
Have you guessed the nature of the beast yet? No, I didn't break down and get a pet -- I'm waxing poetic about my sourdough starter, gifted to me as a wedding favor from a dear friend.
Keeping sourdough "alive" for use as natural leavening requires regular feedings, steady attention, and remedial understanding of kitchen chemistry. Essentially ...
(bacteria + flour + water + air) * magic = fluffy carbs
I wonder, though, if the beast feeds off other environmental factors. Does it know when I'm stirring with anger? What if I cry in the kitchen? Can it suck stress out of the air, or fear? Will it rev up production if it senses exhaustion?
Science says that lactobacilli leads to sourdough's nominal bite. But what if the starter is taking a hit for its maker? What if it's turning sadness into comfort the only way it knows how?
Prayer #123: The Beast
The beast sat on my chest again last night.
It leaned its hairy haunches on my lungs and ground its knuckles into my eyes -- to keep its balance, it claimed, but I know it was doing it for spite.
The beast muttered and giggled the whole night. Its raspy whispers filled the inky quiet. When I tossed, the beast turned. When I sighed, it blew a raspberry.
Every time a pleasant dream crept closer, the beast batted it away. Soon, a pile collected near the bed, still fluttering, quickly fading.
I am really not fond of the beast.
So I request only this, Lord -- hold the beast back in the hallway, just for tonight. Leave my pillow free for my cheek alone. Keep my sheets untangled.
Help the peaceful dreams approach in their gentle, tender way. And let me float in them toward a resolution I can't imagine, yet must somehow realize.