My cutting board looks like a crime scene after a fruitful Saturday morning baking up a recipe dedicated to my favorite summer sweet. There are a lot of ways to enjoy cherries this time of year but, like me, they are a bit high-maintenance. I remember when being called that was derogatory, when all my friends were so carefree. Now I’ve exchanged high-maintenance for high-quality and I’ve learned that working a little harder for a prize worth having can be ridiculously delicious – especially when Cherry Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake is the result.
Saturday morning baking has become my thing, a meditative ritual I do to pull up what is true and good, while making wholesome breakfasts. I shuffle about my kitchen in the quiet, looking forward to muffins, a fruit crisp, some granola, or baked oatmeal (all of which will involve fruit), and all the while, I use the measuring, stirring, slicing and sampling to process other thoughts.
But chopping these cherries was a mindful chore, jostling the thoughts I had hoped would be prayerful. The mess was real. No matter how you do it, managing cherries always involves a pile of stems and stones. If you want to leave the cherries whole, you can use a cherry pitter which pokes the stone out from the middle, and you still have to tap that stone out before proceeding. Messy. May as well just use a paring knife and a thumb nail since they’re better halved, anyhow. Other methods are all maneuvers to avoid getting sticky and juice stained, but really, it’s all in vain. And either you want cherries or you don’t. They aren’t fighting to get in your mouth. In fact, they’re playing hard-to-get.
I did freak out a bit working on the 1.5 cups of cherries for this recipe when visions of bright pink fingers and the white dress I was going to wear later flashed before my eyes. The chaser thought? This cake is worth it. Worth the stain.
No stain, no gain.
I’m preparing to say a special goodbye to a friend who is moving away this summer. In little ways, we are saying the pre-goodbye things, rehearsing the words now and then, and I’m letting my heart start to let her go. Some of my favorite friends don’t live close by, so I have every reason to believe that this friend and I will just grow new threads of connection once she’s gone, but the time of being able to touch her, go for a walk, steal her for a day, is coming to a close. And I want to mark it. I want her to know that her words have stained me for good. Because we have had some harsh word stains too – of course we have. But in deep friendship, the harsh words get absorbed and become either stains that mar us or scars that show we’ve healed. I want her to know what kind of mark she’s made if I possibly can. More than words can say.
Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.
– Maya Angelou
Can we stain well with our words? Can the way I treasure my friend be a word-thing she carries on the camper that they’ll drive cross-country, a story that will whisper to her heart when she wonders if her life left tracks? I hope so. I pray so.
And really, can we have the Cherry Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake without the crimson stains that precede it? I guess I could have subbed in Rainer Cherries, but they aren’t the same. Sure, they’re lovely but there is a red wine-ish layer the Bing cherries bring that’s dark and decadent. Every slice has a ruby prize floating in poppy speckled ivory crumbs. And if we’re eating cake for breakfast, we want it to be worth it, right?
For me & my departing friend, the kind of love that strings together prayers, trust, travel, and our stories, replete with sticky lessons, has been more precious than the days, more lasting than the tears.
It is right for me to feel this way about you, because you have me in your heart as I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the good news regarding salvation, you share in His matchless grace with me. AMP