May 28, 2020

The joy of…

Inspired by the series of The Joy Of…” articles published in the New York Times last week, I’ve been thinking a little bit about the things that are bringing me joy over the past few months.

Below, two small vignettes of things bringing me joy, with accompanying doodles (but my doodles will not be anywhere as good and fun as the NYT ones are).

J.O.E.A.E.G.Y.C.: The Joy of Eating an Earl Grey Yogurt Cake

Over the past decade, I’ve become a fairly good cook—I cook most of the meals for the family nowadays—but one thing that has always evaded me is the ability to bake. Luckily, L is a more-than-proficient baker; her baked goods always delight, no matter what she makes.

Just before the quarantine, L discovered a basic recipe for an Earl Grey yogurt cake that was not only simple—something she could whip up quickly when she had a few minutes to spare—but also would be a perfect accompaniment for a new ritual we were trying. We had decided that, on days when we were both working from home (we had no idea there would be many more of those days coming in the future), we would stop working at 4pm and take a 20-minute break to enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake together; we would put away our phones and our computers and just enjoy each other’s company and conversation for a short break before the evening rush began.

The ritual began before the quarantine settled in, but has continued and intensified now that we are home together more often than we had been before. The Earl Grey yogurt cake isn’t the only baked good we have enjoyed on our little afternoon tea breaks, but it is the one we have returned to most often: we have made it four times now, and each time it lasts us almost a week before we have to consider what to bake next.

As the tea steeps, we toast two slices of the cake and cover the toasted slices in butter. When we settle in for our break, we chat about everything and anything, savouring each bite of the cake—and most of all, savouring these few minutes where, even if it is just for a few moments, we forget about the world around us and just enjoy being with each other.

Drawing of slices of cake

J.O.S.I.T.B.: The Joy of Soaking in the Bath

Despite the fable, Archimedes most likely didn’t emerge naked from the bath and run down the street yelling, Eureka,” when he was puzzling over the problem of fraud in the manufacture of a golden crown. The idea that our best ideas come when we are submerged in the bath water, however, is one I’m holding on to, no matter what the reality of Archimedes’ story may be.

I do my best thinking in the bathtub. Usually, it’s in a bubble bath, but even on days when I’m too lazy or too forgetful to toss the bubbles into the tub, a soak in the bath always helps clear my head. It also helps that a hot bath is also soothing for my oft-achy back, so I take advantage of tub time as often as I can.

Technically, I can take my phone, or a book, or some other diversion into the bathtub with me, but that would defeat the purpose: my soaking time is idle time, with no expectation to be productive. Idleness is something that I’ve been cultivating over the past few years, and I have found that it is when I am most idle that I feel most like myself.

I sometimes ask myself the question, who are you without the doing? The answer changes all the time, but perhaps the truest answer comes when I’m not doing anything at all but sitting in the tub, submerged in water and bubbles, just being me.

Drawing of bathtub

A few of the pieces from the NYTimes (significantly better than mine), that I really enjoyed: