This Way to the Kingdom of Bread
By Joanna ES Campbell
It happened. I got a whiff of the kingdom of heaven at the corner of Jackson and 31st Ave. Take a walk any weekday morning between 8 and 10 a.m., and you will understand. A warm wave of fresh baked bread envelops you in a sudden moment. You don’t expect the air to be so infused with the chemical marriage of flour, yeast, and a little sugar. I’ve been walking this stretch close to four years now, and the bread scent is new. Usually, it’s the magnolia blossoms and lavender I take note of. Or the diesel, warm tar, or fabric softener. Sometimes I detect the pungency of marijuana, always from the same house. The man who lives there has a happy-go-lucky lift to his step. I can’t remember ever smelling cigarettes on my walks. Once, I was convinced the neighbors set up a cocktail bar on the sidewalk because gin was in the air, and then I realized it was the sun-warmed juniper berries on the juniper bush. It makes me wonder. Are the wind currents shifting in Seattle? I know there is a Franz bread factory one mile west of this intersection. If I turn left onto Jackson instead of turning around at the Stop sign, I can walk up and down the hills to the place where the big yellow trucks with blue lettering live, but I’ve never ventured that far.
The kingdom of heaven is near. It is near us. I hear these words in today’s sermon at St. Clement’s. The smell of fresh baked bread must be what this means. It has to. I am redeemed by that scent each time it catches me by surprise. The source is a mystery. It could be the bread factory, or it could be the sourdough pizza joint a few blocks away, or it could be someone’s home kitchen with windows opened a certain way, and this someone bakes bread Mondays through Fridays between 8 and 10 a.m. All I know is that it is near. I can practically eat the air.
The scent of bread baking tells me there’s still hope in this world. While children are turned away from the border and families grieve unspeakable loss and bodies are carted on trains and you’re left standing dumbfounded by the fickleness of accidents, smelling bread tells me there is one person in this world willing to wake up, face the morning, and work with their hands. When the nozzle on the garden hose breaks and sprays you in the face, when the fruit flies return to your fruit bowl with a vengeance, when the handle tears away from the grocery bag, or when the driver lays in on their horn and gives you the finger, the scent of fresh baked bread is an old security blanket. The smell is a heal-all, at least for the present moment. I want to wrap that person’s middle finger in bread dough, so they can smell what I smell.
Maybe the kingdom of heaven is like a school of fish. You never know when it will shimmer past your view. I know that tomorrow there’s a possibility for smelling hope and security and the promise of sustenance. If I walk to the corner of Jackson and 31st Ave., I may get a chance to smell something called enough.
Also by Joanna E.S. Campbell
Sacrament of the Present Oyster: A Meditation on Taste Buds GO
Recipe for a Marriage GO
How to Sell a House (When Everything's a Mystery) GO
Do You Like My Foodie Photo on Facebook? Dashing for Community GO
Clams and Other Mysteries GO
Montana: Discarded Wood, Family-Owned Sawmills, and Divine Mistakes GO
Popcorn Theology GO
Cooking as Spiritual Practice GO
Skirting the Surf: The Beginning of a Marriage GO
How I Got Over Being a Radical Foodie Southern Health Nut GO
Local Food Dating Leads to God GO