Power in the Pause
By Terri Kiral

A gray sky and the pattering fingertips of softly falling rain reach indoors to tap me on the shoulder, reminding me to pause. Weather negates my errand list. Today, I will stay home, be present.

Browsing through cookbooks for a coffee cake recipe, I find three in a Georgia cookbook that was a gift from my ex-mother-in-law. The bakers sign their names, “Mrs. John Smith (Betty),” “Mrs. Dale Brown (Irma),” “Mrs. Bill Mason (Babs),” their names follow in parenthesis as if a mere afterthought. Not satisfied with only one recipe, I create my own, combining the best ingredients from each. Wanting to give what I consider overdue credit to Betty, Irma, and Babs, I call my version “BIB’s Coffee Cake.”

The house is quiet but for the gentle ambient music flowing from my meditation playlist. I pause to listen then gather my utensils and selected ingredients. I am a chemist with a beaker and a Bunsen burner. My lab coat - a worn and stained kitchen smock patterned with large, lacy white roses on a dusty gray background with four snaps down the front. It belonged to Aunt Gloria. I pause to think of her as I lay the smock on the kitchen island. I lean over and rest my torso on it, salt it with tears, then put it on.

While the cake bakes, I kneel on the kitchen floor and sort through a mess of seed packets on the shelf below the cookbooks. I find cosmos and wildflowers clipped together with a faded note that reads, “Hi, Sweetie. Love ya!” I caress the note over my heart as I pause to remember my friend, gone now eight years. Looking up, I choke back emotion. With an ache in my throat, I whisper, “Hello, Snookie. I sure miss you.”

Standing up to check the cake’s progress, I release a brief grunt from the effort. My motions are accompanied with such sound effects these days. I pause to consider that I have recently turned 60, a sobering milestone that has landed me in a place of deep inner contemplation. I am closer to the end than to the beginning.

All things are impermanent in this life, even life itself. That’s just how it is. It is during the pause that I allow space for grief and relief, for misery and joy. During the pause, I tenderly contemplate the experiences of others as well as my own. During the pause, the scent of cinnamon baking in the oven becomes not just a passing fancy but a deep connection to the earth that grips you with a holy sense of gratitude. During the pause, I pay homage to the profound worth of those dearest to me, both here and gone. During the pause, I open my heart to healing. During the pause, I welcome a vast canvas of emotion filling me with gifts unbounded. During the pause, life truly happens.