Standing in front of Mildrith in the early hours has given me a few spine-tingling moments. The night is at its darkest. I’m alone; I’m the only one awake in the world, well, at least the only one on my small road on South Pender Island.
Any noise I hear is magnified, exaggerated by the darkness, and made more dramatic, haunting. The crack of a twig, the rustle of wind if I’m not expecting it, can make me jump.
I’ve alluded to a few moments in this blog, such as when I looked up from the wood-fired oven and saw a deer, a male buck, treading carefully over the branches and twigs behind the shelter. I usually shoo deer away. This time I was silent, still, and just watched.
Disappeared into the darkness
The deer stopped not four feet away, turned its head and looked back at me. It blinked, hesitated as if trying to make sense of what it saw. Then quietly resumed walking and disappeared into the darkness.
I was wearing a headlamp, so it might not have known I was a human animal. I could see the lamp’s reflection in its eye. A leaf hung from its mouth.
But the deer’s look went right through me; it made me shiver! I felt a strange connection with the animal, as though words had passed between us, but I couldn’t make out their meaning. It’s a moment I’ll not soon forget.
Something similar happened Last Friday morning. I was in front of Mildrith again, loading olive bread dough into the oven. I had my AirPods on and was listening to music. It was vintage Bob Dylan. Mid-1960s, “Visions of Johana,” “Desolation Row,” “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” and so on. 1
My hands were going through the motions: dump dough out of basket onto baker’s peel, brush loose flour off dough, score dough with razor blade, open oven door, insert peel into oven, slide dough off peel onto hearth bricks, remove peel, shut oven door. Repeat. I perform this series of motions 70 to 80 times each bake day.
Sings out in the night
I don’t have to think. The darkness and silence are all around me, and Bob Dylan’s voice sings:
Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet? We sit here stranded, though we’re all doing our best to deny it And Louise holds a handful of rain, tempting you to defy it Lights flicker from the opposite loft In this room, the heat pipes just cough The country music station plays soft But there’s nothing, really nothing, to turn off Just Louise and her lover so entwined And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind.
from “Visions of Johanna” by Bob Dylan
The recording is from the acoustic half of a performance at The Royal Albert Hall, London, 1966. He’s a kid, 25 years old, alone on stage in front of 5,000 people. He’s playing an out-of-tune acoustic guitar, and a harmonica from a rack hung around his neck.
In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s insane Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near She’s delicate and seems like the mirror But she just makes it all too concise and too clear That Johanna’s not here The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place
The auditorium is so silent you could hear a pin drop. The audience is rapt. Dylan, I think, enjoys this and allows his voice to fill the room, playing with the sound of the words, letting the silence speak between the lines.
He even sounds a little drunk as he piles images upon images and blows them out over the seats. Like a drunk in a midnight choir!
But that’s another dimension from 56 years ago.
Right now, it’s 4:30 a.m., and I’m transfixed by the performance, intoxicated myself, and trying to imagine what it must have been like to have been at that concert. I can see my hands moving over the dough, opening the oven door and placing the loaf inside. I’m moving, reaching for the next dough basket, but my spine tingles at the words and Dylan’s soaring voice.
I suppose these are boisterous lyrics from a headstrong young man. There’s a certain amount of ego, an imagined self-grandeur, as he rattles off all these big words without caring, it seems, about meaning or what comes across.
You could say a lot about Dylan, the passage of time, ego, mysticism, genius, and inspiration. But it’s 2022, and I’m making bread in a wood-fired oven, and this kid is making my spine tingle.
It’s magic and not unlike my experience of seeing the deer walk past Mildrith’s shelter and disappear into the darkness. These mystical moments, high dramas that strike out through the stillness leave a lasting imprint on our psyches.
Happy Monk Tidings - February 15, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Sourdough; BLOG: The Magic of the Grouse; VIDEO: How Bread Was Made in 1962; FINAL REMINDER: New Delivery Times/Prices - [Campaign URL]...
Happy Monk Tidings - February 3, 2023 🍞 - HAPPY MONK BLOG: Save Something From The Time Where We Will Never Be Again; BAKER'S CHOICE: Sesame Sourdough; NOTE: New Delivery Times and New Prices [ See LinkTree in Profile ]...
Cinnamon-Raisin bread, an enduring Happy Monk favourite. And here’s proof of Mildrith’s (the wood-fired oven) recent health check, as she just baked 41 loaves of this (and another 40 of Seed Feast) with lots of heat left to spare. Long live Mildrith and long live Cinnamon-Raisin bread!
Happy Monk Tidings - November 2, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: A Vancouver Neighbourhood; BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan [ See LinkTree in Profile ]...
Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab...
Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard!...
Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ]...
3 thoughts on “Mysticism and Bob Dylan”
Wow, David! You are an amazing writer. It reminds me of my niece’s experience when she visited us in California many years ago, sleeping in her tent with the screened doorway, and waking up to a “deer stare.” Your misty, mystic mornings sound wonderful! no wonder you are addicted to them. Liz
They’re pretty special, those mornings, yes. But it’s also wonderful to sleep in on Saturday mornings and move slowly through the day! Thanks for your kind words, Liz!
Dylan’s throwaway-lines made sense to us – and became part of the fin de siècle lexicon for multiple generations. The music imbued them with meaning.