One of my most prized possessions is an enormous clay bowl finished in Bennington Pottery's trademark blue agate glaze. It was a gift from my husband years ago, before we were married, when we were living in our first one-bedroom apartment down the street from the Baptist church. It's a factory second, which means it isn't quite round; I suppose the potter's hands wobbled guiding it on the wheel. I worked at the town bookstore the year the bread bowl found its way into my life, and I arranged my schedule that year so I got Fridays off. I baked bread almost every week, then.
These days the bread bowl gets less frequent use, though it makes me no less happy than it did when it was the grandest and newest thing in our kitchen. I never wash it with soap, only with water, in hopes that over time the yeasts it has known will permeate its surface and give savor to future loaves. At least the memories of the breads it has birthed add something to my baking, even if the resultant bread isn't different in any way one could name.
I especially enjoy baking bread on erev Rosh Hashanah. The work of yeasts always seems vaguely miraculous. Kneading dough is always soothing and centering, and as I work the dough I can pour into it all of my hopes for the year to come. I bless the nascent challah that my days might be light and sweet, that my spirit might rise, that my year might be nurturing and warm and shaped by my own hands.
Baking bread makes me magnanimous, so it's easy to wish the same for my friends and loved ones; for my family and my community; and for all of you. May we all have a new year abundant with blessing, and may we know ourselves to have been inscribed in the Book of Life.