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Sacred Imagination
August 2001 Column & Gallery

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Dana's Current Column

by Dana Reynolds

Each month, Dana Reynolds shares her life-transforming thoughts, ideas, and sacred imagination based around our "theme of the month."  Dana is a visionary Spiritual Midwife, who devotes herself to helping women birth their creative gifts into the world.

The Blessings of Daily Bread

Moments ago I put on my slippers and robe and quietly closed the bedroom door behind me so as not to disturb my husband who is still sleeping. I went to the kitchen and prepared a cup of tea, then climbed the stairs to my office. Lighting candles on my altar, I whispered a prayer for guidance before I began to write this column. This is a monthly ritual for me. This is also a ritual I follow whenever I begin a creative project. Rituals like these are the threads that weave the fabric of life and soulful living together.

Rituals are most often associated with sacred spiritual or religious rites. We are all aware of the care and preparation that accompanies a wedding or funeral or a special observance during Christmas, Passover, or other traditional denominational celebrations.

Childhood introduces family rituals, the special birthday song repeated every year that was created by Aunt Jane. Summer vacations to the same mountain cabin or the first apple pie of autumn when the apples begin to ripen on the tree in the backyard. These are the times that connect us to one another and to the changing seasons of our lives.

Ritual is also a part of our culture’s daily life. Driving to work on I-35 while listening to the local morning talk show could be called another form of American ritual. Eating popcorn at the movies, picnics and fireworks on the fourth of July, or weekend shopping at the Mall.

Each of us also has personal rituals we engage in, like the morning shower followed by a hot cup of coffee and quick read of the newspaper. Feeding the cat, watering plants, paying bills, these facets of our lives all have their own brand of ritual attached. Routine activities we repeat again and again become pathways of familiarity or rituals of life. Exploring how other people and cultures experience their forms of ritual can be a transformational and soulful experience.

In May I made a three-week pilgrimage to France. During my travels my senses and my soul were immersed in the sacred, personal, and cultural rituals of the French people. Especially fascinating to me was how they experience food as ritual in their day to day lives. My soul was so inspired by this that since returning home I have discovered new avenues for incorporating what I experienced into my personal daily and weekly rituals.

Market Spices

As we all know, food is sacred to the French people and a cornerstone of French life.

From field to table, each step of the process is part and parcel of sacred ritual. Driving through the French countryside I noticed rusted iron crosses standing in the fields and learned that these are placed among the fruits and vegetables to bless the crops.

Walking through the open city markets I experienced a feast of sights and smells as I took in the colors and textures of haricots verts, des framboises, and les aubergines. Wheels and wedges of cheeses, camembert and roquefort, brie and chevre tempt the palate. Spices and herbs in open paper sacks, curry, cinnamon, fennel, and star anise spill onto wooden carts arranged in rows. My senses of smell, and sight, touch and taste seemed to be reactivated by the love, attention, and intention the French give to food.

French Cheese

I relished the Saturday morning ritual of going to market in Revel, a tiny town in the South of France near Toulouse. Everyone arrives early carrying a cloth market bag or a basket. They pour into the center of town. Young parents carrying infants and chasing toddlers, cooks from local restaurants and inns, and the elderly for whom this ritual is as ingrained in life as brushing one's teeth.

The city turns out every Saturday not only to buy food to sustain life, but to experience community, to appreciate God’s bounty, and to embrace life itself. Friends and neighbors greet one another with the traditional kiss to each cheek. Laughter is plentiful and two small children play tag with a dog that looks like a bear.

Saturday morning food shopping in Revel is a celebration. Selections are conscious. Only that which will be used and reinvented until it is all consumed is chosen and purchased. Legumes et fromage are soulful choices. Each shopper makes his/her selections differently according to personal tastes and needs. However there is one choice that is universal, the Baguette, the long crusty traditional loaf of French bread. Bread is truly the staff of life for the French. It is purchased fresh every day from markets and local bakeries.

One morning while sitting on a bench in the center of Soreze, another small and quaint French village, I observed a small boy about the age of six as he walked across the cobblestone square to the Boulangerie. He carried a bright blue mesh shopping bag in one hand while his other hand was clenched in a tight fist, no doubt full of coins.

Minutes later he emerged from the bakery with a long narrow loaf of bread sticking out from the bag and wearing a very big smile. Ritual. . .sacred ritual right there at the Boulangerie. This ritual of baking and/or purchasing the daily bread has been taking place for centuries in France and other countries.

Somewhere in a home, down the street from the scene I just described, the young boy’s mother was surely waiting for his return with the staple of the household. Throughout her day she would transform that long loaf of bread into breakfast toast, sandwiches for lunch, and an accompaniment to the evening meal. Leftovers would finally become croutons for tomorrow’s salad or food for the birds who gather on the windowsill each morning to consume the crumbs from last night’s table. And so on, and so on and so on. Day after day the daily bread feeds the soul of the French family.

Food-shopping in France is ritual enough. The touching, smelling, and selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and spices is more than just a process. It is a sacred soulful practice.

The preparation of these things is both ritual and a very real form of creative expression. While staying for a week in a wonderful artist’s retreat house in Soreze I was privileged to spend many hours reading and journaling on a window-seat in a garden setting next to the kitchen of the house. From this vantagepoint I was able to observe the cook, Necia (pronounced Neesha), and her assistant, Blondine, as they prepared the meals for our group.

Each afternoon around three o’clock the seductive aromas of simmering garlic and onions or rosemary and thyme wafted through the house. The cooks chatted in French while the music of Edith Piaf played in the background. Meanwhile from my vantagepoint near the window, the sun warmed my back and my appetite began to grow.

I watched Necia select squash and potatoes for her various culinary creations from the large basket of produce on the ochre colored tiled counter near the sink. Fruits and vegetables are not refrigerated in France but rather they are displayed in carefully arranged baskets, trays, or bowls. They are offerings, an important aspect of ritual.

Necia in the Kitchen

Cloves of garlic are crushed. Mushrooms are chopped in time to the music that’s playing. Necia’s husband drops by with their children and they stand in the kitchen laughing and talking and tasting the soup with a large wooden spoon from the pot that simmers on the back burner of the big black stove. Love and life are stirred into the evening meal.

At last we sit at the beautifully prepared long wooden table. Candles are lit. Fresh flowers form the centerpiece. Necia stands at the head of the table and tells us in English with her lovely French accent what we will be having for dinner. . . Rice and potato coquettes with mushroom sauce, beet and butter lettuce salad, and vanilla flan with chocolate sauce and of course the eternal baguette.

Each dish is served individually, simply, and time is allowed between the courses to savor the particular flavors of the various dishes. This food is real. It has been grown organically, chosen with intention and purpose, cooked with love and served through ritual. It is both blessed and a blessing. With each bite we not only feed the body but also nourish the soul.

When I returned home from France I knew I must translate what I had learned about eating and preparing food soulfully with ritual.

I immediately bought a new French cookbook to attempt to recreate some of my favorite meals. Then I remembered that our town has two street markets each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These soulful expeditions have now become weekly rituals for me. I collect my market basket (a final French purchase at the Saturday market in Revel) and carefully make my selections from the carts in my neighborhood. Artichokes, mushrooms, and even haricots verts are there for the choosing. I also purchase cherries and plums and a bouquet of sunflowers to remind me of the fields and crosses in the French countryside. After several weeks of return visits I’m beginning to recognize the vendors and the people who frequent this ancient way of shopping. There is a special community here.

I return home with my senses enlivened and my market basket and soul both full of blessings. With intention and prayers of gratitude I arrange a bowl of shiny red cherries and golden apricots for my dining room table. The sunflowers go into a green china pitcher, another souvenir.

In the late afternoon my ritual continues. I tie on my apron, put on Edith Piaf music, open the back door to let in the sun and the breeze, and begin to chop onions. . . I think Necia would approve.

You are invited to submit your story and accompanying photos to be considered as a feature for the Sacred Imagination column. E-mail me at dana@sacredimagination.com for details.

Copyright© 2001 Dana Reynolds. 


Read Dana's Past "Sacred Imagination" Columns:

July 2001 - Entertaining the Dream Visitor

May 2001 - Embracing the Whole: Choices for Conscious Living

April 2001 "Nourishing the Souls of the Children"

March 2001 "Opening the Senses to Beauty"

February 2001 "The Eyes of Love"

January 2001 "Patterns of Authenticity"

December 2000 "Finding Peace in the Fields of Time"

November 2000 "Cultivating Gratitude: Heart-Hugs and Prayer Leaves"

October 2000 "Journey to the Center - The Sacred Mystery of the Labyrinth"

September 2000 "The Heart and Craft of Healing"

August 2000 "Transforming Life’s Challenges into Beauty and Story"

July 2000 "Sacred Spaces Invite the Muses of the Soul"

Read Dana's Soulful Living Feature Articles:

Visual Prayers

Intuition and the Sacred Imagination: The Dance of Co-creation


For ten years, Dana Reynolds has been facilitating women’s spiritual presentations and retreats nationwide. Her work as a Spiritual Midwife, one who assists women as they birth their creative gifts into the world, is the foundation of all her endeavors. Her background as a visual artist and writer enriches her Spiritual Midwifery: Birthing the Feminine Soul workshops.

As the creator of an art making process known as visual prayer, Dana teaches women how to combine ritual with sacred intention to create altars, collages, spirit dolls, and other touchstones. The creation of sacred spaces is also paramount to the Spiritual Midwifery experience. Her web-site http://www.sacredimagination.com offers samplings of her visual prayer collages, poetry, and a workshop catalogue.

Dana is the author of the whimsical and colorfully illustrated book, Be An Angel, a co-creation with illustrator and graphic designer, Karen Blessen, (Simon & Schuster). Her essay, Visual Prayers is included in the anthology, Our Turn, Our Time: Women Coming of Age, edited by Cynthia Black, (Beyond Words Publishing).

A trained labyrinth facilitator, Dana incorporates the labyrinth and other spiritual wisdom into her retreats and workshops. She recently traveled to Chartres and Vezelay Cathedrals in France to gather information pertaining to ancient sacred mystical traditions. She currently lectures on such topics as spiritual midwifery, sacred journal keeping, feminine spiritual wisdom, and the early Christian women saints and mystics.

Dana’s life follows the spiral path from rim to center and back again. She looks for the sacred in forgotten places and openly embraces the great Mystery of life. Guiding women to the discovery of their creative inner gifts is the passion that fuels her soul.


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