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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
invited to submit your story and accompanying
photos to be considered as a feature for the Sacred
Imagination column. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright© 2001 Dana
Dana's Past "Sacred Imagination" Columns:
2001 - Entertaining the Dream Visitor
2001 - Embracing the Whole:
Choices for Conscious Living
2001 "Nourishing the Souls of the Children"
2001 "Opening the Senses to Beauty"
2001 "The Eyes of Love"
2001 "Patterns of Authenticity"
2000 "Finding Peace in the Fields of Time"
2000 "Cultivating Gratitude: Heart-Hugs and Prayer
2000 "Journey to the Center - The Sacred Mystery of
2000 "The Heart and Craft of Healing"
2000 "Transforming Life’s Challenges into Beauty and Story"
2000 "Sacred Spaces Invite the
Muses of the Soul"
Dana's Soulful Living Feature Articles:
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
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
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.