This post doesn’t come to a conclusion, or offer an answer, or end with a bon mot.
It is an exploration still in process.]
It wasn’t my first retreat, but sometime early in my experience of silent retreats I remember sitting in the chapel at the retreat house as one of the monks invited us to enter the safe space of being held and cherished just as we were. He went on to talk about what we might feel during the next three days. He noted that many people on retreat find themselves exhausted and sleeping for many hours in each day, and, when awake, ravenously hungry. “It may be fruitful,” he said, “to identify what exactly you are hungry for…since very few of us actually need that many nutrients to sustain our physical life.”
It may be fruitful to identify exactly what we are hungry for…
Marie Kondo (of “Tidying Up” fame) is about to release her second book, so I am already behind the curve since my husband and I are still engaged with the process of her first book. To make matters slightly more complex, we spent some time this weekend working on a category of items she doesn’t even mention in her book: food stuff. It is probably worth admitting right up front that this is a part of my life that is rather inexplicably out of control. [I have admitted to this before, but you may not have been reading the blog at that point.]
I would like to blame it on my Yankee heritage and that certainly may be factoring into it. I am old enough and from a rural enough background that canning and pickling and laying down eggs and fruit and root vegetables in straw for the winter is a living memory – not something I read in The Little House on the Prairie books, but something in which I actually participated as a child. So, well-stocked pantry and root cellar shelves was simply wise stewardship. And, since that generation of folk did not waste food, tomatoes by the bushel in August and September led to lots of tomato-based dishes in January, and an abundant raspberry crop meant many many many jars of raspberry jam for toast.
Well, as it turns out, we counted 37 jars of jam in our house (not including the two open ones in the fridge). There are two of us who eat here regularly and the last time we had someone share breakfast with us (which is when we use jam) was Christmas 2014 when our daughter and son-in-law were visiting. I’ve been paying attention and somewhere around 30 seems to be a tipping point for me. I get below 30 by two or three and, the next thing you know, I am wandering through the Farmer’s Market laying in jam for the summer, fall, and winter (through 2020, apparently).
We also have 46 tins of tea (both loose and in bags). When people ask what my husband wants for Christmas, tea is the first thing I say. And he loves tea. He does – as do I. In fairness, we each drink at least 2 cups of tea a day and when my husband is writing a sermon, his consumption is closer to 2 pots (or about 6 tea bags worth). But this weekend we discovered some cans of tea with a “Best By” date of 2006.
So, I am trying to understand what I am truly hungry for. Physical hunger is not something that I fear – although I have to say that I can only remember twice in my life when I was so hungry that it actually hurt, which is something that some of my sisters and brothers around the world experience daily. Perhaps if I lived on the edge of starvation, I would fear it.
What I do know is that we don’t store this much extra food because we eat in excess – neither my husband nor I is overweight, much less obese. It seems that, as long as I know I have it, I feel comfortable leaving the broth, dried cranberries, cereal, pasta sauce, pickles (whatever) on the pantry shelves, and eating a reasonable number of calories each day.
What continues to intrigue me is the fact that I live within easy walking distance of two well-stocked grocery stores so that, with the exception of Christmas Day, I can purchase anything I need within minutes of realizing I need it.
So: I ponder. Food may not be the place where you notice an inability to release excess…in which case, you might want to substitute your own version of 37 jars of jam for the word “food”. I don’t even know if these are useful questions, but they are the ones I am pondering with, I hope, some humor:
* What does food mean to me? (love? growth? strength? generosity? health? fellowship? comfort?)
* What is the value I associate with storing more food than I need for, say, a month? (thriftiness? competence? nurturing? comfort? hospitality? independence? security?)
* What is the (as yet) unidentified feeling or fear that compels me to resist emptying the shelves?
* What is the hunger this abundance of stored food is trying to assuage?
I’d love to hear about your journey, your baffling place, and the questions you are pondering – especially if you have found them fruitful.
Text © 2016, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015, 2014, Immram Chara, LLC
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