flat line

Our recent snow accentuates the horizontal.
Against a dark gray sky and dark gray woods, I notice tree branches holding snow.
Vertical lines disappear into the gray.

I’m fasting for Ash Wednesday – nothing to eat or drink but water all day, and I’m feeling…

  • a little light-headed – not exactly
  • very hungry – yes, definitely
  • clear-headed – well, maybe for a while
  • clean – from the inside.

Every time I fast I am reminded how much time and energy I spend on food – thinking about eating, preparing food, eating, cleaning up, and it takes me hours just to get over the habit of thinking about it so much… and then I’m hungry anyway, so I think about it some more.

But eventually my mind rests from thoughts of food, and my body rests from digesting, too. With the voice of my hunger temporarily silenced, I can hear my other, quieter voices of survival more clearly – my heart beating, my lungs breathing, blood rushing through my ears. Then, even quieter, I can feel for signs of illness or health. Finally, I feel only quiet – clean, clear peace.

Fasting is a luxury, I know. Unlike real hunger, fasting is intentional. Unlike real hunger, fasting holds no worries about finding a next meal. But fasting is also a discipline. It is instructive. I relearn how to listen to my body, and I relearn how to respond – not with a knee-jerk reaction, but carefully, thoughtfully. And I hope in the end that from this quiet, from this listening will come a better ability to listen to others.