Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Thanksgiving Lent


Good Banana Light
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Perhaps it wasn't the most memorable Thanksgiving, but I will remember this year's installation for its cold, silence and my little post-holiday fast.

Usually by this time in the year, we've been hit by several samples of winter weather, but today's temperatures that never made it beyond 30 degrees were the first of the year. A mild autumn/winter thus far—never mind global warming. While out for a walk, I'm confident that it was probably in the lower 20s—almost a biting cold. But the sun was bright and low in the south as if it was following the contour of the McCullough Peaks. I considered how cold it would be that night once the sun's rays were long gone and of the wild animals that live in this area of the country and wondered how they do it.

During my Thanksgiving Day walk, I found the outdoors unusually quiet in the form of less activity and fewer cars on the roads. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the home where the holiday meal takes place, the world seemed hauntingly quiet. I tried to imagine it as being any other day. Blindfolded and removed from any calendar, I would still sense it was a holiday by the day's silence.

When 8:30 in the evening rolled around and after eating a gummy worm, I decided to go on a 24-hour fast. I'd been thinking about it for most of the week and after hearing a story on the radio the other day about fasting, I was ready to carry on with the project. And what better time to start than after the big Thanksgiving Day meal?

By 10:00 a.m. the next day and more than 12 hours into the fast, I felt OK. I was ready to eat breakfast, but it was just water until 8:30 that night. At first I thought I'd catch myself looking at the clock and thinking about food all the time, so I went about to occupy myself as much as possible and away from the kitchen was my plan.

I spent a good portion of the early afternoon at school and although the building was cooler than usual because there was no school, I was extremely cold the entire time. Nevertheless, it was a cold day—20s maybe, so it's hard to tell if my reaction was related to the fast or just my non-conditioning to the year's first cold weather.

By 4:28 p.m. the presence of hunger was constant, but four hours remaining didn't seem too far away. A nagging headache moved in, but I wasn't so sure it was fast related as I had just started wearing a new pair of glasses on Wednesday and was far from accustomed to the new lenses.

I purposely occupied myself with one of my cameras and some outdated Polaroid film. At that point, I caught myself mulling around in the kitchen as if I was going to eat something. This was a poignant reminder about how we open the refrigerator not because we are hungry, but only because we are bored—I felt both tugging at me. I wondered if my sense of creative venture was dwindling as a result of fasting—certainly my enthusiasm for expending energy had retreated and even sitting in front of the computer was challenging.

In those last four hours I was far from feeling upbeat. If not fasting, I would have surmised that I was getting sick. It seemed I was hitting "the wall" in my deprived digestive marathon. My thermostat seemed to be out of whack and by 5:30, I found myself worthless. A sense of nausea came over me and about all I could do was lay down. By 6:00 I was in bed and trying to ride out the last two and a half hours. That's about all I could do. The headache was massive—migraine-like.

I'd like to think that by the time 8:30 rolled around, I leisurely made my way to the kitchen, but it was pretty direct and purposeful when I climbed out of bed and headed for the kitchen. Tanya had a meal of cut-up steak and rice with some vegis waiting in the microwave. By 8:40, food was entering my system again. I ate as slowly as I could and drank a bit in between bites.

I was in bed by 10:00, but up again to eat an orange around 11:30.

With the fast nearly 20 hours behind me now, I can't say that the recovery time was that of a hangover, but there was some recovery time involved. I'd like to try this again and minimize the recovery by starting my fast following a normal meal rather than the a few gummy worms as a late evening treat.

Miraculously my clothes did not fall off of my frame and I'm still wondering if my pancreas is appreciative of the hiatus it experienced as reported in the story about fasting on the radio. There were no real expectations upon entering the fast, but I would have preferred a vision or some kind or epiphany over a stifling headache and nausea. Nevertheless, I did come away from it with a greater appreciation of food—simple and modest food such as rice, fruit, and a thin strip of beef rather than Doritos, Quarter Pounders with cheese and the litany of other processed foods we consume on a daily basis.

1 comment:

Frank Quarters said...

I'm sure a trim sort like yourself likely has a tougher time of fasting than someone as "overweight" as I am ... a good 25 extra pounds like I carry clearly makes me a person who can survive a little easier on reserves ... it also makes me a first choice target should I ever find myself amongst a group of starving, plane-wrecked rugby players.