As I sat talking with some friends at dinner, I heard in the background someone state, “Great! More quinoa!”
“Nooooo! No! No! No! No,” replied my brain.
“Nooooo! No! No! No! No,” replied my mouth.
And that’s when I knew I was overdrawn on my soul.
You see, every Sunday, my church has a treat or sit-down meal after each service in order to create a space where folks can talk and get to know one another rather than just rushing out the door. Which service you attend and where determines if you get the meal or the treat. I am in charge of this whole operation: ordering the food, organizing the teams, doing the food delivery, etc. Overall, I love my job, but sometimes, like with most jobs, there are factors or conditions that happen which wear on you.
This past Sunday had a few of these factors, and by Sunday night’s service and dinner, with its own share of issues, I was starting to wear thin. When I heard that they had opened the last container of the quinoa mixture for the burritos for two folks to scoop out a spoonful for their third helping, I lost it.
It wasn’t a very loud scream, more of a whine. But I did rush up from the table, and I was in some ways yelling at the one volunteer who brought out the pan. And lest you think me totally crazy, from a food service perspective, once an untouched dish is dug into, you technically cannot serve it again. This pan of quinoa would have served about 50 people, and I had had plans for it for another event later in the week.
I knew immediately that I needed to leave the situation as soon as possible. And later that night my husband did not need encourage me too hard to take Monday to do what I needed to do for my soul. So I did. And for me, that meant nature.
I started the day by going to my favorite national historical park: Minute Man. Dedicated to preserving the first five miles of the road where the colonists and Regulars fought each other on that early April morning in 1775–an event that would eventually lead to calls for colonial independence, it’s a beautiful landscape woven between patches of open farmland, scattered woods, and some residential homes.
I had volunteered there for two years after I left my job five years ago, so I know the park fairly well and decided to walk along a less used section. The weekend sun had melted some of our snow, but the return of the cold on Monday left the trails in a still snow-covered and foot-marked state.
Even with the cold wind blowing, though, it felt great to be outdoors. The few clouds in the sky not yet hindering the weak rays of the winter sun. The crunch underneath my feet compelling me onward as I looked over at the trees, branches and trunks intertwining. A few birds could be heard chirping from on high, no doubt confused by the temperature gymnastics as much as we.
After sauntering along for thirty minutes or so, I decided to head back to my car, thinking I was done restoring my soul. But then the idea of “the ocean” swept its ways into my head, and I realized I was not yet done.
You see, I love the ocean. I love the rhythm of the waves crashing down upon the sand. I love the fizz and crackle as a wave draws back, nearing the end of its cycle upon the shore and letting me know a new boom is about to take place. The veins that form in the sand from retreating tides make me marvel at the working of water on rock. Where ocean blue meets sky horizon, the vastness of both fill me with wonder and excitement; it beckons about possibilities and makes me feel comfortable in ways no other area of nature can.
I at first wrestled with going, knowing only one beach an hour away would satisfy my desire, yet feeling like it’d be wasteful to go all that way for a quick jaunt. But then I remembered how I had acted the previous night. I had been operating from a deficit for too long, and I needed to refill myself. So I went, and the ocean did not disappoint.
Clouds had rolled in, but the sun persevered and pushed through to shine down upon the water and rocks out in the bay. Seeing the glistening vista was like a million tiny kisses upon my heart. I immediately stopped where the parking lot met the sand, overcome with the realization that my soul had been missing more than I thought.
At first I was afraid to get close to the water, afraid to block the view from other walkers or to get too close to this rare gem. But I pushed those lies aside and made my way towards the lapping. I took a few passes along the length of the beach, listening to the systematic splashes upon the shore and bringing a wave-caressed hand to my lips to taste the salty delicacy. I knew other people were nearby, but I felt like the ocean was there just for me.
As I left, I felt sad, like a child being picked up from their best friend’s birthday party. But I also felt alive again and ready to engage with the world around me. And I knew that it would be waiting for me, ready to reawaken the dormant parts of my self with every rhythm of its waves the next time I would need it.
Are you in need of some soul restoration? What do you do or where do you go to get it?