When we share nourishment

20 01 2019



breakfast 2

The daily ritual of sharing food

Sometimes the simplest actions can reveal significant needs.  Our horses live together in a small family group and every day they share food. During the winter this means gathering around a huge fragrant bale of fermented hay, sweet as pineapple. I love to watch them pull mouthfuls from the warm core. I love to listen to their contented munching and hear their sighs of satisfaction. Watching them close their eyes, I sense that they have everything they need.

It is not always so for us. True satisfaction eludes us when we race through mealtimes or forget to pay attention to what we are eating. When we eat at our desks or in our cars or on the street while talking on our phones. We forget that one of the joys of eating is that it is profoundly social. A meal shared with others is an enriching experience, a time to appreciate the care that has gone into preparing the meal, a time when our way of eating becomes visible to others, no longer a hasty, private affair, but an act of nourishment.

When we are well fed, nourished and noticed, we thrive. Horses spend most of their time grazing. Sharing food in close connection forms a large part of their daily social life. When we enter their meal space, they will often nibble grass around our feet, even though they could move on to graze somewhere fresh. In winter, when they eat their breakfast of soaked sugar-beet, alfalfa, linseed and seaweed, they use touch, nosing from bowl to bowl, sometimes sharing one bowl together, sometimes eating singly.

Watching horses eating, there’s something deeply absorbing about the breath and sweetness of nostrils moist with feed, the cold raindrops in the bare trees, the small brown birds picking through droppings. Ordinary moments become extraordinary.

Watching another living being eat, our thoughts naturally turn to our own sense of what it means to be fed. Sometimes the knowledge of what we need is surprising. One little girl watching the horses said that she rarely eats breakfast at home. She would like to. She would like to have something to eat at the start of every day. Her small voice affirmed this simple truth, and as she shared it, her request was understood by someone who cared and who will see that she does not start the day hungry.

Small matters and small voices create our shared experience of humanity.  There is sometimes so much beauty and truth in what may seem so mundane. When I think of times when someone has helped me to feel more nourished, small gestures of kindness come to mind: the hot water bottles warming my bed; the loving messages and two-hour phone calls; the dog resting her head on my lap; the coffee in a warmed cup, the supper dish fresh out of the oven.

It’s easy to impoverish our own lives when we overlook what truly matters.



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