Sharpened Senses

Thing feels a bit different to me now. Everything seems new. I seem to have a new way of perceiving the events of the days. Every experience is heightened. Every meal, every encounter, every bird song, every branch moving in the wind. It’s not that things matter more now than they did before. I’m simply more aware.

Part of this is no doubt caused from my renewed sense of mortality. But part of it, I’m sure, is caused by fasting. Fasting sharpens one’s senses. It can make you feel high. I know this from when I was lying in a hospital bed last February, after surgery, and I had nothing to eat for 11 days. On day 12, the doctor gave me permission to eat and I ate a small pot of yogurt. I ate it very slowly, one tiny spoontip at a time, with my eyes closed. And it was the best yogurt I had ever tasted. Of course if was a superior yogurt to begin with, home-made by Lori from Mary’s cow’s milk. But that day it acquired a magical quality. It really was the best thing I had ever tasted.

Later that day, Diane brought me some of her home-made turkey broth, made from one of Josh’s Thanksgiving turkeys. That too tasted oh so divine… I sipped it slowly, letting it my fill my body and my soul. I will never forget that broth, the flavor of it still vivid in my memory all these months later.

I have such good friends.

Those tasting experiences reminded me of Meryl Streep saying Sophie’s wonderful and poignant line from the movie Sophie’s Choice:

Sophie: Mmm. You know, when you… when you live a good life… like a saint… and then you die, that must be what they make you to drink in paradise.

I was discharged from the hospital the following day and Lori took me home. When I stepped out of the hospital’s front door the cool fresh air enveloped me like a healing balm. The sun was shining and it warmed my skin. And everything I looked at seemed incredibly sharp. The drive home felt like the first time I had ever been in a car. It was familiar, yet it also felt entirely new. The mountains looked more beautiful than they had ever been. And the people in the streets looked like inhabitants from another planet. I was clearly still on a fasting high, even though I had just eaten spaghetti and meatballs from the hospital kitchen – and even that tasted fantastic!

After Lori dropped me home, I spent two hours in a rocking chair on the back porch because I didn’t have my house keys. I heard the bird songs, I saw the lizards doing their push-ups, and I smelled every whiff of the stables next door. It was a glorious day. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony might as well have been playing in the background.

Four months later, I am fasting again, for five days every other week, to help reduce the side effects of chemo. And again, my senses are heightened, not just during fasting, but also in between fasting. Many things I’ve done before feel like I am doing them for the first time. Like driving my car, or walking around the block, or cooking a meal.



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