You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water… (Psalm 63:1)
I came to A Rocha six months ago thirsty, my well was nearly empty. I moved here in an act of trust, emerging from a heavy season personally. I’m grateful to have completed two internship terms – 6 months in all – as an agriculture intern.
This psalm quoted above is one among many which have characterized my heart-song in this season. As I’ve been reading through the Psalms, they have informed and mirrored my growth as they ring with themes of thirst, hunger, hurting, satisfaction, praise, awe, and abundance. And as I have rested in them, I have experienced freedom, rest, and presence.
I image my time at A Rocha as a party — a feast that started on May 15th for my summer internship at the Brooksdale Environmental Centre. I arrived at the party a bit nervous and entered the intern house, a house I would share with 13 other interns, and found immediately that it was warm and inviting. I moved into the dining room filled with new faces and scanned the room to get a sense of the crowd. Some had been here a while, others had just recently arrived; some sat comfortably, others seemed a bit uneasy. Soon we made our way to our seats and began to make small talk, warming up to the event that was beginning to unfold and catching whiffs of something rich and delicious that got our stomachs rumbling. One by one the dishes came out. Dishes with flavours I had never tasted before, dishes that got me to thinking, dishes that left me with questions, dishes that opened up new worlds previously unknown, dishes that warmed and comforted, and dishes that inspired me. And I felt in my body a welling of gratitude for the nourishment it was finally receiving. The table was covered in the abundance of food and our cups overflowed. Of course this meal was not absent of sweet treats to delight in. Treats that spiked creativity, demanded appreciation of beauty, and inspired a slowing down to relish in the extravagance of each delicately crafted dessert.
And as we ate we conversed. We dove into conversations deep and mundane and we became more comfortable and settled into the table and the evening. We found ourselves engaging in new ways as this space and this meal did something to us. It led us to connect to each other and our place in a way we had not before. This meal enabled me to rest thoroughly, a type of rest I’d been craving for a long time and had not yet fully felt. As it continued its beautifully paced rhythm, I found myself enabled to be entirely present to the experience.
I realized that in this party there was nowhere else to be, nothing else to be done and no responsibility beyond simply being. In this space of hospitality peace quieted anxiety, hunger was satisfied, and parched lips were quenched. The meal lingered on, no one was pressured to rush off and no one had anywhere else to be. And so, alongside my new community, I dined and reclined at the table and lingered in the sweetness, intimacy of taste, freedom and nourishment of this occasion.
Now, six months later, the feast is coming to a close, and we are grabbing our coats and heading towards the door. And as one often feels at the end of a good party, I feel a sense of sorrow and a desire that it could linger on a little longer. But I know that this party is different than the average party; it is one that’s left me new and that newness will stretch beyond the confines of a meal, as the impact of this time will infuse into each day to come. This meal led me to pay attention to the source of its satisfaction; and no one who has tasted of the source will ever be hungry or thirsty again.
I leave the party inspired to continue to live into abundance and to create that abundance for others and excited to live in the rhythms of work and rest that make space for feasts such as this. I leave committed to caring for land and for people. I have tasted what it is to come to the table, and to feast in the house of the Lord in the company of fellow journeyers, and I feel my spirit well in the abundance of God’s love and presence. I hold with me this lovely image-story as I reflect over this season.
My time at A Rocha has been incredibly powerful. Having come with my well empty, I leave with my well overflowing. I have been filled with peace; I feel freedom; I have experienced what it is to be present to myself and my emotions and experiences and especially to be present to God. I experience this presence in our morning prayers, in walking by the pond on the way to work, in the flower patch, harvesting rotund tomatoes that will fill CSA bins, listening to folk music jams, gawking at the abundance of carrots, reading Annie Dillard aloud around the fire, counting birds in the company of biologists, sharing in a spontaneous meal at our intern home, walking in the woods, and feeling the chills run down my arms as we sing our mealtime prayer. These experiences have reminded me how to be present to the Lord, to others, and the earth. I pray to constantly be reminded of the invitation to come to the table, and that in my consumption at that table I will be always be reminded of the intimacy of eating, transforming and absorbing both food and experience.