“LJ, I see the other arks,” shouted Annie. She ran down the stairs from the upper deck. “It looks like there are about five heading our way.”
LJ looked through the telescope in the navigation room. “Yes, I see, and there are more behind them.”
The couple had not seen other survivors for six months. This gathering is the fourth since the end of earth. Due to the destruction of the planet because of global warming, they and their fellow environmentalists live on arks. The massive boats are now home to all that is left of humanity and earth’s biodiversity.
The arks move into a close circle so bridges can link them. The suspensions are made by the bamboo ark, whose sole purpose is to grow bamboo for all construction needs. In the middle of the circle is the biggest ark of all, Destiny. It functions as the governing, medical, and spiritual center. It also hosts the Gathering. It takes most of the day for the bridges to be put in place. By early evening, they are, and the visiting begins. The happiness at seeing one another is palpable. Ark life is intense, grueling, and lonely. The deep sadness at the loss of the earth is a constant emotion that many experience, so trips to Destiny are common. It is the refuge center, a place of comfort and support. This week, however, it is the party place. As each boarded, they confirmed what they are contributing to the celebration. In charge of the ark of seed agriculture, Annie and LJ are providing seeds for winter gardens and vegetables and fruit for the meal. It takes two days to prepare, and the joy of working together is like the balm in Gilead, comforting and uplifting.
The following day, the start of the festivities dawned with a blue sky and warm sun.
“Sojourner, it is so good to see you,” said Annie as she hugged the spiritual leader. “I am looking forward to hearing you speak; you are a great source of inspiration to me.”
Sojourner threw her arms around her friend and exclaimed, “I am happy to see you and LJ. I have missed you two. Before we eat, I plan to start with a word or two of gratitude and ask everyone to share theirs. I always look forward to hearing yours, Annie. We have survived much, but you consistently find a way of interjecting joy.”
Annie smiled, “Thank you. I agree, beginning our meal this way is beneficial. Mindfulness and words of gratitude help calm our nervous system, which allows for effective digestion. Once this happens, our body can extract the maximum amount of nutrients from food. If we eat in a state of hurriedness or stress, our body is in a fight or flight mode; the stress hormone cortisol is released, which increases glucose into the bloodstream. Our blood pressure rises, the digestive system shuts down, and much of what we eat is stored as fat.”
“Walk with me, Annie,” said Sojourner. “I want to hear more. Suppose it is true that a relaxed state is helpful before eating. What do you recommend we do while eating?”
“Mindful chewing is the next step. When we make a habit of chewing each bite 20-30 times before swallowing, it helps your saliva break down food, which is another way our body extracts the largest amount of nutrients. Chewing slowly prevents overeating, contributes to a feeling of fulness, and helps avoid unnecessary snacking. In addition to chewing slowly, we should put the fork down between bites. This helps us tune into our body and become aware of its signals about fullness. Also, it is a good way to savor the taste and texture of the food and really enjoy it.”
Sojourner stopped and looked out at all the arks and the bridges that connected them. Music and other sounds of celebration floated across the water. She smiled, “I am beginning to understand the importance of mindful chewing. Is there more?”
“Yes, the twenty-minute meal is vitally important. When we intentionally take that amount of time to eat, we give our stomach that time to communicate with our brain that we are full.When we eat too fast, we pile on calories we do not need, which gets stored as fat.”
“Annie, it sounds like expressing gratitude, chewing food 20-30 times, putting the fork down between each bite, and taking at least twenty minutes to eat is a practice that makes meals a source of relaxation and renewal?”
“Definitely these steps, coupled with eating alongside family and friends, like today, gives us time to unwind, enjoy one another’s company, savor the food, and get its maximum nutritional benefits.”
“I appreciate what you have shared with me,” said Sojourner. “Food represents nurturing. It engages all our senses and fills our need for emotional and physiological sustenance. It unifies us and is why we gather.”
Annie and LJ are a fictional couple introduced to the Healthy Healing Eats blog in January 2020. Their storyline promotes healthy
eating and earth-friendly practices.