Refreshment

Long about now when we are tired of winter, tired of dirty snow, and old routines, we long for something fresh. To mull refreshment seems a good thing in the month of March.

Phrases Posted on Facebook, March 2022

True refreshment can’t be commanded. Preparing and eating a sumptuous feast with all we think is delicious is a lovely treat for the palate, but it won’t come anywhere near touching the source from which true refreshment comes. Gunther Klinge, the poet, wrote: “The meaningful/the significant/cannot begin/on time.”
Here’s a little memory that continues to refresh me. I am in my early forties, lost in the back streets of Florence, Italy and see a shop with an Italian and English name.
I go in to get directions hopefully in English. There, a suave Italian man with finely tooled leather shoes, a purple silk shirt, eyelashes a woman could die for and very white teeth, meets me. “How can I help you madam?” he asks. “I’m lost,” I blurt out. He breaks into a wide smile, every tooth gleaming and says, “You don’t look like a person who gets lost easily. Enjoy it.” I still am enjoying that advice. That shopkeeper didn’t rescue me, but I learned a lot about being refreshed.
A cold drink on a hot day. Bare feet on warm sand. The breeze on a summer evening. A belly laugh. A needed cry. Refreshment is found in reception and appreciation.
Here’s a good description from Brother Steindl-Rast of how refreshment and gratitude are linked: “The universe is gratis. It cannot be earned, nor need it be earned . . . Gratefulness is the heart’s full response to the gratuitousness of all that exists . . . In gratefulness we open ourselves to the gratuitous universe and so we become graced with it. And in doing so, we learn to move gracefully, as in a universal dance.”
It’s amazing to me to realize that the body sheds what is old continually and renews itself with new cells all the time. Why not ask “what can be shed today in whatever realm” and so participate in refreshment?
Rescind, resolve, relent, refrain, reapply realize, reaffirm, reimagine. Refreshment doesn’t happen as a onetime thing, but is repeated in many recurring ways. Yay for “re’s” – they return us to sanity.
Reading the following quote by Paul Kingsworth refreshed me, and I hope it will you as well: “Is it possible to see the future as dark and darkening further without collapsing in despair? . . . If you don’t feel despair in times like these, you are not fully alive. But there has to be something beyond despair, too; or rather something that accompanies it, like a companion on the road . . . I am going to pick up (my scythe) and go and find some grass to mow. I am going to cut great swaths of it . . . I am going to walk ahead, following the ground . . . I am going to breath the still-clean air and listen to the still-signing birds and reflect on the fact that the earth is older and harder than any machine that is eating it–that it is indeed more resilient and fragile–and that change comes quickly when it comes, and that knowledge is not the same as wisdom.”
What do we repeat and make new again and again . . . another half hour of dread over the pandemic and war news . . . losses in the market . . . fear filled predictions of the future? Here’s what the elementary school teacher, Justin Minkel wrote: “Instead, I’ll look at my 12-year old daughter in the eyes and ask, “How are you doing, Baby Goose?” I’ll accept my son’s challenge to a muddy soccer game in the backyard. I’ll take him by the hand and walk up our mountain one more time, grateful that during a crisis when all we have is each other, “each other” is exactly what we need.”
I don’t know about you, but I can be refreshed by a good conversation, a meeting of minds that leads to mutual discoveries. I’d like to share a lovely thing my brother told me. He said he could sit for hours in silence with his father-in-law. When it was over, his father-in-law would clap him on the shoulder and say, “That was a good conversation.”
There is no better refreshment than “to love again and again” this broken, beautiful world and to be ready and open for amazement.
Walking in Wilcox Park in RI it only takes a minute to be refreshed. One can meet a trundling toddler who leads the way with eyes full of curiosity and no judgment.
Dogs wag their tails. The Carolina Wrens are busy building nests. What may I contribute to these refreshments if not a ready participation and grateful recognition?
Have you ever seen a pond choked with weeds? It’s a sad sight. For the pond to be refreshed and to come alive again it would need steady outlets. We need that, too, when we are feeling depressed, stagnant, listless and spent. Letting go of useless things and tasks helps. Creative expression lifts us out of the doldrums. Either way, what’s still alive in us wants an outlet and wants to flow. Life is always moving and it wants us to join in.
Seemingly all by myself in the women’s locker room at the YMCA, I heard some sweet singing. For a moment it sounded like a bird, and I peeked around a bay of lockers. There was a woman humming to herself. She smiled. I smiled. “I’m happy,” she said. “It’s spring!” I want to believe that my happiness can be as refreshing as this woman’s happiness was for me. Surely humming happiness to ourselves can turn out to be humming happiness for others.
It’s often the smallest things that turn out to refresh us: an unexpected call from an old friend, a bird that won’t fly away but looks us in the eye without fear, finding something forgotten in a coat pocket that is just what we need. Perhaps when we count refreshments we are really counting blessings.