The Fast

Today, my groggy eyes are presented once again with a stunning sunrise.  The sun peeks up at 5:52 like a fiery tangerine hoisted from its nest behind the mountains.  I lift a hand up to protect my eyes, and it is stained orange by the light.  Some of the clouds look like mountains that have simply detached from the earth; both land and sky are permeated by the same pink glow.  Two minutes after the sun rises, on schedule the lights at the seaport switch off.

Climbing onto my bed with a prayerbook in hand, pulling up the curtains, and assessing the sunrise has become one of my fasting rituals.  Most days, a layer of clouds obscures the sun now that we’re finally getting rain, but every once in a while, I am treated to this splendid feast of colors.

The first sunrise of the Fast

For me, the Fast forces heightened consciousness about time and habits.  I’m not saying my focus gets sharper during the Fast; the afternoons are always a struggle between my desire to take a long nap and my need to keep working.  The other day, I bumped into a friend who told me that during the rest of the year, our souls are slaves to our bodies, but now our bodies are slaves to our souls.  An interesting theory, but my stomach is certainly an ill-behaved thrall, kicking and screaming for food.

There is no other time of the year when sunrise and sunset hold so much sway over my habits.  In fact, usually I rarely see the sunrise.  But I also notice other things–for example, over the past two weeks, my sugar cravings have declined, and I have survived on a nominal half-cup of coffee in the mornings.  And getting up at 5:15 gives me so much quiet time before going to the office in which I can write.  I think I might be a closeted earlybird.

I’ve also realized just how close my office is to the upper terraces, the Bahá’í gardens that climb up Mount Carmel.  Without the routine of coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon or the daily trip to the lunchroom at noon, I find myself with more time to go outside and enjoy the scenery and sunshine, which is a form of sustenance in itself.  On one of my photosynthesis strolls with Sergey, I spotted a big praying mantis sitting motionless at the bottom of some terrace stairs, and crouched down to watch this alien-looking creature.  (Have I mentioned I like creepy-crawlies?)  It was the first time I’ve seen a “wild” mantis in ages.  A few days later, we saw what appeared to be an otter scampering through the gardens.  He clarified that it was not a landlubbing otter but rather a mongoose.  All my mongoose knowledge stems from the 1975 movie Rikki Tikki Tavi, which I remember watching on one of my parents’ compiled VHS tapes of children’s films.  It was pretty great to see one in real life, long, sleek, and tawny, though with no apparent cobras in tow.

In fact, many office workers have the same idea and emerge these days.  I wonder if the local gardeners think it’s funny, this yearly exodus of winter-pale Bahá’ís to the outdoors, sniffing the fresh air and clambering up the staircases of our Eden.  Where else in the world would I get to fast with so many other Bahá’ís, who all experience the same hunger pains, sour breath, and low blood sugar afternoons?

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