I’ve been in the Sinai desert twice in my lifetime. The first was in spring of 1979. It was a pilgrimage of sorts where I and 2 friends camped on the beach of the Red Sea. We worked hard at staying hydrated, buying a block of ice each morning from the local canteen that provided drink throughout the day. In that kind of heat, a person doesn’t perspire in beads of sweat because the desert air drinks from the skin as fluid expires.
The last time I set foot on the Sinai was with my husband on our way from Jordan through Eilat. We bunked at the hostel near Masada so we could make the pre-dawn hike to the ruins and take in a desert sunrise. It was dark and hot at 4am when we began our ascent but we stayed hydrated and coolish with sweet water. That same day, we drove to Nazareth after a brief stroll through the garden of En Gedi.
Halfway to Nazareth I began experiencing what I now know was heat stroke — severe headache, nausea, dizziness and confusion. By the time we reached the inn all I wanted was a dark room and ice for my blistering mouth, unsettled stomach and aching head. Water alone did not relieve my symptoms and it took 2 days before I recovered enough to stand.
I struggled the remainder of that trip through Israel and Turkey to stay well (apparently dehydration is cumulative) and have since learned the importance of replenishing electrolytes in the hydration process. I now carry NUUN tablets, that fizz in water and provide necessary minerals to stave off dehydration. Wearing a hat helps too.
My physical response to overexertion and dehydration spills over to the metaphysical. When I exceed my personal limitations, ignoring the signs that my soul needs replenishing, I face burnout — heat stroke of the soul. And my limitations are experienced differently than yours — similarly, while I suffered from a depleted biological state, my husband plodded along like a camel although our water intake was the same. I am growing to accept that am more sensitive to dehydration in all areas of my life than most people and am only just learning to attend carefully to the reality.
In my corner of the world today we are experiencing a drought — highly unusual for a rain forest, even in summer! Watering restrictions mean triage when it comes to which plants I water and which I let die. With extra fertilization and drip hoses laid at the roots of my fruiting plants to mitigate evaporation — strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are flourishing in the heat. I am gardening with care and seeing good fruit as a result.
Can the same process carry significance for the hydration of my soul? When my inner reserves are depleted, I have already exceeded my threshold of production, perhaps without even knowing it. Sometimes it takes someone else to point it out to us. They may ask, “What keeps you going anyway?” Rod Wilson in his insightful book, How Do I Help a Hurting Friend, talks about the beautiful tapestry of production and replenishment, where imbalance leads to sensual deprivation — unawareness of our 5 senses — and the way balance is restored through sensual attentiveness, hydration at our roots. What we need, he says, is creative rhythm to our lives where Sabbath rest is the joyous NUUN, mineral-rich still water where restoration takes place.
In the garden of life, I believe that good fruit is the expression of a flourishing soul. May yours be sweet and abundant.