At first, nourishment feels like a warm concept. The word is wet, smacking around inside my mouth like gooey dark chocolate, enveloping my body like bath water drawn from hot underground springs. I think of a video about outdoor education which I screened with my colleagues years ago, back before I started my business and they left theirs. Together we watched footage of adolescent misfits dipping their paddles in water and preparing food over a fire. They were telling each other starlit stories about stepping away from the challenges of daily life and how going into the world of the river and forest has been nourishment for their souls. My colleagues and I had all the feels.
We wanted to experience that form of nourishment for ourselves and to bring it to others via a unique learning center. which never took form. In many ways, nourishment is like that for me. I feel it really deeply… and then I don’t. I periodically wonder why this relationship is so complicated.
Nourishing, related to the idea of nurturing, is about providing care for someone or something an helping them to grow — physically, spiritually, intellectually. The implication is that this growth is healthy, but something about it feels gratuitous to me. Nourishment is not sustenance. Nourishment provides something extra—desired, and perhaps useful, but ultimately unnecessary. Nourishment is a luxury concept, so to speak.
Normally, I wouldn’t shirk at this type of luxury. My thinking is far from Puritanical, and my concept of morality is notably gray. I set out deliberately in much of my writing to shake contemporary culture awake to the idea that hard work and determination do not always equal a fulfilling life. I believe that pleasure for pleasure’s sake can sometimes be a powerful source of healing, all by itself. It’s a concept which comes up often in my present activism for marijuana law reform, where I stand on the side of responsible use for all. Yet, what I encounter, especially in my home state of Georgia, is strong support for medical use and strong skepticism toward anything else. Despite the powerful movement to end the war on drugs, marijuana continues to carry a stigma. While it may treat the symptoms of certain diseases, altered consciousness as a form of general nourishment is still a foreign concept to many people. Perhaps, this example holds the answer to my complicated relationship with nourishment.
I’m challenged by the feeling that some things are viewed as inherently nourishing while others are not. I respect that every activity holds within it some intrinsic level of risk and benefit. However, I also believe that virtually everything can be practiced in a responsible, and even nourishing, fashion. Of course, I must emphasize the responsibility of each individual in recognizing what this means for him/her/them and actively seeking out forms of nourishment that resonate with his/her/their life. Ultimately, my colleagues’ and my inability to focus on the types of nourishment that authentically complemented our daily lives is why the outdoor learning center never came to fruition.
But now, giving and receiving nourishment is a personal adventure. Sometimes, it’s as simple as tattoos and tea. Other times, it’s filled with crossroads and contradictions. One recent example was a lovingly gifted trip to spend the night at a local spa, yet this promise of nourishment reminded me of jail. Oddly, I found great relief when I “escaped” the next morning and stood in the parking lot, drinking soda and admiring the rising sun. Conversely, tackling long car trips and challenging homework assignments with my children have nourished me with unexpectedly insightful conversations and tender moments, seemingly born from gratitude at sticking it out with them and connecting.
It strikes me that anything received with gratefulness can nourish us. In this sense, nourishment may not be gratuitous after all, but rather the natural result of living with gratitude for each moment.
Kelli Lynn is the co-founder of TerraTonz LLC and an advocate for human rights and plant medicine. A lifelong, Georgia-based writer, she invites you to support her work via www.patreon.com/kellilynn.