I’ve fasted only once. I was with the Minnesota Outward Bound School in Canada and for the three weeks prior to my solo my brigade of ten girls had canoed and portaged from 5 A.M. to 9 P.M. daily — eating an unlimited amount of oatmeal for breakfast, sharing an occasional loaf of doughy bread for lunch, with two bowls of rice apiece for supper. We were always a bit hungry, but the beauty around us filled our souls and generally took our minds off our bellies.

The first day of solo was cold and rainy. I bundled up, and for the entire day could think of nothing but food: fried eggs, toast, butter, jelly, milk, roast beef, potatoes, gravy, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, corn-on-the-cob, beans, carrots, fried chicken, cake, bologna, spinach, strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries, watermelon, pudding, grapes, hot cocoa, Hungarian goulash, and on and on and on. I was restless in body and mind. My stomach ached and growled. I explored the island and found two flat smooth rocks ­ — one to catch the morning and the other the afternoon sun. I waited, but sunset only brought mosquitoes, which got worse as the night progressed.

The next day I awoke early. The sun was shining. The sky was deepest blue. I didn’t feel hungry anymore, only a bit weak. I felt happy to be alone. I took off my clothes and bathed (I didn’t drink any water those four days). I sang, read, wrote in my journal. I sunned naked on the rock and listened to the cries of the loons, heard the water lap-lap-lap, felt at peace with myself and a part of the day. I moved to my afternoon rock. Before sunset, I covered up carefully with a plastic rain jacket and wasn’t so tormented by mosquitoes. I was awakened during the night by a loon, calling out a few feet from me. I sat up. Most of the mosquitoes were gone. I watched the stars and moon, and felt great joy in the stillness of the night.

I woke late the next morning. That day, and the next day. I became progressively weaker, with no thoughts of food whatsoever. I felt a tremendous sense of peace and completeness and clarity. No urge to move or think. I only knew with my whole being that I belonged where I was — sunning naked on a rock on that island.

On the morning of the fifth day, the instructors picked us up from our solo sites. Reunited again, we laughed as we compared sunken cheeks and skinny bodies. We cooked oatmeal but no one wanted to eat. It felt funny to move our jaws again — to eat or to talk. Accustomed to stillness, we spoke very little and lay quietly together in the sun.