in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

• Last updated: June 1, 2021

Sunday Firesides: Fill Up Your Canteen

man filling canteen in a river illustration.

In times past, desert nomads kept detailed maps of where oases existed across the scorching landscapes they traversed. Missing these wet, fertile areas, and the chance they offered travelers to fill their goatskin sacks with water, would result in dehydration, and almost certain death, before they reached their next destination.

Today we remain sojourners in an often cruelly arid world. Like the nomads of old, it pays to create “maps” of way stations where we might replenish our “canteens” — to schedule trips, outings, and reunions that will refresh our spirits and give us the sustenance we need to keep moving forward.

Because the oases in our lives are seemingly more frequent and more controllable than those of the desert, we’re apt to take them for granted. Yet the terrain of our lives is even more unpredictable. We approach an oasis marked on our maps . . . only to find it’s since dried up. We put our expectant mouths to a shimmering fountain . . . only to quaff a mouthful of sand — the bitter taste of mirage.

We should thus fill up our psychic canteens at every watering hole we come across, planned or unplanned, big or small, even when we think we’ll be returning to it soon, or that another is just around the corner.

Whenever things quiet down for a minute and finally start clicking; whenever a conversation with family and friends leaves you bathed in an intoxicating glow; whenever you find yourself stirred by an unexpected moment of beauty; drink it in.

A reunion with these people, in this spot, may be much further on than you think. You may not, in fact, ever pass this way again.

So slake your thirst in the moment, and create a store of the experience too — a canteen of sustaining memories to sip on during the indefinite trek to come.

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