This I Believe

Barbara - Tucson, Arizona
Entered on September 12, 2006

I believe in fallow time. In this ancient process, a field remains unplanted and rests, restoring itself so that next season it can once again produce a bountiful crop.

We humans need fallow time, too, but these days, we tell ourselves we can’t permit it. Rest? Take time off? Turn off the cell, or don’t check email 10, or 50, times a day? How will I be able to keep up?

My question is, keep up with what?

In her book “If You Want to Write,” Brenda Ueland wrote, “The imagination needs moodling — long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” I’ve found that my writer-self needs plenty of moodling if my best, most creative work is to emerge. My thoughts need quiet in order to ferment and blend. The process requires undisturbed time in the dark of the barrel so the raw juice can transform itself into a satisfying wine I can enjoy and savor.

As a human being, I need fallow time. If I’m to be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and citizen I can be, I can’t do it on the fly. It’s harder to act with integrity and thoughtfulness if my addiction to moving fast means I can’t ever slow down long enough to consider new possibilities or even to see if my old patterns are still serving me.

Inner progress — the kind that means the most in the long run — requires standing still and taking a breath, some occasional sitting in the quiet. Sometimes that means I have to give myself permission to while away a couple of hours without any pressure to accomplish anything. Other times, it means going about my life, however chaotic it might be, while holding a quiet, positive faith that the changes I desire will occur. It took me years to understand this, and those years were often painful. But eventually, the right livelihood, the right man, and the right home all entered my life. Each one was worth the wait. I’m not a bread-baker, but even I’ve learned you can’t rush the work of the yeast if you want a good, tasty loaf.

So I’ve become an apostle of slowing down, a maven of moodling. I’m learning to let myself go fallow at times, to let transformation root itself down deep in the moistness and the quiet and the dark so that, when the time is right, I will blossom.

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