Fallow Ground

(def)  Fallow:  (of land) plowed and left unseeded for a season or more; uncultivated  2) not in use; inactive

We have moved away from a city. We now live in a place of dairy cows and cherry orchards and tractors that plow dirt and plant seeds and harvest crops.

I drive past fallow land now when I go to the library or grocery.


I like the sound of the word “fallow.” To say, “that field lies fallow” has a lovely cadence. It reminds me of the word “hallowed” which means holy, so I have been pondering the holiness of this unworked, dormant, waiting-to-be-useful land.

Being willing to be useful but finding oneself unused can feel hard, uncomfortable, and discouraging. Who doesn’t want to be valuable to someone or something?

When I was teaching, I was chronically exhausted. To teach well, one is mother, psychiatrist, social worker, philosopher, comedienne, entertainer, judge, pastor, friend, counselor, inspirational speaker, and coach to 100 kids each day. Often I would fall asleep early only to wake in the night to plan better lessons and stew over students or drag myself into my chair to grade the ubiquitous papers that I, of course, had assigned. Now, that I have retired, I don’t miss the work. However, I do miss knowing that I was doing something useful and even, occasionally, significant. My students became better writers. Kids got better at thinking, reading, discussing; sometimes I even watched them become better people. That was gratifying.

Now however, I have not yet figured out what yield will come from this changed life. Some days I stay inside, rarely talking to others. I feed birds, take pictures, read books: any influence I have on anyone else right now is slight. Like those fallow fields, I am waiting to see if anything new will be planted.

I’ll search therefore, while I wait,  for ways to make this fallow field, this fallow life, hallowed and holy.


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