For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyard and gather their crops.
But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest.
~ Torah (Leviticus 25)
I wrote in my sabbatical proposal last year: "I intend to develop writing as a spiritual practice...hopeful that with such a practice I will expand my 'resilient zone.'" I was ready to do some deeper inner work. My proposal accepted, I began my fourteen week sabbatical on March 28.
I imagined myself as a fallow field described in the Torah: left unplanted to rest and regenerate, to replenish nutrients depleted from the top soil by crop production. Fallowing "raises levels of carbon, nitrogen and organic matter, improves moisture holding capacity, and increases beneficial microorganisms in the soil." (source) I imagined the benefits of such fallowing for myself.
It wasn't easy. I worried that I should do something, that I might be "wasting" the time. Was it really enough that I use my journal to explore my inner world and "[open] the sacred conversation within" by finding my own words for faith, prayer, sin, love, justice and other religious concepts as directed by Karen Hering in Writing to Wake the Soul? Did it matter that I left the book behind after a few weeks and let myself go undirected?
I came back to work on July 7. Rested. Renewed. Mystified about how that had happened. I read through my journals of those fourteen weeks. So many words. So much inner angst and automatic negative thoughts forced onto the page. And yet, here and there a breakthrough, a re-membering, a surfacing of the deeper nutrients that sustain and enliven me.
Boston, April 26:
I have been aiming for my writing practice to help be a better person, to write about growing up religious, about catechism classes, Sunday observance, creeds, and doctrines. I have thought of my people as a dumb lot who used archaic methods to inspire us to obedience! But today I think they understood something about the magnificence of God, the glory of life, the holiness of each day. Dad was humbled by the wonder of God. "In bruikleen - all on loan" was his affirmation of Psalm 24:1. He was clear that all we have is borrowed.
Brattleboro, May 1:
I sat at the stream marking the New Moon. This came to me: "We are glorious beings on a glorious planet surrounded by Glory." Afterwards from the hot tub I saw the Big Dipper. Glory!
Guilford, May 2:
After reading Cloud Cuckoo Land, I am reminded that the Glory is here. Right now. It's all present. We do not need to travel to the ends of the earth, hoping for a goddess to transform us so we can fly to paradise. Where we are right now is the best of everything. Even Zeno in the POW camp experiences the most most exquisite and awesome moments of his life in the camp -- horrible as it was.
Boston, June 7:
Spiritual practice. Noticing and naming. I am conditioned to be productive, get things done, attend to my task list.
I bumped into this quote by Anton Chekov:
I think human beings must have faith or must look for faith, otherwise our life is empty, empty. To live and not know why cranes fly, why children are born, why there are stars in the sky. You must know why you are alive, or else everything is nonsense, just blowing in the wind.
Why AM I alive? Because the Great Glory pulses life and creates magnificence and in the midst of that pool of microbes and bugs and mammals and grasses and irises and composting germs and viruses are human beings, one of which is me. For now. For the tiniest of windows of time given the billions of years life has been forming and emerging and spinning and procreating.
Breda, June 14
In Finding Me, Viola Davis describes the hard times she has lived through and the hard work she has done to find her deepest comfort. She rests in Love. For God. For Jesus. For all others. Can I rest in the wonder of just being alive? Can I find peace in simply being part of the river of life? Great Glory, I would be free. I would float on the currents of the streams into which I am cast. I would be kind and generous -- to others and myself. I would rest in Love.
It's summer. My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you get some fallow time to rest in Love, delight in Glory. May nourishment rise from your deepest places. And may you be refreshed.