Summer temperatures have arrived here in the Sonoran Desert, and, for the second year in a row, I’ve opted not to have a summer vegetable garden. Last year, the decision was more accidental in nature. I was very busy with work and didn’t plant seeds until a month after the gardening experts told me I should. Most of the seeds never sprouted and few young plants could handle the heat. In the end, I decided not to buy plants from greenhouses and chose to allow my garden to become fallow ground for the summer.
This year, three trips to New Mexico in the month of April because of my dad’s failing health and death meant that I faced the same situation: The window for planting seeds evaporated, and the few seeds I did make time to plant weren’t sprouting. As I pondered significant uncertainty in my summer schedule, I decided once again to let my garden become fallow ground. The kale is still growing, and I’m allowing some winter lettuces and Swiss chard to go to seed, but I will not plant anything else until probably September.
As I pondered this decision to embrace a fallow season, I recalled a reflection I wrote during an online workshop led by my friend (and amazing artist) Melanie Weidner back in January. Here is some of what I wrote at the time, as the photograph above came to mind:
The Valley of Elah—the very first place we stopped on the first day of our pilgrimage to the Holy Land last November. An empty field filled with stones, standing fallow between seasons. I’m also fallow between these seasons. Yes, I’m working, but it’s winter in my soul. There’s necessary rest and silence and a stillness in my making. It’s time to acknowledge what is dying and has died and grieve and let them go.
Avoidance is another theme—avoiding the hard questions about what is and isn’t working in my life. Maybe it’s slowly giving myself permission to be as open as a field, as fecund, yet waiting for what will be planted. Being that wild and free of others’ expectations of me: that I plow and plant and work and produce.
Somehow, this is the message: Receive and grieve. Be grateful and still grieving. What I needed 30 years ago is not what I need now. Wildness and freedom, yet I’m handed an empty field.
It will not always be empty.
It will not always be empty. Thank you.
Now, four months later, I’m accepting another fallow season in the garden and grieving what will never flourish and fruit again in the wake of my father’s death. I meant something different when I wrote the words about grief above—yet they speak very clearly in a new way to me now.
Life is like that. We think and expect certain things about how a year or a life will unfold. Then that year unfolds in a very different way. We can fight it or allow it. In this moment, I’m allowing fallow ground, knowing that the stony field will not always be empty.
In what ways do you need to allow fallow ground in your life right now? What griefs do you need to accept?