What did you do this year that you enjoyed, that was different from other years? One of the things I did this year was to start to garden.
I’m sure that’s not so different from many other people. Remember March and April, when the pandemic first hit and we had no idea how virulent or contagious this virus was? When we would wipe down groceries and Amazon packages before we brought them into the house? Well, that’s when we set up three plots of vegetables in our backyard. It would be nice, we reasoned, to have food here, in case, well, in case of an apocalypse. We planted easy things to start with: beans, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumber, herbs. I loved the rhythm gardening gave me, in a time when life rhythms were so out of whack: wake up, water the garden, weed, sleep, repeat. Life returned to simple routines and simple pleasures. Gardening offered an island of calm before I had to face the chaos of the day — news full of rising Covid cases, hospitalizations, death.
It is now December. We are in lockdown again. It’s Christmas, and we still can’t see our friends and family. It’s vacation time, and we can’t go anywhere. We have been Zooming all year. And we are tired. We’ve got cabin fever. I get it. It’s been a lonely year for me too. So I’ve been taking comfort in the concept of “fallow.”
What is fallowing? According to the site, Gardening Know How, “Fallow ground, or fallow soil, is simply ground or soil which has been left unplanted for a period of time. In other words, fallow land is land left to rest and regenerate. A field, or several fields, are taken out of crop rotation for a specific period of time, usually one to five years, depending on crop. Fallowing soil is a method of sustainable land management that has been used by farmers for centuries in regions of the Mediterranean, North Africa, Asia and here in the US.” Crop fields benefit from fallowing. Allowing the soil to have a specific rest period gives it time to replenish nutrients which can be leached from certain plants or regular irrigation.
I think that’s what we are doing. We are retreating from the busyness of our modern lives — the daily commute, the soccer games, the happy hours, the dinner parties. We are re-centering on family — the people closest to us, by blood or by choice. We are taking ourselves out of commission for some period of time. We are resting. We are regenerating. We are allowing inner resources that are buried deep within us a chance replenish and rise to the surface — creativity, clarity, resilience, equanimity, compassion.
Look, no one wishes to be in this position — quarantining again. But life doesn’t always ask you what you want. You have to play the cards you’re dealt. in 2015, we were dealt the “Your son and his best friend have been killed” card. That was a sucky card. This year, we have been dealt the Coronavirus card. So here is what I have been telling myself:
Rest. Don’t fight it. Allow yourself to lie fallow. Allow inner resources you’ve been using all along to replenish. Take in the good air around you — all those good things you’ve taken for granted before the pandemic: birdsong, sunsets, strong coffee, bike rides, Netflix.
I hope you consider the same. I hope you can sit with the idea of sitting fallow. When we come out of this, we’ll be better for having had this rest.