Month: January 2021

The Fallow Soil of the Soul

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The pandemic has caused things to be different for many of us, but some of those changes are less predictable than others.  My schedule is just as busy but is a bit more flexible.  Whether for that reason or others, I find myself walking much more this winter at Celery Bog.  This has been a particularly dreary winter.  We haven’t seen the sun much.  As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, that can create significant problems for me.  But walking around Celery Bog, on those cloudy days when the air lays heavy above the bog, I have found a stunning beauty: the trees, barren of their leaves, rise majestic to the sky.  One can smell the dampness of the earth as it returns to itself, the ground pressed firm by decaying leaves.  It is so quiet, so empty, yet so beautiful.

Fallow was the word that came to my mind this week.  I looked it up to see how it was defined.  One definition I found focused on three things that captured my attention:  Fallow ground is ground left unsown for a period of time in order to recover its nutrients and restore fertility as part of crop rotation or to avoid surplus production.  During the winter, while Celery Bog appears quiet and barren, something is still happening.  Nature is restoring itself.

I have to wonder if my newly discovered beauty in the bog and this pandemic are connected.  What if we thought about this as simply a part of nature’s cycle?  What if we considered our lives to be fallow soil during this COVID season?  Fallow ground is ground at rest and many of us in America don’t get enough rest.  During the spring lockdown, statistics revealed that the lack of commute time was resulting in increased sleep for many sleep-deprived Americans.

In Hebrew scripture, God commands a time for rest.  God calls it Sabbath or Shabbat.  He commands it for us and for the land.

NRS Exodus 23:10 For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Many of us, I confess myself included, have tried to carry on life as usual during this pandemic.  We look to technology to help us do everything we were doing before.  But what if we didn’t do everything we were doing before?  What if we could be like the floor of the forest or the stark trees in the bog, embracing this not as a time to produce, but to rest? 

Check out this week’s 20 at Twilight video post to pray and reflect around this scripture and this question.

What’s New

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Seems like most of us were eager to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. But, as my cousin, a therapist, wisely reminds us, our lives don’t change automatically by turning the page on a calendar.

So, New Years Resolutions aside, while actions cement change, the process begins with perspective, I think.

One of the most interesting changes I’ve witnessed over the past two years is my dog, Hope. Yes, my dog. (Frankly, dogs are some of the best “people” I know.) Hope entered our family more than 11 years ago as dog #4. Hope is a submissive dog by nature. She didn’t engage a whole lot with Britt and me. After all, there were three other dogs to compete with… or, in her case, acquiesce to. If I began to pet her, her tail would thump and dog #3, Naomi, would hear it and come running and Hope would promptly leave my presence. All dogs live in the moment, but Naomi made a science out of it. We called her Little Miss Stop and Fast; the most impulsive dog I’ve ever met. Over the years, one by one, the dogs passed. A year and a half ago, we lost our dear Naomi. For the first time in 22 years, Britt and I were down to just one dog. But, we reasoned that, if any dog could handle it, it was Hope since she didn’t seem to require much attention or engagement. I would miss it, though. After 22 years of dog cuddles and being shadowed all over the house (especially by the Dober dogs), I would have to adjust.

But I didn’t.

Hope did.

Hope has more than exceeded my hopes and expectations. She is now an awesome cuddler. She is my #1 workout buddy. She is my constant companion. This once incredibly timid dog has become calm, but confident. Earlier this week, hiking at Cincinnati Nature Center, she had her first chance at age 11 to cross a running stream on a trail. She boldly crossed without apprehension and I told her how proud I was.

I’m proud of her… and a little ashamed of myself. Why did I expect so little of her after Naomi died? Clearly, she had been patiently biding her time and all she needed was opportunity and encouragement to blossom into a true “velcro dog.”

I wonder if my way of seeing Hope may have limited her. And I have to wonder how often I do that with people. Right now, we are such a divided nation. My denomination is divided. Many families are divided. But, what might change if we began to see one another differently, adjusted our perspective? What if we began to assume (rightly) that we all have the capacity to evolve? Will everyone react like Hope and rise to meet the challenge? Of course not. But even if just a few of us can grow along the way, it’ll be a better 2021.

Happy New Year.