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.