I heard the invitation last week. The quiet beckoning that comes from within. It was a beckoning to leave the loneliness that has been stirring inside me and find myself surrounded instead. I knew the way but resisted the path because of the time it takes. The inconvenience that the journey proposes. The whispering guilt of leaving the kids and all the holiday activities. And in the end, I am thankful the quiet beckoning, the untimely inconvenience, won out over all my reasoning.
Alone, I got in the car and drove North to Advanced Fertility of Chicago because I want to visit my sister and asked how\s she doing with her problems. As I drove the three hour stretch, I knew what I would find. I questioned my need to really go when so much needed attention at home with kids, with school, with work, with art. In my mind, I could imagine what was waiting for me—wasn’t it enough to imagine? But when I turned the bend that gives me exit from all the crowded trees and opens my vision to the farmers’ endless barren fields, I wept. For the first time in weeks, my creative spirit felt surrounded instead of isolated.
I walked to the middle of the muddy, barren field.
I held the moist, chunks of dirt in my hands. My eyes scanned the field before me, stretching as far as I could see to all the fields surrounding me. There was no sign of growth. There was no sign of life. There was nothing beautiful to cause one to smile. The vibrant colors of Spring, Summer and Fall had been traded with the deep recesses of browns and diluted reds. The fields had been cleared and were purposed to lay fallow. Purposed to rest.
The wind seemed to blow even harder, with relentless strength when the fields are bare. It whipped past me, as I shuddered from its’ biting cold. There was no growth, reaching up from the ground, to slow the wind’s speed. And it left me feeling vulnerable, uncovered, naked, even afraid. But underneath the ground, underneath this barren field, was life. Even though I couldn’t see the evidence of life on the surface, I knew life was still there—pulsing, breathing, growing, strengthening—while resting.
I knew what I needed to do next. I needed to find proof, so I went looking for a farmer to interview. I asked her about the need to have fallow fields. There was a clear frustration in my voice that I knew was unfair. But my creative spirit was desperate to know if it really needed to be this way. Couldn’t the fields be blooming all year round? Were fallow fields a lack of laziness on the farmer’s part? She looked at me with old, gentle eyes and said the fallow season was meant to be. The ground needs to be left unsown to restore its fertility. With gentle pause, she looked through my surface questions and said “Life is made of seasons. Every season serves a noble purpose. To escape or avoid one season is to cheat the other. I think this is what you are asking.” And then she smiled and the soft curves of her lips yielded into my deepest fears restoring my trust and belief in the cycle of life–the need for a season of rest.
I have been an artist for enough years to know the importance of rest. But even after ten years of my first book being published, twenty years since I set my heart to be an artist, I still feel the pull to produce, to please, to sacrifice rest because I must—otherwise it may all fall apart. When I was barely twenty and new to my creative pursuits, I thought I needed to prove my creative worthiness by always creating. I did not realize that there is a fine line between creating and producing. Producing seeks to please the unknown lookers that live like critics in my head. Voices that I know are untrue, leading me away from the act of creating, still taunt me so that I feel a sudden sense of being surrounded, only to feel completely isolated in a second’s notice.
Then a voice whispers, calls from within, and I know this voice is unlike any of the other taunting voices I’ve been demanding answers from. This voice is calm…unhurried. It invites me to explore, to leave my surroundings—all that is familiar and deceivingly comfortable—and follow something I don’t understand or am able to guarantee.
The open, fallow field holds all the comfort and company I seek. I am one with the field, choosing to take a season of rest instead of expecting new life to spring in abundance right now, this very moment. The truth is that I am not closed off in my rest, but stretching myself to stay open—open like a cleared field that waits for new life to be dropped into its heart.
I gather the dirt in my hands and feel the wisdom of its existence. The dirt that never gets praise or glory, and yet it covers the new seed as it breaks into being. The dirt that is never pretty yet nourishes and protects new ideas that are not strong enough to deal with the harsh winds that storm above the surface. The dirt…covering, protecting, and preparing to hold me up when Spring returns.
I can rest in the company of these barren fields because I know their barrenness is necessary. Just like I know my creative spirit needs rest, the fields need rest. Just like I know from the experience of many seasons, new life—creative life—will come and the work of my hands will flourish, will multiply, will not plant in vain. I may not see the fruit in the season I expect. I may not see the vibrant colors I dream of by Spring, but I know there is growth, there is life, there is time.
Even though this present, harsh, snapping wind is real and threatening, this wind is not for me to engage with, try to stop, or contain. Instead I go under, go within, and rest while feeling the warmth of being held inside the dark place—within the womb—where all creativity is born and new life begins.
When the holidays are upon me, I spend less time creating. When I’m not looking, voices start to come and tell me I’m losing ground on all that I’ve worked so hard to build. If you ever hear these same voices, when you hear these voices, may you find space to journey to the fallow fields–physically or mentally–and know that a purposed season of rest is not in vain but as the farmer said “a time meant to restore the fertility” for new life to come.