Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fallow ground

Sometimes I get frustrated because I'm not moving at the speed of a jet, solving every problem I see in the world. I wish I had more energy to do more, learn more, move more, more, more...

As though I am a factory farm with a necessary yield to be measured only in terms of ever more from ever less. Yields not good? Dump in something new - whether it be coffee or a new activity to me or a new herbicide for the farm. And yet, sometimes the best thing you can do is to lie fallow, where anything that comes up is a gift. Last night, I found myself thinking about fallow ground. A friend of mine is running herself ragged as she and her husband attempt to work a particular project - a very worthy project, but not one that can be done by two people alone on a consistant basis. I would like to help them, but I just don't have the energy to be the consistant help they need, and am afraid of further miring up an already mired down situation.

And I wonder if perhaps the help I can be is to help her find some relief in the occasional *not* doing, *not* keeping up with everything, but learning to let go of those constant expectations of keeping every minute productive, and rediscovering fallow time - time to sit and let yourself percolate, time to rediscover yourself. As my husband pointed out to me, Darwin didn't write his Origin of Species until 8 years after his trip on the Beagle. He needed time to lie fallow, to think, to reflect.

Yeah, weeds come up in fallow fields, but let's look at those volunteers, shall we? Queen Anne's Lace is really wild carrot, and does wonders for loosening up soil. (It also makes this really neat kinda pink jelly.) That old pokeweed I mentioned earlier this year also has its uses: some folks eat the boiled leaves when the plant is still young and the toxins aren't as strong, and of course, there's that bright pink dye you can get from the berries, and that toxin doesn't bother birds, so if they're eating poke, they're not eating all the blackberries. Grasses fix the soil in place and prevent erosion. Dandelions make delicious salad greens when young, and are pure beauty when yellow, and pretty and fun when they go to seed. Sweet and sour is a treat just to chew on. Wild onions and garlic - well, enough said. And the best thing is that you don't know what's going to be there or not, so whatever you get is pure gift, something to be thankful for, an extra. Fallowness lies in recognizing that these are gifts to be treasured while they are here, but knowing that they are temporary gifts, not guarantees.

For me, it's like the little figures I get at the end of folding origami - they're totally an extra. The joy is in the folding, the feel of the paper, the crisp lines, the very complexity of the whole thing. And afterwards, I even get a little paper thing that other people enjoy getting. Bonus. In the same way, a day spent doing "nothing" is wonderful. At the end of it, I may have a few inches of knitting, a book read, some visiting, and a recipe done, but those are all incidental to the purpose of the day, which is to relax, to not expect anything out of myself. I didn't tell myself I'll get that book read, but it looked interesting and happened to be to hand when I felt like reading. There was no "need" to knit, except that my hands felt restless. Yeah, maybe I planned that recipe, but cooking and visiting are naturals for fallow days.

Maybe I'll invite my friend out with me this weekend to come be lazy with me this weekend.

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Blogger Lorcan said...

Maybe it is the appraoch of fall, for some, frankly I love the fall and winter... but I notice many of the blogs are a bit... taking a breather... Rich in Brooklyn has not written a word since early July! Amanda... I've fallen off a bit... well... thinking of thee and all even if we are not pouring out words...

9/15/2006 2:03 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Oh, I'm definitely enjoying the fall - while most of the trees are still green outside my window, one has turned the most lovely scarlet, and another is touched with orange. The pigeons which have claimed the balcony for their own, however, are ruffling their feathers agains the light mist coming down.

And now, I'm thinking about what kind of cocoa to have after lunch - I still have a few packets of marzipan cocoa, and of course I have a bar of Mexican cinnamon cocoa. Oh, the angst of having to choose...

And it's beginning to be cool enough to do hotdish (casserole) again. I'm looking forward to another thing next month besides travel, too. I hope that my trip doesn't take me out of town just as the sugar pumpkins come in. Hot pumpkin over rice is one of my favorite dishes for fall, and I confess - I'm a pumpkin pie addict - with real pumpkin, thank you very much. (Commercial "pumpkin pie filling" is often made with squash. Meh.) I'm just sad that I'm out of pumpkin preserve - chuncks of pumpkin preserved in a sugar syrup with chuncks of lemon peel - I'd serve it with a cheese spread I make out of sharp cheddar, cream cheese, and a curry mix that I really like for this application (and for "curried fruit" - mix the powder and some canned fruit. Bake in the oven until you get some brown spots. Serve during blizzards. Yum.)

9/16/2006 9:30 AM  
Blogger Don said...

I like what you've written. Too much emphasis is placed on life an a+b=c proposition. It is more like (a+b)x fallow =c if you get my drift. I was sitting with the idea of learning to fly for years and then it happened when it was supposed to. Same with soaring and everything else I can think of. The weeds or what we/I might call weeds are all part of the journey. I have a friend who says the spiritual life is more like a bowl of spaghetti than a straight line. Thank you again for great sharing.

9/17/2006 5:43 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

One of the things I recently realized was that my favorite two jobs of all time had both had fallow time built into them. When I worked at Head Start as an assistant teacher, it could sometimes be exhausting, but there was time between classes to regather myself. There was time to sit and read - admittedly, I was reading aloud and simply surrounded by kids who wanted to hear whatever I was reading, which meant my books were more likely to be Dr. Seuss, but kid's books have a lot more in them than people suppose.

Many years later, I worked for the State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a program of the Library of Congress to provide alternative format books to people who could not otherwise have them - braille, large print, or a special kind of tape. Mornings there might be considered boring by some, but for me, they were time to let my mind contemplate whatever it wanted while my hands did the work of first gathering all the books to be sent out in the mail, and later shelving the ones that came in. We worked in teams at first then broke up to complete the work that couldn't be done together, shifting thousands of books. Which left me ready to face the afternoons, where I would sit at the phones, contacting people to talk to them about their book preferences, so that we could send them out their initial books.

9/17/2006 8:24 AM  

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