Farmers know that it is foolish to expect a field to produce the same crop, season after season, without rest and amendment. After investing resources and energy to the production of one plant, a field is allowed to lie fallow, sporting a healthy growth of clover. The clover makes fewer demands and even reinvests its nutrients when the cover crop is tilled back into the waiting earth.
The land waits patiently to be called into a new season of useful production. The soil rests and the rain replenishes. The land waits patiently because there is no choice. The farmer designs the crop rotation. The available seeds grow clover. The seasons determine the time for sowing and tilling. The sun shines and the rain falls.
Non-farmer humans often expect that periods of production should stack one on the other in rapid succession with no time for rest or replenishment. We rail at the external forces that sometimes design a different experience and set a different pace than we want. We receive these times between important work, between spurts of growth, between productive sprints with impatience.
What would happen if we reclined in the clover and enjoyed these seasons of rest? How do we learn to live joyfully in fallow fields, in the spaces in between?
When we focus only on the measured parts of our existence, we fall prey to the impatience that views rest, renewal, regrouping, and uncertainty as wasted time and obstacles in themselves. The farmer does not measure the effectiveness of this year’s clover crop in bushels or profit. The farmer doesn’t measure the effectiveness at all. A season of clover is not a measured endeavor. Nor is it the interruption of a production goal. It is the path between one measurable result and the next. It is the way of things when things are working well.
What if we measured our lives in the degree to which we lived in integrity with our cherished values rather than in our output of widgets or degrees or accolades?
We can’t rush these seasons. The farmer does not walk out into the field a week after seeding and tell the clover, “Okay, I did my thing. I planted you. We’re done. The potatoes get planted on Monday.” The clover dictates the end of the season.
Sometimes, fallow fields last longer than expected. Sometimes, a new farmer buys the land and the regular schedule of planting is interrupted. Sometimes it rains too much. Sometimes it doesn’t rain enough. There is no contract to enforce.
Sometimes, our seasons stretch out longer than we expect. We may promise ourselves that we will only or will exactly. Those promises sometimes melt in the face of further setback, continued challenge, distracting opportunity, and dawning awareness.
How can we embrace the time frame of things without feeling like promises broken are more important and more dire than the loss of unexpected promise?
And just as the farmer may, at one time, have fields of clover and fields of corn, we can experience a delay in one area of our lives while other areas are bearing fruit.
How can we balance rest and production on the fertile acreage of our own lives?
What if embracing the rest and the production meant our crops would produce bigger fruit of more useful varieties? What if the clover is the most important crop?