I have not been a barren woman. I have been blessed with more chairs around my kitchen table than I ever imagined. My womb has known the twinges and tugs of life grasping and straining existence from my own. Yet it is the image of barrenness that clutches at my viscera today.
School has resumed and with it my commute. I transport my seedlings. Twenty-two minutes we drive, past an air force base and a salt mine, but mostly past fields. I relish this time. I am reminded of my rural roots – the wheat, corn and alfalfa fields that yielded up life for me, my family, the neighbors down the road. The acres I drive past today grow flowers, shrubs and plants I can’t even identify – a reminder that at times I, too, have been a seed carried by seasonal breezes.
I am fascinated by the fields in their various stages of growth: some newly sprouted, some ready to be harvested, and stages in between. But it is not the perfect rows of blooming flowers or the determined little sprouts that capture my attention as I drive today. It is the fallow fields, the barren, the ones that have known the slicing blades of the plow. They are brown and empty – or stubbly with the yellowed, dried remains of a crop they birthed in another season. They are not attractive like the verdant and flowering. They are exposed; their frail top layers heedlessly frolic with the fickle wind. Worst of all, they don’t appear to be fruitful. Aren’t appearances “everything?” Do these that are bare yearn to be visibly pregnant with life? Do they long to exemplify the produce of their fertility?
No, I am the one who is uncomfortable with the fallow season. I have been spoiled; I don’t like looking unfruitful, unnecessary. I haven’t learned the secret of dirt: to know to be content with the beauty of emptiness, with the necessity of invisible replenishing, with the purposeful cuts of the plow.