Monday, February 24, 2014

Fallowness and Quaker Renewal: A Prairie?

So a friend and I were e-chatting the other day about spiritual dryness and renewal of the Quaker movement in the US and Canada.  That’s not unusual.  I talk with my friends about that a lot.  In that conversation, I said, “I'm hoping we can till spiritual soil in ways that encourage deep sharing and drop seeds of new life in new places and in fields that have lain fallow perhaps.”

Fallow is concept that didn’t use to mean much to me.  Especially when I lived in the city.  But now that I’m on the farm and trying to get a tall grass prairie going, fallow is concept I can relate to.  All winter I’ve been looking out my office window at the prairie covered in deep snow.  Now, after our recent warm-up, the snow is gone.  I walked through it the other day.  It looks dead – grasses dry bent low, mud all around.  Then one of my cats caught a mouse there.  Hmmm, not exactly what I was hoping for, but still a sign of life.

So I’ve begun to understand the concept of fallow.  The prairie went unseeded last year.  Uncultivated.  It is land at rest.  It is waiting.  The seeds planted two year ago have been at work putting down roots.  Prairie grass is like that.  It goes deep.  Then it spreads.  The results are rarely seen above ground for two or three years.  The coming summer will be the third year since planting and cultivation.  It should be the year that the grasses really take off.  Life should abound.

As I also told my friend, it seems to me that many Quaker meetings are like a fallow prairie at rest.  Their spiritual soil is not dead.  It has just been quiescent, like a field out of production. Now it is ready to be tilled, planted, tended, and will spring forth with spiritual fruit.

Then my friend asked (she’s really good at questions), “So…
·         tilling = ?
·         planting = ?
·         seeds of life = ?
·         soil = ?
·         deep soil = ?
·         shallow soil = ?
·         plants = ?
·         fruit = ?
Indeed!  What do those things equal for Friends today -- for the Quaker way which we love and want to share?

Stay tuned…


Diane said...

Pairies are rich with imagery, here is something I wrote some years ago--during early trauma o the aids epidemic when we were caregivers to the young men who were dying so quickly.

prairie fires

The fire rips through the prairie. For miles, everything is devastated, blackened by the fire; not a speck of green remains. How long before this prairie recovers from this summer accident, the lightning or train spark that started the burning, spread by the strong prairie winds? Fall passes, winter snow and rain, and then in the Spring--the prairie returns, grasses strong and tall. How can this be? The prairie grasses have deep roots, so deep that the fire left them untouched, and after a season of dormant renewal return stronger than ever, uninhibited by competition from the shallow rooted plants, wiped out by the fire. Elsewhere the white man has protected these prairies from the fire, and in doing so killed them. Slowly the shallow rooted plants take over, crowding out, choking, dwarfing the now endangered prairie species which could thrive again if only there would be a fire.

We caregivers are like the prairie grasses whose deep roots are in fact strengthened from being "burned out". We, too, periodically require a period of regrowth, necessary for our continued survival. We get burned out and go into a period in which nothing seems to be happening outwardly, but below the surface our roots are deeper and stronger and growth is occurring. We are not overwhelmed, dwarfed by the shallow competing interests of the world; they have been wiped out in the face of our loss. Those frightening fires and dormant periods are necessary for our continued growth and survival as deep rooted and graceful beings.

Brent Bill said...

Thanks, Diane!