Lying fallow

Someone asked me yesterday what I was doing now that the book was finished. ‘Resting,’ I replied, and then, since we’d met in a work situation, I went on, ‘Resting my mind.’ It was an unconscious clarification, but an accurate one. Without intending or even realising it, I have let go of ideas that have so preoccupied me in recent years. I’ve not seen the Arts Council’s latest policy document or that ‘must read’ journal paper: I don’t even know what they are. I’ve been reading about anything but art. After years of intense thinking, my mind is drifting, like a boat that has slipped its mooring, without purpose or direction.

A school, we learned about crop rotationin Medieval Europe (and used in organic farming now). By planting different crops each season, farmers avoided draining the soil of its nutrients. Each year, they also left a field ploughed but uncultivated – fallow land. Resting the mind is not easy in a world saturated by information, ideas and positions. There’s a cultural imperative to be busy and engaged. Fallow land is unproductive; it’s a small step to judgements like ‘lazy’ or ‘worthless’. But nature has its own imperatives, that we are wise to heed. There is a time to plant and a time to pluck that which is planted. There is a time to keep silence. The art might be restless, but the mind need not always be.