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At first, I thought it was rather ironic that I’ll be on vacation on the feast day of the woman I consider my patron saint (in a completely Reformed way, naturally): St. Martha. But what’s a feast day for except, well, feasting? Even, maybe especially, Marthas deserve a little holiday.

Not that we couldn’t use some work on this front. I saw a New Yorker cartoon last week that really summed it up:

“Fallow” is a very old word, indeed—all the way back into Old English. We’ve long known it’s essential for the land, but I wonder how deliberately we think of strategies for ourselves.

A surgery at the beginning of this summer forced me into a long period of “fallowness.” Doctor’s orders meant a break from work, from important meetings, for rest and more rest and then even more. Some friends wondered how I’d do. Turns out (spoiler alert!) things went just fine without me. And for me, with permission to rest, I did fine, too. Better than fine, actually.

In a culture of productivity, how are you giving yourself space for fallowness? What areas of your life might it be okay to let rest and regenerate for a while? What’s on your “to NOT do” list?

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.


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