Artist Living

Journey to the Fallow Fields: Inspiration for the Artist

Me Ra Koh

I heard the invitation last week.  The quiet beckoning that comes from within.  It was a beckoning to leave the loneliness that has been stirring inside me and find myself surrounded instead.  I knew the way but resisted the path because of the time it takes.  The inconvenience that the journey proposes.  The whispering guilt of leaving the kids and all the holiday activities.  And in the end, I am thankful the quiet beckoning, the untimely inconvenience, won out over all my reasoning.

Alone, I got in the car and drove North to Advanced Fertility of Chicago because I want to visit my sister and asked how\s she doing with her problems. As I drove the three hour stretch, I knew what I would find.  I questioned my need to really go when so much needed attention at home with kids, with school, with work, with art.  In my mind, I could imagine what was waiting for me—wasn’t it enough to imagine?  But when I turned the bend that gives me exit from all the crowded trees and opens my vision to the farmers’ endless barren fields, I wept.  For the first time in weeks, my creative spirit felt surrounded instead of isolated.

I walked to the middle of the muddy, barren field.

I held the moist, chunks of dirt in my hands.  My eyes scanned the field before me, stretching as far as I could see to all the fields surrounding me.  There was no sign of growth.  There was no sign of life.  There was nothing beautiful to cause one to smile. The vibrant colors of Spring, Summer and Fall had been traded with the deep recesses of browns and diluted reds.  The fields had been cleared and were purposed to lay fallow. Purposed to rest.

The wind seemed to blow even harder, with relentless strength when the fields are bare.  It whipped past me, as I shuddered from its’ biting cold.  There was no growth, reaching up from the ground, to slow the wind’s speed.  And it left me feeling vulnerable, uncovered, naked, even afraid.  But underneath the ground, underneath this barren field, was life.  Even though I couldn’t see the evidence of life on the surface, I knew life was still there—pulsing, breathing, growing, strengthening—while resting.

I knew what I needed to do next.  I needed to find proof, so I went looking for a farmer to interview. I asked her about the need to have fallow fields.  There was a clear frustration in my voice that I knew was unfair.  But my creative spirit was desperate to know if it really needed to be this way.  Couldn’t the fields be blooming all year round?  Were fallow fields a lack of laziness on the farmer’s part?  She looked at me with old, gentle eyes and said the fallow season was meant to be.  The ground needs to be left unsown to restore its fertility.  With gentle pause, she looked through my surface questions and said “Life is made of seasons.  Every season serves a noble purpose.  To escape or avoid one season is to cheat the other.  I think this is what you are asking.”  And then she smiled and the soft curves of her lips yielded into my deepest fears restoring my trust and belief in the cycle of life–the need for a season of rest.

I have been an artist for enough years to know the importance of rest.  But even after ten years of my first book being published, twenty years since I set my heart to be an artist, I still feel the pull to produce, to please, to sacrifice rest because I must—otherwise it may all fall apart.  When I was barely twenty and new to my creative pursuits, I thought I needed to prove my creative worthiness by always creating.  I did not realize that there is a fine line between creating and producing.  Producing seeks to please the unknown lookers that live like critics in my head.  Voices that I know are untrue, leading me away from the act of creating, still taunt me so that I feel a sudden sense of being surrounded, only to feel completely isolated in a second’s notice.

Then a voice whispers, calls from within, and I know this voice is unlike any of the other taunting voices I’ve been demanding answers from.  This voice is calm…unhurried.  It invites me to explore, to leave my surroundings—all that is familiar and deceivingly comfortable—and follow something I don’t understand or am able to guarantee.

The open, fallow field holds all the comfort and company I seek.  I am one with the field, choosing to take a season of rest instead of expecting new life to spring in abundance right now, this very moment.  The truth is that I am not closed off in my rest, but stretching myself to stay open—open like a cleared field that waits for new life to be dropped into its heart.

I gather the dirt in my hands and feel the wisdom of its existence.  The dirt that never gets praise or glory, and yet it covers the new seed as it breaks into being.  The dirt that is never pretty yet nourishes and protects new ideas that are not strong enough to deal with the harsh winds that storm above the surface.  The dirt…covering, protecting, and preparing to hold me up when Spring returns.

I can rest in the company of these barren fields because I know their barrenness is necessary.  Just like I know my creative spirit needs rest, the fields need rest.  Just like I know from the experience of many seasons, new life—creative life—will come and the work of my hands will flourish, will multiply, will not plant in vain.  I may not see the fruit in the season I expect.  I may not see the vibrant colors I dream of by Spring, but I know there is growth, there is life, there is time.

Even though this present, harsh, snapping wind is real and threatening, this wind is not for me to engage with, try to stop, or contain.  Instead I go under, go within, and rest while feeling the warmth of being held inside the dark place—within the womb—where all creativity is born and new life begins.


When the holidays are upon me, I spend less time creating.  When I’m not looking, voices start to come and tell me I’m losing ground on all that I’ve worked so hard to build.  If you ever hear these same voices, when you hear these voices, may you find space to journey to the fallow fields–physically or mentally–and know that a purposed season of rest is not in vain but as the farmer said “a time meant to restore the fertility” for new life to come.




  1. Freida Hall says:

    beautiful and open – thank you Me Ra for sharing your heart through your writing… always inspiring and real… much love.

  2. Tiffany says:

    I needed to read this…thank you!

  3. KarenC says:

    “Why should I start at the plow of my Lord, that maketh the deep furrows on my soul? I know He is no idle husbandman, He purposeth a crop.” (From Streams in the Desert) Thank you for sharing generously, and with so many, the harvest of all you do!! Praying that you will find rest in your time of resting.

  4. Deb Weaver says:

    Thank you for so beautifully describing this concept. I, too, am in a season of rest, of grief, of healing, of quiet, of seemingly barrenness. It is an essential season.

  5. Jennifer Leigh says:

    As always…perfect timing. Maybe our tides are flowing alongside one another? I wish you much healing and rest…because you will be so much more ready when the next adventure suddenly presents itself to you…and you will be so much more excited to jump in because you want to and not because you feel you have to.

    Peace be with you, you amazing lady, you. xo

  6. Me Ra says:

    Isn’t it amazing that we so often long for rest, and yet we can have such a hard time doing it! so glad all of you connect with this post. thank you so much for your comments.

    much love,

  7. ali anderson says:

    hold on, me ra…i have to catch my breath on this one. wow.

    YES. a thousand times, YES. i find myself rolling around in that unglorified dirt these days; knowing the dirt is as vital to me as the much-glorified water and sunshine.

  8. me ra——————————-
    this felt like it came from such a deep and beautiful place, a place filled with faith and also with life. something big is stirring. this is so beautiful. i come to your blog to hear the honest journey of an artist, and yup—– you did it once again.

  9. denise karis says:

    oh Me Ra…thank you for posting. I always find my way back here right when you seem to sync perfectly with my creative spirit. I’m feeling totally uncreative right now and entirely empty of any original thought – I guess its my resting season as well. 🙂 thank you for picking up and talking to the farmer. what words…. xoxoxoxoxo I guess we all find our way back to whats good – you especially always seem to. 🙂

  10. Beth says:

    as the farmer allows the field to fallow this season, she is already planning ahead to the next. She knows the soil needs to be cared for continually. She knows that the wheat from the previous season took a heavy toll, so she will not ask the soil to do so much again soon. She will ask for clover. Maybe the next year oats. She knows that even with a rest, high demand with no change will slowly wear away the ability of the soil to sustain the life that relies on it.
    Wishing you rest, restoration, hope, and vision.

  11. Kim Curran says:

    hi there, perhaps it is time to revisit THE ARTIST’S WAY.
    Your field looks like where I am from, outside of Bakersfield.
    I look forward to meeting you in Huntington Beach.

  12. Me Ra says:

    wow Beth, I keep reading your words over and over again. The sentence below especially strikes me. Thank you! And you know it Kim! Without a doubt, the Artist Way helps give me freedom to do that drive. 🙂

    “She knows that even with a rest, high demand with no change will slowly wear away the ability of the soil to sustain the life that relies on it.”


  13. Rosemary says:

    oh MeRa your heartfelt essay touched me to the core. The two profound truths that I will carry now in my heart are “there is a fine line between creating and producing” and “Every season serves a noble purpose.” Thank you MeRa, thank you.

  14. Subi Wilks says:

    Beautifully written, MeRa. A great spiritual principle reflected in the natural world – God loves to give us visual aids.

  15. Andrea says:

    Rest. It has been such a theme in this cold, bleak season of my life, one I obviously need to keep hearing. Do you ever have one of those days where the same message comes at you from every place you set your gaze? That was today. This morning I was pondering many things, really. Remembering a picture someone shared with me of me having worked very hard in my garden, busily planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing…and feeling very frustrated that I wasn’t seeing anything begin to grow…but that I needed to rest and trust and know that life was coming forth. Then I read your post. All of it, so timely and so perfectly speaking to me this morning.

    And I had also very intensely felt myself swallowed up by darkness and for a moment, panic ensued. But your words were like peace covering me. You said, “I go under, go within, and rest while feeling the warmth of being held inside the dark place—within the womb—where all creativity is born and new life begins.” It was a tender voice reaching out to me and making sure I heard, “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – select riches. I will do this so that you may know that I am the Lord, the one who calls you by name.”

    Thank you for being so transparent with us, dear lady, and sharing yourself and your journey in a way that reaches us so deeply. I’m incredibly thankful for the gift of you this Christmas.

  16. Sharon says:

    This is so profound and touched me deeply. Thank You

  17. […] that I’ve received in the last couple months.  Remember the post I wrote back in December “Journey to the Fallow Fields”?   I heard a clear invitation within my creative spirit to go underground and allow for […]