In medias res

Late September Sugar Maple

As I was saying, then, it was August, and the river meandered with its August pace.

I boarded a train that traveled tracks in orbits. Which is to say I went some distance and gravity pulled me right back to where I started, only in October, and there are golden leaves all over my desk.

I was reading this morning–

[in our Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which, by the way is “compact” only in that the print is so tiny that you need a magnifying glass to read it; also, which we own because back in the late 70s or early 80s, the Book of the Month Club had this amazing offer where, if you signed up for a few months, you could get a free gift, and one choice was the Compact OED, and being the bookish nerd teen that I was, I had to have it. I don’t remember any of the books I bought from the Book of the Month Club, but I’ve lugged the OED to every dorm room, apartment, and house I’ve in lived since then; also, back to the notion of “compact,” let’s just say that I carried it downstairs this morning and it’s heavier than a baby, both cats combined, and most other things I’ve carried around this house; it would not be be one of the objects I toss in my backpack for a weekend writing retreat, but keep in mind that this was back when they printed things on paper, so “compact” is a relative term; also, the process of reading it with a magnifying glass while wearing contact lenses and reading glasses is quite a miracle of optics; I did not need reading glasses when I first owned this dictionary]

–the definition of the word “fallow” (which covers two full columns of tiny-print text) and was for some reason pleased to remember that it is a noun, a verb, and an adjective.

It is the name of the idle, unplanted field itself, and the action of plowing and harrowing the field, and the state of the seemingly barren field, and the pale color of that overturned soil after it’s been in the sun for a day.

It is also the act of becoming pale, of fading, and withering.

It is also a pale, yellowish-brown color. The coat of the Fallow deer. The shade of the fallow leaves.

It is also the color of the unwritten page. Or the state of being inward. Or the quiet mind itself.

It is the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when the year is examined, when you look inside yourself to see how you’ve strayed and failed, and how you can be better. The still moment where you whisper over the seeds for the coming year before you plant them in that clean, welcoming soil.


  1. brennalayne says:

    Beautiful. I love this word, too.

  2. Jill S. says:

    I love that pausing and resting are holy. Beautiful reflection, Rebecca, as always!

  3. alittletea3 says:

    1. I am *thrilled* beyond belief that this post showed up in my inbox, so yay for the cyber gods for fixing whatever was wrong.

    2. My own version of the OED was a casualty of my divorce, dammit. I think I may need a date with yours sometime.

    3. Your writing is incredible. I aspire to write as well as you some day.

    4. I love the idea of self-examination and renewal, in whatever guise it comes.


  4. andi says:

    Oh gosh, your riff on “compact” brought my workday to a much needed pause. It’s very, very lovely. Have you read Lydia Davis’ story of her dictionary? This reminded me of that.

  5. kspring says:

    For the word “fallow” there is so much richness here. I keep re-reading this and finding more and more to sit with and reflect on. Thank you~

    1. Rebecca says:

      Thank you so much!

  6. nruit says:

    I love your description of the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is the best one I have ever heard. Thank you!

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