Ellen Blum Barish

Ellen Blum Barish

I didn’t know this when I was writing it, but my memoir about healing from a childhood trauma was released at the cusp of the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle known in the Jewish tradition as a shmita year – otherwise known as a sabbatical year.

It comes right from Exodus:

For six years you are to sow your land and to gather in its produce, but in the seventh, you are to let it go and to let it be, that the needy of your people may eat, and what remains, the wildlife of the field shall eat.

(Exodus 23:10-11)

I’ve been mulling on this as it relates to work, but especially for creative process. You’ve heard people speak about allowing things to lie fallow? I often urge my writing students to let a piece marinate before calling it complete.

At the Hippocamp writer’s conference a few weeks ago, I attended a stimulating session with Sonya Huber called “Tending the Fallow: Navigating the Pause Between the Book and What’s Next.” She was inspired by the poet Camille Dungy who wrote “I don’t actually believe in writer’s block. I believe in fallow periods … necessary to restore the fertility of a field.” The writers in the room talked about the discomfort of being in-between projects and our inclination to want to remain in high productivity mode.

Yet for me, the impetus to start writing my book came during a period of enforced rest.

Back in 2016, I was in a purposeful inhale year, a time I chose to take a year away from writing so that I could rest from a difficult story I had been struggling with on and off. Several months into that inhale year, the title for what would become my memoir, Seven Springs, appeared onto the screen of my mind.

In that moment, I had the feeling that everything was going to be okay. I had found a way to pull my face from that leather seatback in the back of that Volkswagen station wagon, free my mouth, and allow it to speak my truth. Seven would turn out to be the number of springs it would take to move me from brokenness to healing.

Later I was fascinated to learn that seven is the number representing the natural world.

It’s also the divine number representing completion.

But back to the shmita.

In a shmita year, debts are forgiven and harvests are open to all, but there’s a cessation on plowing, planting, pruning or harvesting. Observing the shmita promises a bountiful harvest that begins on the Jewish New Year which this year takes place on September 7, 2021.

Is it a coincidence that my decades-long struggle to heal from a childhood trauma took seven springs and was completed in a shmita year?

I’m thinking not.

The shmita asks us to put new growth on hold, but it also asks that we to continue to water, fertilize, weed, spray, trim and mow. I like the suggestion that we might care for, tend to and nurture what’s already there.

Fruit does, after all, become sweeter if left to ripen on the vine.

Where are you in your healing journey?

Happy Shmita – and Jewish New Year – to all who celebrate.

Photo by Ivan Bandura


Upcoming Events

Catch me in conversation TONIGHT (September 1) with Jill Howe on the book’s road from stage to page.  Story Sessions Facebook Page, 6:30 pm (CT).

Soul Stories Live. I’ll be reading a short excerpt from Seven Springs on Sunday, September 12. Soul Stories Live.

Book talk and workshop at The Book Stall. Sunday, September 19.

Leave a comment

Your name
Your email address
Website URL