Don't pour water onto bone dry soil
On creative hibernation and the art of rest
I’m writing to you on the eve of a new moon from the depths of my creative winter. It’s been two months since I shared an update, and it felt like the right moment to say hi.
I hiked through a small redwood forest yesterday, seven miles of damp earth and bright moss and fallen trees and the loud rushing of water over creekbeds that are usually barren. I’ve been thinking a lot about water, which has been omnipresent in Northern California over the past few weeks. How it feels to see water again in places that are typically dry. The water is beautiful, yes, but unsettling. It feels very strange to experience extreme wildfires and extreme floods within a few months of each other. Paradoxically, drought-stricken areas are failing to capture water from recent storms. We also got too much rain, too quickly — it went from being beneficial to being dangerous.
During the last storm, a small river formed outside my house and a tree in my front yard toppled over and I began looking inward. Quite literally. I began to closely examine the plants inside my house — an area where I have a bit more control. In my home gardening research, I read the following tip: avoid pouring water onto bone dry soil. “Your plant should absorb water slowly through its roots.”
This is objectively good gardening advice but it’s also good life advice. I’m the kind of person who wants to pour water onto bone dry soil. It happens when I’m feeling creatively parched or emotionally depleted: I want to immerse myself in something life-giving, and I want to do it as quickly as possible. It’s how I was taught to approach work. Dive into the deep end, drink from the firehose, get up to speed.
I’ve been trying to break up with these deeply ingrained practices for the last year. I’m learning how to nourish things gradually, carefully. Learning how to take smaller sips of water, and to wait a little while before having another drink. It’s taking me longer than I expected to really integrate this wisdom. Saying that I’ll do less is not the same as actually doing less. Case in point: at the beginning of 2022, I told myself I would slow down after quitting my tech job. What followed turned into a season of intense creative output as I built The Rebis alongside our community of writers and artists.
After the publication came out in the fall, I hovered around the decision to work on another issue. I decided to acknowledge my need for a real break. I went off of social media and entered into creative hibernation. I am currently writing to you from deep within the cave walls, where rest looks like spending time with people I love, repotting all of my plants, consuming Stephen King’s entire Dark Tower series, drinking a lot of tea, reading erotic poetry, and listening to Ezra Klein podcasts (this one about the Sabbath and the “art of rest” was particularly insightful).
As I was catching up on all of the newsletters in my inbox, a section from Jessica Dore’s December 24th offering made me feel particularly seen. She shared this quote from Melody Beattie’s The Language of Letting Go:
“It is okay to temporarily be without direction. Say ‘I don't know,’ and be comfortable with that. We do not have to try to force wisdom, knowledge, or clarity when there is none.”
So, there it is. I don’t know what will emerge from this season of rest. I’m sitting with the not-knowing and trying to get comfortable with it.
In the meantime, I miss you, so please say hello. Tell me all about your favorite low-maintenance houseplant varieties and send me provocative podcast recs.
Sending love to you all,
P.S. There are still copies of The Rebis available for purchase, with all sales going to local nonprofits. Last year, thanks to the generous support of this community, I was able to donate $2,340 to orgs that focus on reproductive justice and indigenous land stewardship! I would love for the final copies I have left to find a good home, one that is a bit more vibrant than a cardboard box in the corner of my office.