1640s, “of or suitable for the Sabbath,” from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos “of the Sabbath” (see Sabbath). Noun meaning “a year’s absence granted to researchers” (originally one year in seven, to university professors) is from 1934, short for sabbatical year, etc., first recorded 1886 (the thing itself is attested from 1880, at Harvard), related to sabbatical year (1590s) in Mosaic law, the seventh year, in which land was to remain untilled and debtors and slaves released.
The modern farmer plants the same seeds in the same furrows year after year. Thanks to genetically modified seeds provided by Monsanto along with fertilizer and pesticides, these seeds grow no matter what. Unfortunately, the cost of a great yield is land fatigue. Soil needs to rest. It doesn’t mean it does nothing. It means that the wild thing gets its day. The unplanned seed gets to grow without being plowed under or doused with weed killer. Someone told me once that all land is trying to get back to rainforest. The Amazonian rainforest’s canopy is wild all grown-up.
So I get to let my teaching self lie fallow this year in hopes of letting my wild sprout. I have to resist tilling the soil and planting the same seeds in the same places. I have to let new things grow. Travel is one way I plan to do this. Writing is another. I invite you all into both.