Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Seasons. The Calendar. Mile Posts. Row Fourteen. I love you, beautiful world!

Late morning, the sun came out and the skies became blue again. For a moment. All of a sudden, I turned around, and an ominous, almost frightening gray mist stealthily poured over the hills and into the vineyard and orchard where I worked yesterday and today. The wind gave it a boost, and it felt cold. Cold-blooded. Definitely not trustworthy.

I pulled out the agribon to cover the garden beds filled with tender peas, radishes, lettuces, turnips, spinach, beets and chard. I go out two or three days a week to manage the vines, weeding, mulching, whatever they need. I tend a few veggie beds. Today I was worried about the fruit trees in the orchard. Yesterday I noticed they were covered in blossoms and buzzing honey bees. The forecast predicts the low to be 30. Up there, in the little saddle, at one mile elevation, 30 in town means 23 or lower. Not good for the fruit.

You might have laughed to see me struggle with the giant sheets of protection, hoping for the wind to work with me. She did not care about my predicament. Not one bit. I tossed, wrapped, contorted, using metal poles to push and shove. Had hot tea for lunch, then went back to the vineyard.

It is a small, privately owned little vineyard, fourteen fifty yard rows. Seems small until you walk out to row one with a hoe. And see how far you have to go.

After one row, I wondered if I should go ahead and quit. It seemed rather unlikely I could ever manage to get to the end. Especially when I hit the Johnson Grass.

Today I finished one side of row 14 and am partway down the other side. I can see the finish line. Sometimes I dream about the rhizomes of the johnson grass, entangled among the roots of the grapevines, at times they are so stubborn, they choke and strangle. Sometimes they untangle like magic.

Definitely different from bakery work, but maybe not so different after all. Just as I have a very living and breathing relationship with the grains and honey and milk and seeds I use in my bread, I also feel an intimate relationship with those vines. And the rocks and grass and weeds. When I walk into the vineyard I say hello to everyone, and ask them to let me know if there is anything in particular they need on that day. Sometimes they ask me to weed a bit larger circle around the plant. Sometimes they ask me to go a bit deeper. Sometimes they merely tell me they love me, and I tell them I love them back. And let them know even though it might take a couple of years before they bear a nice harvest of grapes, they are worth the effort right here and right now.

So much work to bring about a delicious glass of red wine. Is it any wonder the scriptures are so full of stories and metaphors regarding wine and vineyards? Can you imagine what it would be like to tend your vines so diligently for years, only to have robbers come and steal the grapes right at the time of harvest?

I have worked in the sun, peeling off layers, toasting my skin. I have worked in cold, hat and sweatshirt, coat and extra socks. The sun and clouds and Mt. Ord down the way provide the most interesting entertainment. The sound of the birds and the sight of thousands of ladybugs gives me delight. There is not a time when I do not leave grateful for my job.

Grateful yes. But those vines have been witness to more tears than about anybody I know has ever seen. Heartbreak. Loneliness. Fears. Major breakthroughs. Grief. Sometimes I sob out loud, and I guess that sounds scary. Of course I might be laughing again in about ten minutes. Because allowing myself to feel, to be still enough to recognize what I am feeling, to allow it, to examine with compassion, to nurture myself and offer compassion to the hurt places, seems to allow more room for joy.

I have been wishing to laugh more. So I let the tears flow out, instead of shove them inside. A paradox, isn't it? I remind myself that those who sow in tears will reap in joy. Perhaps I should paraphrase and say that those who weed in tears will reap in joy? I let the wave flow over me, and tell myself that I might be sad but that is a temporary emotion. Legitimate. And worthwhile. The work is medicinal.

Can you believe that this week will mark the sixth anniversary of my husband's death? That we will now embark on the sevens? The seventh birthday without Philip. The seventh Easter. The seventh mother's day, the seventh Father's day. The sevens. How can it be? Nora has almost lived more life without her father than with her father. Definitely more life without than she and Rose can remember with him alive.

We have had three of five kids walk the stage and graduate with all sorts of honors.

When Philip died, the grief support counselor would repeatedly tell us you don't get over the death of a loved one. You adjust. You adapt. You move forward. But the loss and pain doesn't disappear after an appointed time. In fact, it can often pop up at the most inopportune time.

We often laugh about Philip memories. I smile and remind the kids how proud their dad would be of them. I smile and remind myself how he adored me. How he would woo me and make the kids laugh and help us be ever so secure in our awareness of his love. Even in the most annoying moments.

The other day I had a dream. In it, Philip came to me and said it was about time for him to say goodbye. That it was time for me to move ahead, and that he was leaving and wouldn't be able to communicate with me anymore. He said it would help me to move forward.

Ever since that dream I have been washed over with pain and grief. I have been working to let him go since I had a dream he would die. Two months before he died.

We are surviving here in Alpine, and not just surviving, but thriving. We have purpose. Joy. I can't imagine wishing for much to be different. I love our home, our little backyard farm, our bakery, the kids and their friends. It is hard to imagine I could have any type of work I could find as satisfactory as the work I have now. Truly, I feel like I am one lucky gal. And after six years, recognize that this wave of pain will pass. Again. And the misty gray will be washed away, the sun will come out, and spring will rise again on the horizon.

I just needed to write about it. Surely there might be someone else out there who knows what I am talking about?

PS I should mention that over the Christmas holidays Maggie and Patrick came out the vineyard and helped me get past the middle when I thought I might never make it. And they work so much faster than me! What a boost. They would be proud to see me at the end! Now to mulch. And to remove rocks. And to fix the drip water system. And to prune the vines.......And start weeding all over again!!!! Hello, Row One! I missed your shining faces!

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