Each morning as I stretch my aging body, I finish with the tree pose and recite my tree mantra. One of the lines goes like this,
Planted by streams of living water, I bear fruit in my season.
Soon after my morning practice we received an invitation from Peter Jackson, a friend from Edmonton who has lived in the Annapolis Valley for 12 years. “Come help pick grapes-Lunch provided”. With gratitude for retirement, and the ability to choose that activity for the day, we set off on the 45-minute drive through the valley.
While we have visited a few wineries since our arrival, this was an opportunity to be up close and personal in the vineyard, and to learn more about what it means to bear fruit in season.
Rows of vines are planted in a north-south orientation, to maximize sun throughout the day. When you walk between the rows you feel the warmth of the sheltered space. There is clearly an order and master plan to how the vineyard was established to maximize growth.
Though primarily harvested by “professional” pickers who are much quicker and more skilled than I, the rich bounty of the season and shortage of workers provided an opportunity for friends and neighbours to contribute. It’s like a game of leapfrog. You position your stool to pick a section of the row. Conversation and laughter flows freely amongst the pickers, creating a sense of community.
As you finish one section, you place the bin of grapes under the vines to be collected, then move up the row past other pickers to the next section ready for harvest.
The tools are sharp, so we were warned to pay close attention, to see all five fingers before you cut. For me this created a meditative space of being present to the task at hand. Grapes, leaves, bees, vines.
It was an opportunity to understand the phrase of pursuing the “low hanging fruit” not only metaphorically, but also practically. As in, what can we do that is easily accessible and produces results without much investment? Practically, the vines are planted, pruned, and supported to make the harvest easier, to gather the sweetest fruit hanging below the vines. Begin with the end in mind. And still, we needed to work for a through gathering, pulling some leaves away, and searching around posts to be sure we found all the beautiful fruit.
To prevent the birds from taking the best of harvest, nets are placed around the grapes as they are maturing to full ripeness. They know how and when to access the sweetest fruit. The nets were rolled up on the rows we were harvesting in preparation.
What does it take to nurture a rich harvest? I think of the summer we had here—lots of warm sun-interspersed with drenching rain. Intention and patience. Vines do not produce grapes for the first three years. Then, once they are mature enough, they have one job to do, turn carbon dioxide, water and nutrients into sugar. Tended well, they can produce for years to come. They are not distracted by the many things that call to me.
We were delighted to find a plum tree in our yard-from which we harvested dozens of plums. Plum cake was a delight. I made plum jam for the first time-extra valued-sweet and tasty, as it is not easily accessible in grocery stores. We were surprised by this bounty. How much more might have been possible if we knew it was there, pruned, nurtured and cared for that tree appropriately? Indeed, we live in the Annapolis Valley, an environment known for its agricultural bounty. And wise stewardship of land, crops and trees multiplies the potential.
As so much of my work is intellectual, at a computer, it was such a gift to spend the day outside, using my hands, contributing to something so vast and beyond myself. So satisfying to see results, the fruit of your labour.
What will it take for me to bear fruit in my season?
A few things come to mind. . .
Who am I? What kind of fruit can I produce by living authentically? By doing what I love to do?
How can I create, choose, cultivate an environment that nurtures and supports the growth of my unique contribution?
What distractions that don’t produce fruit can be weeded or stripped away? By focusing on those things that are mine to do, I can increase the potential harvest.
Patience and perseverance:
It takes a long time to produce rich wine. Once I have established the answer to the first three questions, I need to keep at it, day by day, allowing the fruit to mature and ripen.
This is an experience I never would have had in my old life in Edmonton. The environment, the full schedule, the many distractions. I am so grateful for this new phase of life, this fertile environment in Nova Scotia. A reset, a new landscape, new opportunities to learn and cultivate a rich harvest.
What does it take for you to bear fruit? How are you creating an environment that maximizes your contribution? I’d love to hear your reflections.