I Am Redeemed

One winter when we were still living on the farm, I came down with the flu and was unable to work for several days. During that time, our dog, Spike, waited outside our door and refused to leave. When I finally did emerge, he was so happy it nearly broke both our hearts.

Spike was more than loyal. He was an innocent child who herded the neighbor�s cows and rolled in their fresh green mounds and then proudly wore them home, only to be bewildered and crushed when we shooed him away. A few hours later, he would return from a swim in the ditch, his black and white shepherd coat dripping and clean.

I am redeemed.

In those days, we were grateful on mornings when frost stiffened the heavy clay soil, because then it wouldn�t stick to our shoes. Except in a few areas where the ground was on the sandy side, the winter rains turned our farm into a sea of mud. This might not seem important, but when you spend three full months pruning vines and trees, the amount of mud you carry with you on your shoes and ladder has a direct relationship with how you feel at the end of the day � merely tired, or completely exhausted.

Either way, it was exhilarating to work outside on cold winter days. It was a pleasure to work with someone, and an even greater pleasure to work alone and absorb the vineyard and orchard atmosphere � the dry brown leaves crunching underfoot, the feel of wooden pruning shear handles in my gloved hands, the sound of the curved steel blade cutting through dormant wood, the wet smell of the brush and decaying weeds � bright crystal shouts of joy.

The winter days had a grand cumulative effect that made me feel my mind was being restored � almost as if wisdom were tangible in the frosty air. And then there were the vines and trees themselves, each individual works of art and sculpture, magnificent and familiar beneath their husks of shaggy bark, or their proud scaffolds ascending, dimpled and smooth, with budded twigs like naked bouquets.

It was like being alive inside a giant painting.

December 15, 2005

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