Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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.

From Songs and Letters, originally published December 15, 2005.


nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

:-) I think I have felt the same sensations even in winter when I lived in the small town ...

beautifull post

Transcend Designs said...

Nice memory,
you took me right there...!

Spike sounds just like our Shepherd 'Bear' as well,
the (2nd) most loyal fellow around!

Thanks for that great morning adventure,
nothing like working and being outdoors.

and we ARE living inside a giant painting...!

: )

all ways 11 o'clock said...

William, a wonderful morning story
full of crisp images, a cold breath you can taste the cleansing outdoors - like naked bouquets.

Thank you.


Jean Spitzer said...

Beautiful, your giant painting.

Wine and Words said...

I've always thought there was a redemptive quality to wine. I see redemption comes from time in the vineyards as well. As I have done this pruning, your words came to life easily.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Laura. When we lived on the farm, we were very near a small town, and I loved the way the streets and nature intermingled, as if they were never sure where one ended and the other began.

Brad, you’re right, without a doubt. Thank you! And into winter we go....

Thank you, Robert. I know from your photographs that you are a wise winter soul, storing up joy that blooms the whole year around.

Jean, thanks, as always.

Annie, I can hear your shears clicking a quarter-mile away through the fog....

Anthony Duce said...

What you describe sounds so wonderful, even knowing how hard working on a farm can be. I does appear to leave good memories. I had a dog as a boy that did the same thing. I miss her.

William Michaelian said...

As I miss Spike, lo these many years, and those who went before him. And to this day, the farm lingers like a friend in my life. Thanks, Anthony.

Woman in a Window said...

I know such soil. It is a miracle to cross it without carrying it. It is like a mischievous gift.

Your love of your dog reminds me of my daughter's love of hers.

Beautiful rememberings.


Old 333 said...

Really pleasant read, Wiliam. Thanks for it. You are a credit to my Google Reader's daily servings and to your profession; always something worth seeing when you put it up.


William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Erin. When we moved to Oregon, there was still mud stuck to our shoes.

Peter, thanks — because with each entry, I do wonder.

Momo Luna said...

Wonderful post William. Oh those words you give us, sharing your lovely memories and bringing much more. This is why i so love your stories and poems.

And the last line is genius i think. :-)

Tnx for bringing such joy.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Monica. The feeling goes both ways.