Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Go tell it to the mountain. V/3

Well today came again. In fact it's still happening. Though I am getting pressed to get my small tasks completed before bedtime. Work is perhaps just work because it takes up so much time. Even when you quit early like I did today the day seems too short. I had to stop early to file some papers for my divorce. It’s been going on for three years so it wasn’t really pressing. It seemed like a good reason to leave early. At least for a moment I thought so.

I started the day out with the thoughts of my sister who said talk to the vines about how their harvest went. I figured why not, I wasn’t sure if I had eight hours of listening in me, but how much could they really have to say anyway. I would be working alone most of the day so I smoked up on the route to work. I was feeling ready for anything they had to say. At least I thought so.

I left the house all geared up. I had thought the sky was clear when I first woke up, but it’s just getting light out at that hour and so it is sometimes hard to tell totally covered from perfectly clear. Upon leaving the house I saw it was both. Clear in one direction, and dense gray clouds in mine.

The sun just coming up was still low enough to pass below the line of clouds. It created the kind of light photographers snap with. Shocking. In any case by the time I was sugared-up and half way to work a fine drizzle was falling. I was still in sunshine, but I could see the pack of clouds hugging the edge of the Larzac plateau (which is the southern end of the Massif Central). Small smoking clouds would break off from the mass and slide down the colines spitting rain and cold. All day long this advance guard tested the barometrics for an all out assault that threatened but never came. It did bring one thing that made me start thinking that plants can talk.

The road to work is a splendor, well half of it. It’s about ten kilometers total but the last six run through a landscape of hard core beauty which takes too many words to describe. Suffice it to say it is where the flat plain of the sea meets the rise of the massif central. It’s a land of seabed thrown up with volcanoes and the colors and shapes are rugged and distinct.

All that to say, on the route to work I can see the rise of the plateau where the vineyards are. They are easily noticed ordered squared shapes in the hazard of green forest they are cut out of. As I turned a corner I saw a rainbow. The end of it was smack in the middle of the vine where I am working. My immediate thought was ‘well isn’t that something’.

I’m so rigid in my ways. I want to believe but can’t. I want to talk with plants, or even humans for that matter, but constantly get stuck on the fact that we speak different languages. That they, or perhaps me, don’t really have anything to say anyway. But at the least every living thing speaks of life. I’ve never taken stock until then that I need to listen better.

The rainbow, like the thoughts, passed away. I worked all morning alone. Slow. The rows fall half as quickly with one. The key is to never look ahead. Keep your head down. Focus on the line. All the work is at knee height. Chop-chop-chop. One souche to the next. Clearing off their out-spread arms. Zip-zip-zip go the shears. Rip-rip-rip go the shoots pulled from the metal wires. What-what-what am I doing here.

The last harvest was good. For the farmer. The vines gave up record tons of grapes. Fat and Juicy they were. Vast quantities of raisins were produced. The vines are tired. They were pushed to their limit. They are fatigued, and concerned for their longevity. Some stand like the others but are wasted inside. They probably won’t make it through next year.

Over burdened is what they were all saying. Too much fertilizer, too much water, too many shoots, too many buds. Too many raisins crowded together vying for the limited resources of the root system. Too Much. Too many leaves leaves not enough airflow, not enough sunlight, hence fungicides. I can’t breath.

At harvest a giant diesel machine rode over the rows and shook the raisins off the stems, stored them and vomited them half juiced into a waiting truck. The raisins were picked and crushed before they had a chance to even mature. It was a disaster. The vines know they can’t go on like this. I saw some today that have already given up the ghost. Most of the others are like jews in the barracks at Auschwitz. Resting but dazed by the world they inhabit.

It is out of their reason to think it was planned this way. That the dying but still functioning system that they are caught in runs on quantity not quality. Their functional lifespan in this system is 15 years. Because of their genetic makeup they think they should live much much longer than that. But they won’t. Once they pass peak output after ten to fifteen years they are ripped out and replanted. Young vines produce quantity even if they don’t have the roots to make quality. The vines life for production wine is like Upton Sinclair’s Jungle, but for fruit. It’s harsh, violent and short lived. The vines are screaming fatigue. I heard that when I went down my row today.

Like a red cross nurse in world war one I do what I can to ease the suffering, but know it is helpless. I follow the vignerons rule. It’s his field, his life. When the decision arises, I do lean towards cutting them back a bit harsher to curtail their deadly abundance. But it won’t stop the system they are caught in.

In the afternoon the vignerons wife was there. It was windy, wet, and unpleasant. Then we saw a rainbow of vibrating colors. The whole arch was visible. It was very close and we could see the two ends where they touched the ground. The colors reached a point where they were glimmering and then suddenly another rainbow appeared just above it. Two rainbows always makes me think of Indian lands in the southwest. Indians are like the vines, they have been around since the beginning. They seem to just keep going no matter how hard the conditions become. Me, I left work early.


  1. The only time I've seen a perfect rainbow was with you in California 30 years ago. Vineyards there too perhaps.

  2. Go Tell It To The Mountain, Fantastic.