Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. This year for the first time I’m in California during the grape harvest. Instead of watching the maples and oaks of Eastern forests clothe themselves in ruby and gold, I’ve been watching the grapes ripen. Tasting a few dew-covered purple sugar gems has been the morning’s highlight. Watching the leaves change color and listening to the local growers discuss the intermittent rain, the sugar content of the grapes, and whether the skins are still firm, has deepened my appreciation of the tenuous nature of all farming, of living close to the earth. I know nothing about their harvesting, but I’m enjoying language and rhythms of the grapes.
Learning the language and feeling the rhythm. Hmm. I think this may be a metaphor for living a good life. As we learn the language of our endeavor, be it photography, classical dressage, grape growing, or any other pursuit, we broaden our awareness and deepen our knowledge. It makes us fuller, more interesting humans. Now layer in the rhythm of life. We have all felt it when we are with the rhythm…..and maybe felt it a little stronger when we are out of rhythm. I’ve been practicing my ability to stop and appreciate when I am in it and stop and breathe when I am not.
Harvest (of any task or effort or sowing) has it’s own rhythm. Previously I have thought that it was an endpoint, a gathering of fruit from labor. Now I am seeing that the gathering clears the way for new effort. And that effort is most likely a result of your harvest, whether it has been a success or failure.
This fall has seen the release of my first book. It is very gratifying, but it is also a time to re-double the labor to ensure that the work that has gone into getting it this far will only be the platform for a greater bounty. So I have to immerse myself in the language and rhythm of promotion and publicity. (This is the real (read: unglamorous) life of a photographer.)
And along with this effort I am launching into the second phase of my personal project in the Czech Republic. I’ve written before on this blog about how I prepare for taking a photographic journey. My process remains the same. I read literature of the place and that place in time that I want to photograph. I listen to music and recorded books in the language of the destination. I slip into the feel and sound of my journey long before I arrive. I do not look at imagery as I want to see things new. To be successful at this I’ve learned that I must begin the process with an empty mind, an empty cup. There’s no room for expansion when your mind/cup is already full. No room to reap the sounds, smells, scenes when you have preconceived notions about your destination.
I’ll spend the next several weeks in hyper-drive to prepare for my trip and sow the seeds for greater promotion for Meditation for Two. But I’ll stop every so often and remember the dew on grapes, their luscious sweetness, the bite of the skins and crunch of the seeds, and the sounds of birdcalls in the early morning of the vineyard. Next time I see the vineyard the grapes will be gone and the vines will be pruned. The earth will rest for a time before offering new growth. This rhythm is eternal. Stepping into this rhythm and harvesting the memory of the light and softness, the delicious fullness of earth’s bounty, has expanded my world.
A note about the images: I used my favorite Fly Paper Textures to illustrate the juiciness and softness of the mornings here in the vineyard.