Pickin’ Grapes and Rollin’ Trays: Life as a migrant in Central California #9- Fear, Peace, and Beauty

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Thoughts of my youth come hurling into my present so strong that they transport me back to that time and to that place.  The vineyards of the Central Valley in California are a wealth of adjectives, stories and feelings.  They are vast and daunting, they make you numb, they give you patience and they inspire fear while at the same time they are peace and beauty.  Fear, every morning during the harvest season you go into the field knowing that when you enter a row of vines to pick its grapes the work you are about to do will require that you travel the next quarter to one third of a mile on your knees.  They make you numb to pain; the ability to continue and do your job despite throbbing back pain is obligatory; pain caused by a job that requires you to be bent over for long periods of time and distance knowing that in this job the faster you are the more money you make.  When pruning vines the ability to subdivide the whole into its parts is a skill that keeps you sane. Otherwise, the vastness of the fields that you have to prune is too much to bear; 180 vines in one row, 180 rows in one field, and ten fields to prune.  The ability to keep your cool is practiced and fortified when tying vines on a bone cold mid January morning, as a tightly wound, frost covered vine unwraps itself and unleashes its force and energy on your face.  Beauty is in seeing vine after vine, row after row, and field after field all pruned, trimmed and tied down for their winter slumber.  Peace is the sensation that you get once all the seasons are done and the cycle begins anew:  picking, rolling, pruning and tying.

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