We finally got to participate in a harvest in Piedmont!! This has been a dream for quite some time so it was pretty awesome to finally get to pick some grapes. I had no idea that I would learn so much in the process. There’s a lot to think about among the vines, so today I want to share with you my Top 10 Lessons from the Vineyard. Some of these even have business applications, but most are simply personal pondering as I took clippers to each cluster of grapes.
1) I may be the weakest link in the chain – but it’s not a chain, it’s a team – and it’s the end product that is important. Anyone who knows me knows that I can be competitive. Maybe it’s my gymnastics training (OK – I know that was a LONG time ago), but I like to do my best and be the best. Well – out there among the vines, I was definitely not the strongest or the fastest or the most productive. But it didn’t matter – I was contributing. Coming together at the end to finish the job and seeing what we were able to accomplish collectively was very satisfying.
2) You cut out the bad parts - get rid of everything you possibly can that isn't the best. But you can't get rid of absolutely all of the sour grapes. Even so, we were able to make a great product in the end. Picking grapes by hand allowed us to be selective. When there were spoiled grapes among the bunch, we would clip most of them out, but some remained. Even with a few pieces of imperfect fruit, the wine can still turn out to be amazing. It’s that way with lots of things in life, don’t you think?
3) It’s good to take a break and rest. We got out to the vineyard early and worked a long day, every day, but we took a break in the morning and in the afternoon and had a wonderful lunch in the middle. These breaks gave us the chance to regroup and recharge our bodies and our minds for the work ahead. We were able to work better, for a longer period of time, because we took breaks along the way. I don’t always remember that when I’m working at my desk.
4) It’s really satisfying to get your hands dirty and then see the dirt wash away in the sink at the end of the day. I don’t really get my hands dirty very often and I felt connected to the earth in a new way as we picked grapes. Getting your hands dirty can mean different things in different professions – digging deep into a project can be analogous to getting your hands dirty. In any case, washing my hands and seeing the dirt in the sink made me see clearly that I had worked hard. That is very satisfying. Recognizing that we work hard and work well and giving ourselves credit for that can be restorative.
5) Picking grapes is very meditative. It’s contemplative work as there’s not a lot of need for communication as you work on your own line of vines. There’s time to think in the vineyard. I don’t often take time to do that. I found myself saying prayers of gratitude. I will continue to do that, even when I'm not among the vines.
6) Sometimes the grapes get tangled up in the wires and the leaves are a jungle – but there are jewels underneath if you look and make the effort to get them. Isn’t this true in other facets of life? If we look for the good parts, we often find them – but we have to remember to seek them out and fully appreciate what we find.
7) It feels good to reach the end of a row and know that you have accomplished something big. Acknowledging this in life is important.
8) Picking the grapes comes at the end of a lot of work that someone else did -- and it is the beginning of another long process. The final product is worth the effort and the wait.
9) Participating in the harvest is one part of a cyclical process. Once one part ends, a new one begins, and it effects what happens next. What we do today has an impact on how things will turn out tomorrow, next week and next year. It makes an impact on the fruits of our labor that we reap today and in the future. So what we do now is important. We need to make sure we do the right thing every single day so the future will be fruitful.
10) Remember to look up from your work and see the beauty that goes even beyond what is in front of you. When I remembered to look up from my dirty hands, the clippers, the leaves, the wires, and the bunches of grapes, I saw the Piemontese countryside with it’s churches and vineyards and hills and mountains and homes and farms and I was filled with appreciation for the opportunity to be there in that moment. I’m so glad I remembered to look up from time to time because it was absolutely beautiful.
Bonus lesson from labeling wine bottles: Tell people what you want! Quality control is important – tell people what you need them to do. Our experience on the labeling line was a little bit like the “I Love Lucy” chocolate episode because the bottler was fast and we had to work quite quickly. One thing effects then next – if the cardboard that separates the bottles wasn’t in the box properly, it effected our ability to put the bottles in the box fast enough and things got backed up. We were supposed to check to see if the label was on correctly first but we weren't really told that -- we figured that out after doing it for a while. If you communicate what you are looking for, people are in a much better position to do what is expected. Good lesson in life, right?
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