Slow Growth and Grape Vines


I don’t like talking about myself like this (read: I did something well), and wasn’t going to publish it until I realized the value that this metaphor presents to us all.

My brother outlined a perspective of me the other day. It caught me off guard: something along the lines of, “I was really glad you were involved in my such-and-such project. You seemed like you knew what you were doing. It was great seeing you in that context because, although we hang out in family settings, I’ve never seen you like that.”

First of all, he doesn’t just say stuff like that. Second of all, it was a surprise to me, too.

You see, when we’re watching ourselves, it often seems like we never grow — like watching paint dry. Until we take time to reflect, say at birthdays or New Years, to think on “the last year.” Then we get a chance to survey a broad swath of events, days, and philosophies we’ve thought about, brought on, and discarded. But it’s still slow growth. Have you ever watched a tree grow from seedling to a 50 footer? Yeah, me neither.

Something fascinating to me is how much work goes into growing grape vines. While results may vary, it’s often several years (3–5) before grapes can really be harvested for consumption. The vinedresser must cultivate year after year those vines, and while we have lots of activity — buds, leaves, flowers, new branches — there’s very little fruit to be had. And the fruit that does come about is only so-so. Until…at last when real, delicious fruit ripens.

My brother had been watching from the outside. He saw the difference, he saw the fruit. I hadn’t felt the slow growth of maturity and capability. He, on the other hand, was able to see the change. To me the slow growth didn’t yield anything.

Next time you see a vineyard — especially a well-established one! — don’t forget to reflect on how much effort went into cultivation and preparation. That wine tastes superb, but it was years in the making. And I’m not just talking about fermenting. Those vines take forever. So do you.

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