A friend of mine has a saying when it’s hot as blazes: It’s good for the grapes. He owns a vineyard; grapes are his specialty. He can read them like the pages of a wine-stained book. More importantly, I love the attitude that even when the weather is brutal, something still thrives.
Every year is a little different-weather-wise. Some are hotter or rainier, some have a prolonged spring or fall. But the character of the growing season is what defines the harvest. It’s why a certain vintage was particularly good that year.
We’ve seen this phenomenon in our own garden. Every year a few crops do beautifully well, and others struggle. Our first year was amazing for potatoes and beets. They came in every color of the rainbow, from candy striped to the deepest purple. Not a single carrot seed produced a root, but we didn’t care. We had some 350 pounds of tubers in our cellar by the end of the season.
The second year was melons. Watermelon, French melon, zucchini as long as your arm. Small creamy peach-colored melons the size of a softball. Volleyball-sized melons with star-flecked insides. Not a day went by that we weren’t cracking one open and slurping the juicy insides. By mid-summer I couldn’t eat another one.
The third year was brassicas. Bouquets of broccoli and purple cauliflower graced our counter every morning for breakfast. Never mind that barely a handful of strawberries made it to red. We feasted on what was in front of us.
I don’t grow the vegetables – I leave that to Alan. But I do make artwork. And as I look around these days, some of my colleagues are struggling while others are thriving. I’ve tried to analyze it all. Why are some doing well and others not? It’s not the quality of their work. It’s not their tenacity, or their connections, or any of a long list of perfectly admirable traits.
It’s just that some years are good for brassicas.
It’s the middle of the year, and I can already see the beginnings of what my creative harvest will look like. Of what will falter and what will flourish. And I can see the inklings of what I’ll look back on as having defined this year. Yes, the pandemic. The economic weathers. But in the end, what defines a season is not how hot or cold or rainy it is. What defines a season are the fruits of our labor, whatever that labor may be.
This year is not a good year for corporate commissions, once the stalwart of my crop. Oh well. One year we didn’t get a single sweet potato. It’s been an amazing year for writing, for learning, for reimagining. A physical and emotional reset. For finishing projects, for designing new things, and for things I don’t even yet know, as there’s still some months ahead. What I do know is that every year is an amazing year for something.
I spoke to an artist friend of mine the other day and he admitted the pandemic may be the best thing that has ever happened to him. He may not have more work than ever, but he has exactly the kind and amount he wants. Why was this year particularly good? Perhaps a bit of judicious weeding.
Or, maybe it’s just a good year for grapes.
When Alan first planted his garden, he tended to focus on the things that weren’t working: the slugs that ate the cabbage, the carrots that didn’t take hold. But soon he started to shift perspective. To plant a bit of everything, and to celebrate the harvest in front of him. Something was always struggling, yes. But, something was always doing well.
I’m trying to use the same perspective shift with my work. Something is always a struggle, but what it is changes from year to year, month to month, even day to day. I tend to gloss over what’s going well as a default – as in, that doesn’t need my attention because it’s thriving. I feel the need to focus on what’s not going well.
But perhaps it’s thriving precisely because it had my attention in the first place.
It’s time to shift my thinking. Feast on what’s in front of me. Embrace the winds of fate, the shifting grace of Mother Nature, the fickle whims of creativity. Show up for the struggle, yes. But celebrate the harvest.