We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Saturday, February 25. 2006
(Click the Aliyah Diary Category to find out what this is about)
Feb. 17, 2006 Leg Hopper
Something about working in the persimmon orchards gets the writing into me.
Moshek is always enthusiastic when I call. I read the word "karkar" on the Glil Yam welcome sign -- it is an archaic term for "founded." I also glance at the signs pointing to various companies leasing space from the kibbutz -- DHL is here, as is some high-techy place. Then there is the "biton," which I later learn is the kibbutz's own cement factory; this kibbutz and these kibbutzniks have very fundamentally built this country and in ways not deeply appreciated today. Moshek arrives in one of his dust-burdened diesel-powered trucklets. His handshake, this 68 year-old, rail-thin former Navy Seal, a man whose abdomen is noticeably hollow beneath his work shirt, is bone-hardened, firm. We are off. I mean to ask him something about energy collaboration with the Swedish government, but these matters evaporate from my head this early in the a.m. and in the face of his greeting: the last of the Zionists, he calls me. But, I tell him there are more of us. He likes, "us." We join the two Thai workers -- Shay is out ill, Moshek says. (Tomkap later tells me that Shay has sore muscles, not from work, but from weightlifting.)
I come with an unspoken sense of guilt that when I was here last,
just before my sojourn in the States, and upon my list picking of
avocados, the Fuerte species i think they are called, I mistakenly
pulled many off their branches, and cut others leaving stem intact. I
learned after I was done, that those I picked -- sans stems -- cannot
be graded for export, are doomed for the local shuk. As I left, I
glanced at the crate of stemless Fuertes, which like Samson, once
shorn were of secondary strength, and felt remorse. I am determined
today to be a better worker.
We are tree trimming today. I see how doing agriculture brings you
closer to the seasons, brings me. How much I need prepare for that
penultimate moment --picking in September -- before that ultimate
moment -- the last temptation of eyes at Gristedes, before you taste.
So, we will trim. I am more cautions here with my gimp leg. The rains
in the last few days have created gullies in some of the old tractor
tracks. These take to mind the gullied ponds that MC. Escher drew,
which reflected back the trees, the clouds and within which he planted
a carp; after a bit, you realize you are seeing the reflections and
are looking at a gully which somehow has been filled with a carp, or
some such fish with barbs.
But I will not be distracted by such mind wanderings. I am a cutter
today, a trimmer, a man who will shape trees to bring light unto their
lower branches. We bypass Shin, who is working the chain saw, and
join Tomkap with long-handled pruners, as I am so armed. Moshek takes
a moment longer to show me the principles: if more than three branches
off a node, then trim to three; if branches are too crowded
(jeopardizing unborn fruit which will later bump and grind each other,
defect their brethren), I am to thin. I am to follow Tomkap. This is
fine with me, although I notice after Moshek leaves, that Tomkap has a
much coarser style of pruning, more akin to slash and burn
agriculture. The two Thai workers as usual are masked with T-shirts.
I watch, after their snacks, as to how these are put on. It seems to
be a finer form of cotton, dark, with the face peeking through the
neck hole; the short-sleeve arms are then tied in a double knot behind
the cranium, about the crest of the skull. The eyes and nose are
revealed. On top, a hat is placed.
But before Moshek leaves, he notices that I "Mitlabet," am
indecisive. He encourages a bit of decisiveness in me.
I find myself thinking of Steiner, the founder of Theosophy,
speculating with perhaps a touch of envy, on how plants have the
better of us: they concentrate on growing, while we busy ourselves
with other matters, such as consciousness, love, work and such. This
tree is interested in simply branching out, getting its sap moving
after winter's sluggishness, popping fruit and getting such popped
fruit propagating more trees.
Also, as I trim, I cinch up my decisiveness by remembering that an
error her, an over-trimming there, is correctable for the most part by
these trees. (We have 8,000 to trim, I remind myself as I find my
mind-meanderings interfering with my prunings.) If we could only be a
bit more treelike: prune off those parts that sap our energies (these
"sappers" that come off the trunk and will not bear fruit); lop off
extraneous branches that unbalance our symmetries (and interfere with
the tractor); eliminate cross-branches that crowd out each other,
diminish the fruitfulness of the overall tree. If only we could do
such prunings in an unpainful manner, knowing that our overall growth
will bear more fruit. And if an error be made, so be it;
starfish-like we could pop out another branch.
But we are not so treelike. Our souls would not bear the lopping I
meet out to these persimmon trees, very distant cousins.
The sun is firm. Even at 8 a.m., I remember how Moshek taught me to
have my back to the sun as I was persimmon selecting, so as not to be
eye-worn. So too, I learn to get my back up-sun so I can see better
where my next victims are, so I can see better the overall crown of
the tree. I should, after a good pruning, be able to look up through
the tree crown and see an unobscured arbor, without much shading by
the limbs, without limbs crossing each other, without much
"Tz'fi'fut," crowding. No tenements here. Trees to bear fine fruit
will not tolerate tenements.
But my lopping style is more conservative than Topkat's, I mean
Tomkap's. (I slip to Topkat, thinking of the giant Chinaman in the
James Bond movie, who tries to decaptitate Bond with a cast of his
knife-edged Bowler.) He goes for the limb, goes at the origins, trims
the sappers off the trunks. I start from the outer reaches and work
inwards. At times, I find I have handsomely trimmed a few branchlets,
only to find that Tomkap has preceded me and the limb has already been
severed and is simply resting against another, has not fallen. I
learn to check for severed limbs first.
By 1100, the sun, once too warm for my Land's End yellow jacket, is
now hidden by clouds, a few drops fall, we wait for Moshek to go to
the next orchard. As we wait, Tomkap takes a tiredeness; slips into
one of the large, square receptacles, once filled with persimmons or
avocados, pulls his sweat shirt hood over, and promptly knaps. Clouds
gather threateningly, I pace, stretch my Achilles and we wait. But my
Achilles, that tendon that made vulnerable this Greek hero, is wearing
me down from my conquests. I head back with Moshek. I remember to
talk with him about my idea with Kamella, who works at the Swedish
embassy and is in my class, about biofuels. Moshek, as if primed,
takes off with three types of plants that produce much oil. The
macadamia nut is 97% oil; ladies won't eat it anymore, even though
Moshek thinks it tastes wonderful. He is surprised that it is so
expensive in Hawaii. Hawaii and New Caledonia (or some such Pacific
isle) have taken over the remaining market of ladies who don't give a
damn about oils. He, Moshek is left with an orchard of fatty nuts.
Also something called Haria, which is faster to grow. We plan, even
scheme. I am energized. He unloads me with a few pounds of avocados.
And I hop, one-legged mostly, onto a Sheirut home.
Copyright 2006, N. Szajnberg
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
A bad day pruning trees is still better than a good day in an office.
But it's weird hearing about the Holy Land with no reference to the Holy One. The great Pruner. The one who tends His vineyards, fields, orchards. Who mercifully leads us...As a hen gathers her chicks....
Of course I love the human interest, and read it eagerly, but what about the God who saturates the landscape, who called these people there?
He chose us before ever we chose Him.