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, March 18. 2006
Mar 6 2006 Lop-idary
No, what I do with the persimmons is not topiary, for I am to lop to bring
This Friday, a week before I take on another year of life, I bike to
kibbutz, try out my mending Achilles tendon, which serves me most of
the morning. I am delivered by Moshek, riding in yet another dusty
dieseled Subaru, to the Thai tribe taking a break by the smoldering
morning fire, made of tree limbs. Before we arrive, Moshek challenges
me to a bit of math. We stop at the shed to get oil, then gas for the
power saw. Four percent oil to the gas. Moshek asks me, if he has put
in 300 cc of oil, how much gas should we use. I first try to do this
in Hebrew in my head, realize that I would do better in English, think
that this is a bit of joke, then realize he is seriously asking my
help. He comes to the accurate answer in Hebrew. I apologize,
saying that I went to medical school, since I wasn't so ardent with
numbers; had I been, I would have been a physicist; He responds, he
became an avocado grower from similar sentiments. We drive to the gas
pump on the kibbutz, where he swipes his kibbutz card so that he is
accountable. He pumps. I watch the meter and feel some unease, as he
seems to have gone over the seven and a bit liters we had predicted.
He has filled the container and now realizes that he was watching the
figures for shekels of fuel. Now, what to do. I figure he needs add
perhaps another 250 cc of oil and we head back to the shack. I watch,
think we could pour off a bit into a second container to fit in the
oil. He simply spills a bit on the ground. I find myself at dis-ease
with thoughts of ground pollution, and correct myself silently: he's
done this for years, his kibbutz. I set the container in the back,
next to my bike.
We also have already watched the truck driver load pallets of
avocados, that godly fruit (if only god had not made the pits so
large). We are off. I remember to talk to Moshek about biodiesel and
what I have been learning. Perhaps it is too early in the morning, as
he seems less engaged than when we last talked, although he does
recall the name of the third crop that is rich in oils -- Jojoba.
At the fields, lined by Highway 4, a massive sign advertising Jeans
with a young fellow grasping the butt of a young lady, beneath this
icon of clothing bequeathed to us by Levi Strauss, who simply added
rivets to strengthen miners' pockets, loaded with gold ore in
California, I am lop-idating. I start, pick the newest set of
loppers, plastic sleeve still protecting the blades. I console myself
that the others are more experienced lop-idaters than I, can work the
older shears better, but I know this is rationalization.
I follow Shay this time, then decide to work on the same tree with
him. I see that I am a hesitater, a nibbler at limbs. Will hand trim
a few dry branches so that the others will be freer. I recall that
there are three reasons to trim: first if there are more than three
branches budding from a node, cut off the extras; second, if one
branch is threatening another with proximity, will bruise the future
offspring of its brethren, off it goes; third, if a limb is a sapper
off the trunk, or looks diseased, it bites the dust. I work from
outside, in, from periphery to the center. Shay is a great lopper, a
Bunyan of loppers. he will glance at a tangle and in contrast to me,
go to a limb's base and hack it off. If the limb is too robust for
lopping, out comes his folding hand saw. We have already been
preceded by Tomkap with the motor saw, felling large limbs. Some he
has pulled out to lie in the troughs between rows, but others he
leaves for us to remove. At times, I work, nibbler that I am at first,
trimming a limb abutting its brother, only to realize that it is
crowding the other, because it has been felled by Tomkap and is
sitting cheek by jowl. I learn to take a broader glance at a
prospective tree, pull off the lying limbs, before I lop-idate. As
the morning wears on, I become more assertive, although not as much as
Shay, or perhaps more careless.
I do find my mind wandering to previous thoughts of soul-trimming.
Of how the theosophist, Rudolf Steiner, who I think also originated
the Waldorf Schools, wrote with a touch of envy about plants: how they
simply need only to concentrate on growing, fruiting. I thought, if
only we could do such periodic soul trimming at seasons of our lives.
Check out which limbs of our soul are a bit worn, perhaps diseased,
even hanging on as if alive, but dead within. Find the the sappers
sprouting from our trunks, some of which sap our life spirits, others,
perhaps trying to light out on their own. Trim off those parts of our
soul-limbs that bruise its brethren limbs. All this to help us lead
more fruitful lives, bring greater sun into the interior of our
beings. If only we could have someone come along to help us be
selective, a touch the topiarist (but not so fanciful), a touch the
lapidarist, then our lives would be fuller; our soul's springs and
summers more glorious. And, like the persimmon trees, we should be
forgiving of ourselves if we trim a bit too much at times; just sprout
some new soul-limb.
But we are not such rooted characters.
By noon, my Achilles announces itself. I try to reason with it;
another hour and we will be done; shame on you that you can't stretch
yourself a bit so we can work to the end of the day with our Thai
colleagues. But, it, this tendon, prevails. You know, the usual
suspects are rounded up: "Remember the last time you didn't listen to
me?" "You think your will can outdo my pain?" "You need me more than
you need your conscience right now." Besides its arguments, it gives
me an occasional twinge to remind me of how my gastrocnemius felt --
fisted in pain -- when the tendon gave out a few weeks back. I throw
in the towel, or at least sheath my new shears and call Moshek.
He asks me to have a "bis," a bite to eat. But I am ready to rest.
Also, when we go to eat, he sips water and I am too much the social
eater to eat alone. He always drives me to the edge of the kibbutz,
near the intersection, the traffic light, as if to send me off into a
foreign world. He points to the odometer. He teaches me. Each tree
has something of an odometer within it. Each has a particular night
time temperature that arouses something in the tree. Perhaps, for the
kiwi, it is six degrees Celsius. Then each night it is above six
degrees, the tree "counts" the number of hours it feels above six
degrees and sets it into its odometer. Each tree has a count of hours
and degrees; when it reaches a threshold, for instance 300, it begins
to open its tender leaves, its flowers. The almond is the first
flowering tree B'Aretz. I saw them lining the road to Jerusalem: along
barren limbs, the almond is like distant stars in a dark firmament.
I treasure these gems. Gather my bike, and am off for Shabbat, the
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
As always, thanks for your journal. In the country I have always imagined.
Re: lopping. A wonderful metaphor for the growth and training of the soul. But it is God who does the significant work, we grow, but he is the gardener. See this passage, for one:
The Song of the Vineyard
1 I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.
3 "Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?
5 Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
6 I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it."
7 The vineyard of the LORD Almighty
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are the garden of his delight.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.