A year or more ago, my older daughter and her husband, who live south of Kansas City on 80 acres of rural farmland, contracted with a local winery to plant and grow grapes. Later they added another big bunch of vines.
Having just read Sister Judith Sutera's delightful new book, The Vinedresser's Notebook: Spiritual Lessons in Pruning, Waiting, Harvesting and Abundance, I hope they know what they're doing. Being a vinedresser is no easy task.
Sister Judith has been caring for the vineyards at the monastery of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kan., for decades. She's also a magazine editor and author of several books. We share a mutual friend, author Kathleen Norris.
Years ago, Judith writes, she was on a retreat and began writing and sketching in a small notebook what she knows about being a vinedresser -- much of it learned working with an older nun.
Those sketches and writings for the trellis for the reflections she offers here about what it means in a spiritual sense to be mindful, to be a good pruner, to be a nurturer.
Take, for instance, what she writes about pruning:
"All the cutting that seems to go on in life is hard enough when it happens because of external circumstances. It's even harder to decide that I should cut some more because of the ultimate benefit, as when I prune good branches so the energy of the vine can be concentrated. That's the same idea that is behind spiritual disciplines. We practice sacrifice so that our spiritual lives can be more fruitful."
This is a book marinated in Christianity, but there's lots of wisdom for people of all faiths and none. And if nothing else, you'll learn a lot about being a vinedresser. Which is why I'm going to make sure my daughter and her husband see this book.
* * *
Do you know about the Moral Monday movement? Well, it's expanding to a whole week of social justice action in various states. Good. It's hard to be moral just on back-to-work day.
* * *
P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online here.
* * *
ANOTHER P.S.: I have received the sad news that Zygie Allweiss, whose story of survival in the Holocaust is the first one Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn and I tell in our book, They Were Just People: Story of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, died yesterday. Jacques and I were with Zygie on Aug. 5 when we spoke at the Holocaust Memorial Center in surburban Detroit. I plan to have more to say about Zygie in a later blog posting.