Pruning Season

"Left to itself, a grape plant will always favor new growth over more grapes."

It's quiet in my neck of the woods.

The students have abandoned their cares and their campus for the familiar highways of home, and I'm safe in the knowledge that no one will move my load of laundry before it's actually dry.

Snow is falling soft and gentle, and I think with a half-turned smile about the intensity of this semester. The year hasn't ended, but I've already archived its days in my memory as stowaways for future reference.

It ended with easy laughter and pans of enchiladas, with red lips and dark n' stormies, and not much mention of the miraculous fact that we survived one of the toughest semesters yet.

Protestors hugged the Chapel steps every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They hugged me on occasion, too.

A "how we're handling the media" update was emailed regularly, with some facts I'd read before and plenty that I hadn't. Petitions were distributed and signed by thousands. Pundits used phrases like "witch hunt" to describe something they hadn't seen about a place they didn't know. 

I watched tears fill the eyes of administrators, faculty, staff, alumni and students. Maybe sorrow was our greatest commonality this semester. We shared grief for changes that none of us were ready to make.  For being cast in the worst possible light by stakeholders on every side of the conversation. For the misunderstanding and assuming and blaming that became par for the course.

Meanwhile, I passed up every opportunity to make my opinion heard. I suspect I'm not alone; there's a lot of us who haven't tweeted or blogged or broadcasted anything. I can't speak for them all, but I know I'd rather be remembered as one who listened during a season of so much talking.

This has been my community's pruning season.

And the shears went into my own heart, cutting back my rushed attempts to move on, move forward, move toward something other than this awful pain.


I read a book recently about the way grapes work, how they insist on producing more and more and more clusters without giving a second thought to what they need or how the light required for photosynthesis will reach the fruit. An abundance of shady leaves will kill the plant, and so, each year, vinedressers trim upwards of 90% of the previous year's growth.


That's a lot of plant matter to discard. A lot of good, worthwhile, could've-been-wine fruit left to the devices of the bugs and the dirt.

I think about all that has been cut away over the course of these 14 weeks, in particular our ideas of what the institution "stands for". Heaps of cushy, shaded notions about the Gordon we thought we were now lay on the ground. We are exposed to an unprecedented extent.

I didn't mean to write about the semester this way. I meant to continue on with my characteristic introspection about pushing for change and praying for release-but this story came of it's own accord. I meant to see Gordon's pain as the landscape upon which my ups and downs would take shape.

I should've known better.

When you live at the place you work, you cannot confine "workplace drama" to the "office." Step into my office. It also happens to be my living room.  

And in that living room, tension and conflict has been the narrative arc, the theme of most conversations I've companioned here and around North Shore coffee tables. These past 5 months were some of the toughest that this community has faced, but here I am, snow falling outside my window, held captive by the quiet and the space that fills this campus, my home. 

I'm here, believing that the light will find a way in, that the vinedresser's pruning will ripen the little fruit that's left on the vine.