Nearly every day I drive past this exact view.
Or, more days than not I drive past this exact point on the Earth.
And the view is different each time.
I love grapevines. I love the grapevines that grow on our little farm -- three ancient vines that twine together and whose grapes are unidentifiable but delicious... mine in their tart-sweet imperfection. I love the grapevines at the wineries that dot our local landscape -- thousands of vines pruned to precise standards by hundreds of hands. I love the way those workers know how to preserve exactly the right number of leaves on a vine to shade the grapes without starving them. I love the way the leaves turn colors in concert as though a conductor told the strings to whisper while the brass section has a turn at glory.
I love grapevines, and I love that the view from that point is different every day.
And there's this easy parallel to make between point of view and point of reference. We know that the exact same circumstance in our lives can look infinitely better or worse depending on which way we view it. We know that a glass can be half full or half empty. I can (and often do)turn myself in circles looking for a better perspective on the same situation. I can take the high road, if you will, to look at my troubles from afar. But that's not the point I'm thinking about today.
The thing I am thinking about today is... why do I keep coming around to the exact same location? Do you ever feel like that? As though your life orbits a planet of your problems, and those challenges present themselves in different moon phases so as to render them nearly unrecognizable? They're grapevines dressed in different color leaves and perhaps a cloudier sky one day from the next. Do you feel, every once in a while, that your life lessons keep re-presenting themselves at work, at home, in the books you read?
Oh, and in the people you meet. Some days it seems that everyone I meet is lacking patience. Gee, it couldn't have anything to do with me, could it? Some years it seems that I have worked for the same boss in different skin and in different decades... the same unreasonable, demanding person expecting me to change for him or her.
At first glance it may seem as we drive by that we're viewing a different landscape. But when we examine the topography we see that we might be passing that same point, exactly, right there. Did I circle around again? If I'm lost in the woods, it's best to leave a marker so I know whether I'm passing the same point again, just with different color leaves.
So I want to look at the topography of the problem. I want to see past the changing foliage and take a different road every once in a while. Or lay asphalt for a new one if need be.
It might be obvious to everyone but me. It probably is. I once read in Madeleine L'Engle's published journals that a close friend of hers had wounded her pride by judging that L'Engle's writing was stating the painfully obvious. All I know is that there is power in saying it out loud, in clacking the keys to make a point that may finally get me driving in a new direction.
I have three grapevines to care for. The field hands at the big vineyards have thousands. Once I get my brain wrapped around the problem, I will prune mine with as much precision as the pros do. My grapes will get precisely the right proportions of shade and sun. I'll type up my points, and they'll sometimes show up on the same corner of the map as they did before. But that's okay, because I'll recognize the lay of the land. They may come dressed in different color leaves, but they'll still be grapevines. A little bitter, a little sweet. That's how I like my life lessons too.