The Burning Vine

Bereft of light- the morning bland
Winter’s grip- shrouds the land
In dreary mist- a shadowed field
No hint of colors- will it yield
Vapors eddy- and lightly swirl
Ebbing, flowing- to unfurl
Monster mounds- of mangled sticks
Stacked up high- the flame now licks
Heaping remnants- a golden age
So quickly gone- in sudden rage
Vines uprooted- and set on fire
Gather round- the funeral pyre
Let no one toast- with ruby wine
But say an ode- to the burning vine
Mingling hot- the ash does screen
So does fog- hide the scene
The end of trays- with bunches sweet
where raisins wrinkled- at your feet
Let the smoke- now hide the pain
Of yearlong droughts- and dismal rain
Let the fog- mask the tears
Of mildew loss- and financial fears
The farmer has- pulled up posts
Haunted by- so many ghosts
The farmer has- pulled up stakes
Across his heart- splinters rake
Light on fire- every mound
Burn the heaps- to the ground
To the heavens- the flames ascend
Smoke and prayers- rise and blend
This ‘grapes of wrath’- we can’t take
This burning is- a funeral wake
We remember- halcyon days
Row upon row- of spilling trays
A way of life- near its end
Raisin farming- the future bends
For God has trampled- on the press
While we have beaten- on our breasts

The past month I have driven through a lot of fog. On either side of the road I have caught glimpses of giant mastodons hiding in the mist. But they weren’t extinct elephants. They were heaps of ripped out vines, waiting to be burned. I am sad to see so many vines being pulled out, as if going extinct. When we first came to Biola, we saw vineyards upon vineyards with the occasional almond orchard sprinkled in. Now we see the balance easily shifting to trees over vines, nuts over raisins. Biola Raisin Day was famously celebrated for decades. But now Kerman’s Almond Festival is a strong rival.

But I take heart. There will always be raisin farmers in our area. At some point with all the vines coming out, raisin prices have to go up, right? We pray so. Newly minted vine leaves spring from the canes with such amazing and vibrant light shades of green. Soon, bunches of grapes play hide and seek among the mottled leaves. The process of turning seedless Thompson grapes into raisins is nothing less that God’s sundrenched miracle. Surely, something so beautiful and delicious can’t go extinct.

Still, the times are changing. Crops also change with the times. Winter wheat was grown in these counties over a century ago. But there is no more winter wheat. Figs were very popular not too long ago. But their acreage has shriveled and almost disappeared. Almonds are the newcomers. They only arrived, what, just over forty years ago? And now they dominate the valley. My family drove up to Fairfield for the Jelly Belly factory tour several years ago. On the way up and back, I took pleasure in pointing out to my dad all the different crops and trees we passed. But the chorus quickly became very repetitious: ‘and those are more almonds…’

My ode to vineyards and grapes is a mournful plea for God to have mercy on all of our farmers. Though vines seem to have lost first place to almonds, may grapes and raisins still thrive and be blessed by God. May all crops be blessed by our gracious Father. Our God is not only Lord of the spiritual harvest, amen, but He is also Lord of the physical harvest. May you still farm with hope because our Creator placed Adam in the garden to work it and produce a bountiful crop. May we always rest assured that though crops may change, our Lord and Savior is the same yesterday, today and forever. May you labor with love and receive a just price. May we as a church also find strength and perseverance in the examples of our fellow farmers. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) Keep pressing on everyone! Our God is the Lord of the harvest!

--Tim M., Adult