Back in early February, I took a day trip wine tasting with some friends in the Roero region of Piemonte in Northern Italy. Amongst the places we visited was this small but fabulous family-run winery that had been passed down in the family for generations. It was a wonderful visit and one that I highly recommended, particularly if you enjoy a little home-grown Italian philosophizing mixed in with your wine tasting. Between the Arneises and the Barberas, Davide and Daniele – the two young brothers who now run things – filled us in on the different aspects of running a small, sustainable winery in this age of agro-industrial greatness.
Later as we strolled through the vineyards, Daniele pointed out one of the farm workers (Uncle Giuseppe), who was busy pruning the grapevines. As Daniele explained it to us, Uncle Joe’s task was to study each vine and choose which of the tender new shoots to let grow based on its potential to give a good harvest in three years’ time. Decision made, the remaining shoots were simply cut off, to guarantee the best possible chance for the successful sprig to deliver on its promise.
At the time I was deeply struck by the symbology of this activity and found myself, as I am wont to do, using this symbolism as a lens through which to view my own life (this is an exercise I love to run on leadership retreats). How often do I stop with such intentionality to examine what is emerging in my life, not just for what it is now but for what it could be? Yes, I pay attention to those delicate tendrils of hope as they begin to emerge – each a promise of some future abundance. But if I’m honest? My strategy feels more akin to inhabiting a forest of fuzzy offshoots, destined to flourish and grow or wither away more by chance then of any intentional, cultivated tending on my part. What would my life look like if I were to not just nourish possibility, but to also practice Uncle Joe’s decisive finality?
Two months later, I am still here in Northern Italy. The joyful, explosive life-force that is spring in this region of the world sits in stark contrast to the pall of grief and shock that COVID19 has cast over the world and I cannot let go of this image and its powerful invitation…
It is an invitation to take the time now to tend, nurture, prune….to pay attention to our intention and have intention with our attention.
In this moment of rapid adaptation, experimentation and change, it is an invitation to reflect on what we will keep, and what we will let fall away.
It is an invitation to consider from all that is emerging, what holds the greatest promise for the life we want to live, and the world we want to inhabit in 3-5 years time?
I am reminded of the words of Indian author and political activist Arundathi Roy:
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Let us help usher her in.