grapes and valley of terraces

Tales of a Teacher: Terraces

— by James A. Plambeck, Copyright 1995

A teacher was walking with his students . . .

A bit further along, the road turned to the right around a hill and a steep valley opened before them. The hillside above them was barren and rocky, but across the valley terraces had been built with rocks to hold the earth. A vineyard had been planted on the terraces, and they could see the green color of the vines and even the purple of ripening grapes. He looked across the valley, then sat down on a stone at the edge of the road and taught them.

“The same rain falls on one side of this valley as on the other, and the sun shines on both alike, yet one side is barren and the other alive and fruitful. It is the terraces, those flat places where the rain must stop, the sun may shine, and the vines may root, that make the difference. Where there are no terraces, the rain as it falls rushes down the hillside sweeping the fertile soil to the river below. No vines find place to take solid root, and the sun as it shines serves only to bake the rocks and clay.

“Your lives, too, must have their terraces. You must have places to stop amid the heedless rush of this world, places to take root in faith, places to grow in the strength that comes always from above. Without a place to stop, to stand, to be rooted, and to grow you too will be swept along by the things of this world as they rush by. You will be as the seed unsown, the fertile soil swept uselessly to the river, or the barren soil baked by the sun if there are no places of quiet within your lives.”

Then one of those who walked with him asked, “Teacher, where in our lives are we to find these terraces, these places of peace and growth?” At that he looked down the valley, beyond the vineyard, to where men were carrying rocks and earth in baskets, and he taught them.

“The side of this valley now green with vines was once like this side, barren and rocky. Then men came, even as these men come now, and with much labor in the carrying of rocks and soil they made the terraces on which that vineyard grows. They placed the rocks carefully to hold themselves and the soil and planted the vineyards to grow there. The vinedressers continue to tend the vines and to keep in repair the terraces on which they grow, so that the fruit may continue. No valley builds terraces by itself, without the labor of workers.

“So also it is to be with you. With time and with effort, both individually and together, you must build the resting and growth places within your own lives. With care you must plant your thoughts there, so that good fruit may come from them. With even greater care as they grow must you nurture them and root out weeds, that their good fruit may continue. Others will come and see your terraces, and come to know that they too should build them. Then their barren lives can become full of life and joy even as this hillside, on which building continues even though the first vinedresser to work in this valley passed away long ago.”



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