In old Key West there is a small courtyard cemetery – not to be confused with the larger, more visited Old Key West Cemetery. I stopped there once outside the half wall and watched a hen with chicks hunting and pecking around the ancient markers. The chicks were constantly going out and coming back to mama as if testing the limits of their freedom. As soon a one would reach the invisible boundary she would give a barely audible cluck and the chick, as if scolded, would immediately dart back to her side. How she kept an eye on the whole brood is a marvel. I stepped quietly inside the cemetery wall and witnessed what David must have observed when he penned the ninety-first Psalm. Immediately upon sensing my presence every one of the chicks scurried to their mother’s side and disappeared under her wings. As soon as I stepped back behind the wall, out they came like Mother Ginger’s children in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.
I harvested one hundred pounds of grapes from the vineyard this year; a nice increase over last year. My vineyard however only has black grapes and my wife wanted some bronze grapes as well so I made what has become an annual trip over to a friend’s vineyard in Valrico. It’s been open for picking over two weeks and I was told that there weren’t many berries left so it might take a long time to pick the thirty pounds I wanted. The young man at the shop was incredulous when I returned forty five minutes later with three buckets full. “I know their hiding place,” I told him. “Your Grandfather did too”. The young man’s Grandfather planted the vineyard some years ago and we became friends and had talked a lot about growing grapes and growing in spirit. He died last year. I told the young man one of the secrets of the vine; and a secret of the Kingdom too: “The biggest, sweetest grapes and the largest clusters are the ones closest to the vine (the trunk).” Not only do they get the most nutrient from the vine but the foliage is much thicker there than on the further reaches of the branches. They are protected from the birds and other predators, including most grape pickers. Not many folks will do the work to look up under the thick growth or reach up in there for the fruit. So it hides there, abiding under the shadow.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.”