We spent Sunday afternoon doing what Sunday afternoons feel made for.
We didn’t watch football. We didn’t prop our feet up on the couch.
No, we grabbed our ax and got some exercise.
There’s an old stone foundation on a corner of our farm – the remnants of a mill that was spinning long before our nation fought over its great divide.
We wanted to pay homage to such a relic. We wanted to see what was hidden behind the trees and brush that took advantage of such an easy place to live.
We chopped and chopped. Soon enough, we shed our layers and were down to a T-shirt. The dry, 30-degree air eagerly lifted the sweat from our skin.
Once our ax made its final swing through the trees, we put it aside and tackled the true beast… a generation’s worth of wild grapevine that tightly sewed everything together.
These devilish vines did their job well.
We couldn’t tell beginning from end. Where did they start, and where did they end?
We pulled. We cut. And we cussed.
In the end, we hacked at each individual strand of woody vine until the whole mess came undone.
The 160-year-old stonework we revealed is exquisite… as straight and true today as it was when each stone was laid in place during those oh-so-different days.
As we put our weight on the old wall and caught our breath, we gazed at the mangled pile of vines and pondered the news of the day… or, more accurately, the theme of the year.
Good Wine or Killer Vines
Those vines, you see, could be friend or foe.
Vitis aestivalis, as the botanists amongst us would call the summer grape, offers us a fine grape when nurtured and cared for properly.
It makes a good wine.
But when unkempt and left to wander and crawl where they will, the vines are quick to make a mess out of something good.
Soon enough, as our achy muscles and stiff joints will attest, we won’t know which end to cut.
We can’t help but compare the mess we chopped apart on Sunday to the tangled political mess that’s weaving its way through our culture.
Given the right attention – a good set of pruners and a strong sense of what’s right – the vines of strong political will can do great things.
We like to think the men who worked so hard during the hot summer of 1776 knew a thing or two about pruning vines.
They certainly knew the value of cutting back the woody tentacles of government.
But generations have ticked by.
There’s not a soul alive who has picked up a gun and shot back at the life-choking vines that grow from his own land.
We pray it stays that way.
But instead of nurturing our own sweet grapes, we’ve been slashing the vines weaving through other lands. We’ve made our mark in Europe and northern Africa. Soon, we’re convinced, we’ll wield our machete through Asia.
Meanwhile, few folks dare to look back to see what’s growing on the homeland.
Only the keen-eyed are worried about the vines that are weaving and snaking their way through a culture that no longer realizes those tight roots around its trunk aren’t natural… and are quite unhealthy.
Everywhere we look, we see them.
But we wonder if anybody else has… or if they care.
The Power of the Individual
What’s happening is flat-out dangerous. The vines of politics are choking our nation.
Instead of using the great resources around us to nurture a tall and mighty oak tree, our national efforts are feeding the weedy vines of politics.
They’ve all been wrapped into a mess of an idea that has no beginning and no end. We can pull and rip at this notion of “politics” as much as our strength will allow.
But it won’t work.
There’s no beginning and no end.
The only way out is to focus on the individual.
Notice, dear reader, our Triad says nothing of politics.
It says we’re healthy and we’re strong only when we master our Liberty, our Know-How and our Connections.
The Triad represents the branches of the mighty oak.
But government represents the vines at the base of the tree.
Pruned just right, they’ll grow delicious grapes and an intoxicating brew. But left alone, the political tendrils that grow from the vine will spawn a mass that chokes the giant oak until it dies.
A critical question grew in our mind as we looked at our day’s hard work.
Where are our energy and our nutrients going? Are we feeding the tall and strong oak… or the ugly vines?
Only one supports our Triad. The other threatens to kill it.
Cut the vines one at a time… starting with those at your feet.