Every year in early November we look forward to an olive picking party where there is the harvesting of olives from hundreds of trees in a vast orchard. While out picking, sometimes the conversation is humorous and lively, other times serious and introspective, but one thing is for certain; when the voices cease the only sound is the rhythmic thump of olives landing onto tarps and into buckets—like beating hearts working together toward a common goal.
While an olive is an olive, the people who attend this party come from varied places and lifestyles. As a community, we pick from late morning to lunch, share in a fabulous midday meal, go back to the orchard and continue harvesting, then head back inside for supper and dessert. Once our bellies are satisfied, we gather in the living room where musicians play guitars, mandolins, and other instruments, and several join in the singing of age-old songs.
This year, the olive picking party was bittersweet following life-changing events—the May 2017 passing of Marilyn, the matriarch of the family holding the event, and the aftermath of the October fires in Lake County and the surrounding counties. Even with such loss, the unspoken consensus was that death, whether human or nature, encourages new life and opportunity for growth.
With fondness, we laughed about how Marilyn, even well into her eighties, facilitated engaging and outright fun charades. She had the special gift of seeing the good in people, of making each of us feel as if we were the most special person in the room. In fact, I’m sure Marilyn was present in spirit that night to enjoy the conversations about her!
With compassion, we shared how the fires affected us directly or indirectly. Some of us had been evacuated and talked about how we dealt with the fear of losing our homes, and about family and friends who lost everything in the Santa Rosa fires. Others were not in the fire zone but helplessly watched from afar, and listened to the news, not knowing what to do or how to help. No matter what our experience, it was clear that everyone felt a deep gratitude for what we had in that very moment.
Now, with the olive picking party in distant memory and Christmas and the new year quickly approaching, my hope is that I will continue to live in gratitude and pay forward to my community the many blessings that have been given to me.
Happy holidays to all.