A few weeks ago I began to wonder if gleaning wasn't a way of participating in redemption. "Redeem," after all, means to buy back. And there is a sense in which when we glean we buy back with our sweaty work of picking and hauling that which would otherwise be lost or wasted.
Does that make it sound joyless? I hope not. I have moments of pure joy, even when my hands are sticky and stained and my back or hips or knees hurt - just to be out and participating in the economy of creation. We had just such a day last Friday, just warm enough to cause some perspiring, but with the sun autumn gentle, picking figs from 70+ year old trees, and gathering walnuts, on an old property in Sonoma which has been inhabited by members of one extended family for over 150 years.
The walnut trees had already had the long stick treatment, so we were invited just to gather what we could from the ground. Lots of bending, especially if you are tall! But we got 9 pounds in a short time.
There were nuts still popping from the trees, and I hope to go back this weekend and glean some more to deliver to non-profits which cook, like the Teen Center. Weather will determine whether or not I do.