The vine, gnarled and twisted, wrapped itself around itself and the supporting wires and stakes. Its growth was almost visible as it reached to fill the spaces while its wide green leaves caught the sun and rain and fed the whole vine. Now and then a little pruning helped displace shadow so that it would grow even more robustly. Soon the first berry clusters began to appear; small, bright green and promising.
Protective netting was placed overhead to keep too many birds from feasting on the ripening berries, but still the vine fed some as well as the mice and rabbits and occasional deer that slipped in under cover of darkness. The whole length of the vine spread out to give more room. Its ancient roots went deep to tap the moisture and feed from the soil. All the plants in the vineyard protected one another somewhat, holding on to the rain, blocking the—at times—furnace-like winds.
The grapes grew heavy on the vine. They filled with sweet, succulent juice and changed from bright green to deep, dark purple. The season was changing; the earth was drying. The harvest would soon come.
Near the vineyard a road passed bearing traffic to towns and villages, sometimes bringing the laborers who tended the vineyard. It also bore those who thought little of the land through which they were passing. One evening a careless traveler rushed by, barely recognizing the passing scenery, and without a moment’s consideration, tossed from the car window a lighted cigarette. It landed at the side of the road, but the breeze rolled it, still smoldering, into the dry grasses of the shoulder. A fresh gust fanned the ember, and the first low flames appeared, then spread rapidly.
By the time the alarm was raised, the roadside the length of the vineyard seemed to be ablaze. The heat from the flames created its own wind and pushed the fire into the dry vines. The very connectedness that allowed the vines to grow became a fuse that rushed the killing flames from one plant to the next. Soon the lush green was merely crumbling ashes and acrid smoke.
The next day a gentle rain washed the soot and ashes away or seeped into the cracked, baked ground. The earth loosened and cooled. Eventually, the water and the ashen solution worked its way into the depths of the roots, nourishing the small, still-living core. This heart of the vine again sent life pushing out until eventually green shoots broke the surface and the vine reached up again for the sun.