A couple of weeks ago after leaving a rural airport we saw a "U Pick Grapes" sign in the grass at an intersection. On a whim we followed the signs for about 20 minutes until we came upon a small family vineyard. An antique British car club meeting was being hosted and the little parking lot was lined with old cars. The owner was welcoming and friendly fellow who had retired to the farm 15 years ago to board his horses; the mature vineyard was a happy perk. He led us with buckets into the sun drenched rows of vines, which were absolutely tumbling over with grapes, and then left us to pick our fill.
We pulled handfuls of them into our buckets. I felt giddy with the beauty of the place, the new experience, the pleasure of picking our own food. Little spiders wove together bunches of grapes and hid within them. A bird's nest was sheltered in the vines, only the eggs were long gone, neatly replaced by fallen grapes.
The fruit was so abundant that they showered down when we brushed them. They burst their syrupy juice and tough, tart skins into our mouths, so much more intensely and complexly flavored than the grapes I've always eaten from grocery stores. We ate them addictively for days. I learned to make grape jam for the first time.
While I once found joy so easily and now rarely do, this simple, unexpected afternoon among the overflowing bounty of grapes in the North Carolina autumn sun absolutely was joyful.