Gifts of Excellence

This past weekend, I was graced with gifts of excellence for a full 48 hours.  I left Sonoma on Saturday to go to L.A. to see my family for my 50th birthday and to attend the Academy Awards the following day with my husband. 

Gnocchi
Gnocchi (Photo credit: Enrico Matteucci ☸)

Moment by moment, I was lost in perfection.  I was surprised by unexpected family members who came from far and away to celebrate my big 50 at my parent’s home.  In preparation of this event, my mother made and rolled one potato Gnocchi at a time, enough for 9 hungry mouths.  As we all sat at the long dining room table, with pride, my mother presented our favorite Italian delicacy on a big platter, which took her years to perfect.  She demonstrated her excellence in her cooking and in being a mother. 

Next, came the gifts from family.  I was given a gift of beauty, a sea green glass pendant that looks as if it was designed by Gustav Klimt, my favorite Art Nouveau artist.  There is a shimmer and sheen to the glass, with gold and green swirls, the black tree looks like a cactus from the desert. 

I was also given a first edition book of Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen from my sister and her husband.  I am a lover of literature and to have this rare find on my book shelf makes my life rich beyond compare. 

Lastly, my parents gave me a gold pendant bracelet that my mother wore when she was young.  It is engraved with her initials, MD, which just happen to be mine.  I will cherish this heirloom forever.

As for the academy awards, it was thrilling to be in the midst of excellence seen in the long designer gowns of stars, or experienced in the entertaining performances by Billy Crystal, Cirque du Soleil and Chris Rock or found in the refreshing acceptance speeches by actor/actress, editors, cinematographers, writer/composer/directors.

What these experiences, whether it be emotional, spiritual and/or physical have in common are their unique gifts of beauty, excellence and perfection.  We each have these gifts and they can be tasted in a homemade Gnocchi recipe, seen in an original sea glass pendant, read in a book of Africa, remembered in a young woman’s memory, engraved on a gold pendant.

In the past, I looked at excellence or perfection as a quality I could never live up to, a high bar I could never reach.  But as I let my heart flow and live honestly in my own skin, openly in my mind, I see my natural abilities take hold and surface with ease.  

Each of us holds gifts of excellence if we just let them be seen, felt and heard.  With love being the greatest gift of excellence there is.

Look to Beauty

English: Buddhist statue inside a Temple in Xi'an
 

Buddhists say, “Life is suffering.” They advise us, to accept what is so. 

Knowing life is suffering and that life is also more, than suffering, (after all, I am a glass is half full, kinda gal), I accept what is.  However, it seems lately, that not a week goes by, that I don’t hear from a friend who’s been diagnosed with cancer, or a friend who struggles with an aging parent, or a friend, in tears, whos teenager is on drugs, on the road to ruin.  When tragedy hits, when sorrow comes and there are no words, I look to beauty.  I look to beauty to counter the underbelly currents of life, that are overwhelming at times, ever-present in the every day.  I look to beauty to make sense of it all, the good, the bad, the ugly.

I sigh. I breathe.  I move.  I move into the day, only to see a Cooper’s hawk driving home from school.  My son and I stop the car, and marvel quietly, at this beautiful, wild, wild bird in perfect pose.  Here he is in living color, up-close and personal.

Cooper's Hawk on feeder

There simply are no words to describe this bird wonder, only silence, awe, stillness.

Knowing, in this life, there is little we control, I find comfort, solace and natural happiness, watching this free bird dangle on the feeder and then, take flight. 

I get ‘giddy happy’ when the garlic cloves we planted in the garden, start to poke their little green heads out of the ground.  

I smile when the paper whites, yellow daffodils, and Amaryllis start to open when they were once mere bulbs, then poof, like magic, they appear in full bloom.

English: Amaryllis

At every stage of life, I must remember my beauty, nature’s beauty.  At every stage of our lives, we must remember our beauty.  And the eternal beauty we seed in the hearts of our loved ones.

Coming to Life

Sunflowers
 

Nature inspires me, grounds me, keeps me sane, alive with wonder.  Now that restful winter is turning to lively spring, I feel myself coming to life in a newly bloomed, juicy, creative and fertile way.

As I write about life in the wine country,   nature is my greatest source for inspiration.  I find this is true not only in my work, but by writers and artists that I admire, Willa Cather, Georgia O’Keeffe, Antonio Machado, Vincent van Gogh.

Just this week, I was riveted by Van Gogh Up Close, an art exhibit taking place at the Philadelphia museum.  I read about it and saw stunning photos of the exhibit on-line by the New York times.  There, his works come to life, through 45 small, looked over, paintings which examines the artist’s relationship to nature at its most intimate.  As I went through each slide, I was drawn by the fire yellow in his shrinking ‘Sunflowers’, the blue and white liquid brilliance in ‘Almond Blossom,’ the shaded green in ‘Rain.’ 

English: Red Vineyards near Arles (1888), the ...

In this painting, van Gogh paints workers in the vineyards, with his yellow sky, burnt orange vines, and blue trees; It takes my breath away.  Nature inspired him to paint in colorful, vivid detail.

When I admire his works, up close, I am reminded how much nature inspires me when I’m taking walks in the valley of the moon, pruning vines in our vineyard, planting onion bulbs and garlic in our garden, taking a picture of a white snowy egrit, or simply gathering wood.  I am inspired by nature and because of her I come to life, over and over again.

When I look around at the cherry blossoms, the deep blue ocean, the red rosebud, the yellow finch, the orange maple trees, the silvery drops of dew on a spider web, the stoic green mountains, I understand my rightful place in this world.   When I am one with nature and fully in it, I know my true purpose on this planet, to live the day, drink in the wisdom that comes from the well of silence, to be fully aware, taking it all in and looking at life in vivid detail like van Gogh did with his nature landscapes, his golden sunflowers, his purple irises, his starry, starry nights.