What’s the Secret of Life? It’s One Thing…

Cover of "City Slickers"
Cover of City Slickers

When I was flying back home from Italy, I had a number of films to choose from to kill time.  I was in the mood for a comedy, so I picked City Slickers.  I don’t know if you remember this film, or know this film, but it’s a beauty made in 1991, where three middle-age buddies (Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby) facing personal crises decide to sign up for a two-week  cattle run for a change of pace.  By the end of the film, their lives are forever changed when they each discover the secret of life.  Their one thing.  I remember how much this movie made me laugh, made me think and it still does. 

So, in the film, there is a scene between Curly (Jack Palance) and Mitch (Billy Crystal) where they are riding their horses together, and Curly the cowboy turns to Mitch and asks this one universal question:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger]                               Curly: This.                                                                                                                                   Mitch: Your finger?                                                                                                                     Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean sh*t!            Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”                                                                                      Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.

For James Taylor, the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.   I know the secret of life is different for everyone, that we each have our one thing.  What’s your one thing? 

For me, Johnny Depp summed it up perfectly:  (In fact, for me, Johnny Depp just might be the secret of life! HA!)

As I get older and I watch my parents struggle with aging and isolation, love seems to be the only answer to help them during this difficult stage.  As I watch my family and friends battle with cancer, or look for work, or struggle with divorce, or an ailing child, I can only offer love.  When I worked hospice–love.  When I was a foster parent to three black, frail, dying kitties–love.  When I felt a bit lost or hard on myself, love.  When I’m teaching my own children from right and wrong–love.

Love encompasses it all: Compassion, empathy, honesty, authenticity, giving, presence, encouragement, understanding, appreciation, gratitude, wisdom, stillness, grace and hope.  These qualities were each born from the family of love.

Then, there’s my love for the wine country, writing, for gardening, cooking, animals, art, wine, film, literature, for sharing time with friends and family. 


And then there’s humor…

This scene made me chuckle in City Slickers when Billy Crystal addresses his son’s class on career day.

Mitch Robbins:  “Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, What happened to my twenties? Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering how come the kids don’t call? By your eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand but who you call mama. Any questions? “

I don’t know about you, but I love to laugh, make others laugh.  I love to hear my sister laugh.  My brother always makes me laugh.  My mother and father, I love when they just laugh their heads off.  And in the wine country, on certain nights, I can hear my neighbor’s laugh being carried into the vineyards.  It makes me smile. 

Humor makes its way into my heart and allows me to love, live larger than before.  After love, laughter runs a close second to the secret of life.  Perhaps they are one in the same? A truthful tie.


A Feast for the Senses

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. Français : Lucques, Tos...
Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. Français : Lucques, Toscane, Italie.

After spending ten days immersed in the wine country of Tuscany, Italy, I have etched every moment, vivid and alive, in my memory, and stored every sensory experience, acute and vital, in my heart.

My senses were sharpened, like a chef’s knife, once my worries and obligations of home in Sonoma receded into the background.  Every sound, smell, touch I experienced in Italy, only made my appetite for life greater.

In San Gennaro, Lucca, in the tiny, little village in which we stayed, I could hear the soft church bells in the distance, smell the freshly brewed espresso coming from the only ristorante down the street, and feel the cobblestones under my feet as we walked the narrow alley ways with fresh flowers in the window baskets.  Come evening, I would breathe in the aroma of a fine Fabiano red wine and fall into the flavors of their famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

My husband and I walked the cobble stone streets for miles and miles, and visited the medieval Roman towns of Lucca, Siena, Portovenere, Greve in Chianti, Florence and Pisa and watched the hustle and bustle of not only the tourists, but of the Italian locals shopping for fresh ingredients for their dinner each night.

When it comes to beauty, the Italian people embody it.  Everywhere you look, feel, taste, touch and see, there are fine fashions, beautiful people, delicious wines, exquisite food, historical treasures, architectural delights and art masterpieces to behold.

Italy is, in a few words, a feast for the senses.  I could not stop eating their fine foods, drinking their exquisite wines, walking the Roman streets, or marveling at their art.  In Florence, I stood in the presence of mystical magnificence at the Accademia and Uffizi Gallery.   I simply, could not take my eyes off Caravaggio‘s Bacchus God of Wine, Michelangelo’s David, nor Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came home with a deepened appreciation for my husband, my family, for beauty found right here in the wine country.  My life here in Sonoma–it is a lot like Tuscany, where I grow fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables in my own garden.  I too, can stroll down long country roads with vineyard rows everywhere, and have picnics with fresh bread, a delicious Chianti and imported salami and cheeses.

vineyard light
vineyard light (Photo credit: torbakhopper)

Tuscany is a slice of heaven and so is home, here in Sonoma, where I can practice the simple life in a more meaningful way.

Just outside my window, the vineyard buds are about to open right before my very eyes.