All posts by winecountrydiaries

I live in Sonoma with my husband, two sons, three cats, one dog, some fish and 600 vines. My blog is a weekly journal of sorts, sharing my love for writing, wine and wine making, gardening, reflections, friends, travel, poetry, good food and cool places I might happen on. I look forward to sharing my musings in the wine country and beyond with you.

What Needs Pruning in your Life?

Every year at this time, the vineyards call our attention. My husband, Dan and I live on an acre of land and tend to 600 vines in Sonoma. Come the break of Spring, the vineyards ask to be freed of their dead weight, scraggly wintry branches they’ve been holding up for far too long. The vines need room for the sun and time to breathe before the birth of little pink bud-babies.

After months of rain, the dormant vines received their wish yesterday. A group of hired-hands came together to alleviate the vineyards from their weighted past. With clippers, they made space for possibility, vast and beautiful as the Sonoma sky.

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Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish Photography

I soak in the beauty of scarcity that only comes at the tail end of winter. I feel lighter now, knowing the heavy work is done. As I stare out my living room window, the vineyard landscape is breathtaking: open and stark. I am reminded that I too, need to prune the things in my life that no longer serve me, so I can make room for more life-affirming, joyful acts.

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Being a lover-of-lists, here’s what I am pruning out of my cluttered life to make way for more open, life-sustaining fulfillment, like candles. Heart candles!

Here’s my list:

  1. Less Whining = More wine! More friends and more wine.
  2. Less News and Social Media = More reading, writing, listening to music.
  3. Less Talking = More Prayer, meditation, and silent retreats.
  4. Less Clutter = More sanity!
  5. Less procrastination = More ‘Be Here Now’ activity.
  6. Less seriousness = More laughter!
  7. Less planning = More trust to let the day unfold.
  8. Less pressure = Enough with the should have, could have, would have thinking!

As the old saying goes, “Less is More.” The recipe for simplicity.

What do you think needs pruning in your own life? I wonder. (Hope it’s not me. Haha).

 

 

The Power to Soar

I just finished reading a book called, Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain, a powerfully written novel about Beryl Markham, a woman brought up wild in Kenya, Africa. If you loved Out of Africa, this unconventional story is for you.

Beryl was involved with Deny’s Finch Hatton and hungered for his love for most of her adult life. She endured societal scandals as well, swept up in a love triangle between him and the writer and Baroness Karen Blixen who also loved him deeply.

What stays with me was Beryl’s fearlessness, a pioneer in her own right. She was one of the first women racehorse trainers,

“We read to know we’re not alone.” C.S. Lewis

There’s nothing like a good book to keep us company. And nothing more intimate and graceful, the experience between the storyteller and the listener. The writer writes, the reader reads. The bond is cemented. This silent exchange requires nothing of the reader but their time and attention for the length they are willing to give the book.

I have spent many a fine hour lost in a good book. Here is a list of my book faves, in hopes they will become yours too. They are not in any particular order.

  1. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  2. My Antonia, Willa Cather
  3. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
  4. Circling the Sun, Pam McLain
  5. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  6. Out of Africa, Isak Denesen
  7. The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
  8. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
  9. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
  10. Love Warrior, Glennon Melton
  11. The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande
  12. Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
  13. To Be The Poet, Maxine Hong Kingston
  14. Portrait Of An Artist, Laurie Lisle
  15. Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now, Maya Angelou
  16. All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot

More to come…

Look to Art and Beauty

Since my father passed away, I have been looking to art and beauty in the everyday. When he was alive, there wasn’t a hummingbird, a great oak tree, a good history book, a classical piece of music, or an oil painting of the beautiful English countryside that he didn’t take close notice, appreciate, and share with me. There wasn’t a day he didn’t notice Nature’s bounty and beauty, or a brilliant work of art.

As I carry him with me, I am reminded with every death, there is rebirth. For every person who dies, a baby is born. For every inhale, there is an exhale. I, of course, have intellectualized these truths, but not until I experienced my father’s passing, did I know what rebirth felt like to die to the past and weave a new life for myself.

In the book, The Second Half Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom, anthropologist and author, Angeles Arrien states, “We are all born with a great dream for our lives. A dream that may have been derailed along the way by family and career responsibilities or submerged by our own choices. In the second half of life, after your roots have gone deeply into the world, it is time to resurrect this dream.”

As a writer and insight practitioner, I look to art and beauty for inspiration. A lover of silence and creativity, the two go hand in hand, to provide the Inner Peace I value as much as the breath. Every morning, I walk my dog, then sit down to write, read and wonder about the mysteries of life all around me. Continue reading Look to Art and Beauty

Just a Soul in Sonoma

2016 was a year of unpredictability and crushing loss. My father lost his battle to Alzheimer’s on September 30th at 1:10 p.m. And America lost its civility as I witnessed one of the most contentious elections in our country’s history.

I looked for stability and sanity at the wake of my father’s death. For nearly five years, I watched him decline, his brilliant mind fade-out, his body cave-in until he died. I was relieved. I was sorrow-stricken. My life was up-ended.

Exhaustion won over. For too long, we were managing his care–daily roller coaster rides filled with pain and suffering, zombie meds to manage, and bed sores to look out for. Was he losing weight? Is he alert? Does he have any quality of life left?

Our inability to help him speak rendered us speechless when perhaps all he wanted to say was “I love you,” one more time. Soon the swallowing of food proved difficult. He was confined to a wheel chair. He was trapped. So were we.

No one should endure this cruel end of life phase, no one. For me, the burden of guilt was too much to bear. Why couldn’t I have ended his pain sooner? Why did I let him rot in a nursing home? Why wasn’t he back at home with his family when he died? What happened to his right to die with dignity? What happened?

On that fateful morning, I was driving from Sonoma to L.A. to visit my father when I got the call from hospice that he was a few hours away from taking his last breath. “Would I make it in time?” They asked. I was 100 miles from the nursing home, stuck in terrible traffic, sitting with a paralyzing fear that I would miss saying good-bye to my father. My greatest fear was realized.

I wasn’t there for him when he took his last breath. I wasn’t there. I failed him, like I had failed him so many times before. This is how I saw it anyway. I wasn’t there.

When I arrived, I lowered my head in shame and sadness as I walked in to the small, sterile room. All I could do was hold his already cold lifeless hand. At least my mother made it in time. She showed up. Not me. I fell short once again. I wasn’t there.

I now understand what it means to be invisible. My father was my constant tried-and -true validater. He saw me. Never gave up on me. He was a beautiful, giving, and kind man who strived to be perfect and liked everything perfect. He had high expectations for his children. Expectations that were hard to live up to. Yet, he loved us unconditionally. He was my inspiration who never stopped believing in me. So now what? Where do I go from here?

This will be my first Christmas without him. His passing left me groundless, breathless, confused, and scared. But very few know this. I just kept going. Pretending. Moving. Go. go. go. Keep talking up a good game. Work. Write. Create. Pretend.

I am now learning how “to be” for the first time in my life. I am just an ordinary soul in Sonoma after all. One soul out of 7 billion. I don’t need to stand out. Be something I’m not. Be Somebody as they say. This thought is comforting. A little voice whispers: just be, begin again, breathe, take little baby steps to slowly transform your life.

So, I take a walk. There’s a heron standing stoic at the creek as the rain falls gently on my face, God’s hints that I have everything I need today. I have nature to comfort me. Being is enough. I am enough. It’s time to let him go, show up for myself and be free.

Fireside Heaven

On this rainy Saturday, after taking a meditative walk with my dog, Ella, fall-2016-005I nestle into a comfy port wine chair inside my living room, what my friend calls “Fireside Heaven.” I like the sound of that, a name that aptly describes a quiet sanctuary to restore, be inspired, and dream a little dream. fall-2016-124

I am one of the fortunate few to still have a wood-burning fireplace to keep me warm and cozy, safe from the noisy and crazy world outside. Here, I look out my window at the serene side of nature, cherishing the simple things worth savoring, moment to moment.

I imagine Fireside Heaven in the same way Virginia Woolf does in, “A Room of One’s Own.” A place to center one self, gather your thoughts, to read and to write. A soulful place that no one can take away from me, from any of us.

Without leaving my chair, I read and have wings to travel to Africa in Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, afall-2016-041n inspiring story about the pioneering life of Beryl Markham, the first woman racehorse trainer and pilot to soar solo from the Atlantic, east to west, in pursuit of personal freedom. If you are a fan of Out of Africa, like I am, you’ll be intrigued with Beryl’s entanglement inside the love triangle between safari hunter, Denys Finch Hatton, and writer and Baroness, Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), only to discover that the spiritual freedom she longed for was inside herself.

For me, Fireside Heaven is a form of freedom, a state of being, a place to call your own. markham-inside-planeFor Beryl it was inside a plane flying into the horizon. Everyone has a room of their own if they just surrender to their place in this life, find the courage to soar and move willingly into it .