It’s raining. I stop to listen and watch it coming down. The rain feeds my soul, nourishes our planet. As the drops fall on my face, I bask in the quiet of this gentle and simple pleasure and think of a man I admired much. Alan Rickman. I loved his work, his art. He said, “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.
He is right. The times cry for tender moments. They crave, simpler, gentler times like a walk in the rain, the holding of hands, a smile, art. All things one can not fight.
In honor of Alan Rickman, I wish for tenderness, creativity and art. May it be so.
It’s harvest time, and during the Fall season in the wine country, great changes are at hand, at the hands of Mother Earth, the winemaker, and the wine lover.
When the grapes are picked, ready to turn to wine, I claim humans are not much different than those lovely robust clusters of fruit dangling on the vine, waiting to be picked, waiting to be changed. Do we not have our own step-by- step process that if carefully followed we might reach our dreams, or goals, our highest state of being?
First, we must accept things the way they are. Be with how things are. Second, you must question why you want what you want? Is it to make your life better? Is it to escape where you are now? Accept. Adapt. Grow.
In an article for hiplatina, I was asked to write on the subject of alchemy, on the ways you can change your life more organically, rather than from the usual ‘looking outside yourself'” approach. I wrote it from the perspective of a small town winemaker during harvest time. I would love to share this article with you, Harvest Time: 5 Ways to Transform Your Life here. Just click on the link and see if this natural path of change resonates with you. And while you’re reading, have a delicious glass of wine along the way.
Living in the wine country, everything around me tells me to slow down and pay attention, to live simply and without want. To quit grasping. To become more fully human, deeply present through intention, discipline, practice and gratitude.
My pumpkins are masters at this. They stand tall and stoic; Nature shows her wise ways–as the leaves turn a yellow and orange, and the sun slowly drapes over the vines showing their nakedness to the world.
I am content, feeling the Autumn breeze on my face. I muse about the simple life most days, because it is my sanity. It’s not easy, especially with children to raise, aging parents to worry about and care for, and the media bombarding us with bad news, left and right, it it just feels like there is no where to run, but there is…
Inward. Happiness lives there.
I love the story that John Lennon once shared:
“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
What a beautiful story. I wish this for everyone, to learn early that the secret of life is happiness.
Today, I wrote down 3 ways to live simply, that I believe will also make you happier, heaven knows the list will grow, but it’s a good start:
1. Shut out the things that don’t serve you in your life: Be it the news, a high maintenance friend, emails, or the trappings of social media. Shut it off. You deserve the quiet and joyful thoughts that come with silence and solitude.
2. Take the time to be in nature: Take a walk, a sit out on your deck, meditate in the park, light a fire at night in your fire pit and stare up at the moonlit stars. Nature is your peaceful guide and serene friend.
3. Don’t overextend, over promise, overdo: The only way we can stay present to ourselves and to others is to keep our calendars open to carve out a few hours first for ourselves. The constant ‘to dos’ will never go away, especially pressing emergencies, but we will grow resentful, angry and even depressed if we do not value ourselves, our heart and our dreams.
4. Do something everyday that really makes you happy. For me it’s writing, or being with a friend sharing a cup of tea or a good book, lighting a candle, cooking a homemade meal, saying a prayer, petting my kitties.
It’s when I live simply, my mind quiets down. My body perks up. I hear my soul whisper, “thank you,” for choosing me over some mindless activity or haunting piece of news. And then asks, “Aren’t I your eternal compass and companion?”
I haven’t written a wine country post on ‘the simple life’ for months, because life has been anything but simple. My father has been in and out of the hospital for the past four months, battling Alzheimer’s for five years. On May 30th, he was placed in a nursing home.
The caring for him at home became impossible. Since he left, where he lived for over 50 years, it’s strange to carry on with life as if the days are normal. There is a cloud hanging over my head, and a hole in my heart because my father is gone, but still here. He remembers me on rare occasion, but lives in his own reality; and now, strangers care for him on a daily basis. It’s killing my mother. It’s killing all of us, slowly, because it is so hard to watch a loved one’s decline.
It is a tender time. It is a poignant time. And yet, it is what it is. His fate is out of our hands, placed into God’s, Mother Nature’s, the divine spirit.
Buddha says, “Accept what is so,” but this has been hard. This is my father, my hero, my first true love that I miss beyond words. So, I grieve him while bottling over 21 cases of our 2010 Meritage wine; I grieve him cooking for my family, when tending the garden filled with sunflowers and birds. Every day, by doing the simplest, most gentle acts, I mourn.
When one grieves, we go inward. We become insightful, reflective, still. We harness our energy until we can give again, love and live again in the only way we know how. I guess this is what I have been doing, and coming out of my well of sadness, finding solace and joy in writing, sharing my thoughts with you through the profound silence of the written word.
There is a simplicity emerging out of this experience, and that is to be with it: To not push or pull at it, but to let life unfold as designed by nature, no matter how cruel. And it is cruel. To accept and surrender. This reminds me of the prayer my mother has posted above her kitchen sink, a prayer I read every day as a child and grown up woman.
Last night, I picked up the book, The Journal Keeper, a memoir by Phyllis Theroux. I was reminded of how much I love this genre: the personal memoir, journals, reflections on one person’s unique days on this earth. These books are true stories that take me higher, provide new insights or simply remind me I am not alone.
In The Journal Keeper, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a kind word about the book: “The Journal Keeper reminds us that there is no such thing as an ordinary moment, and certainly no such thing as an ordinary life.”
So true. And for me what matters most is to live honestly, gracefully, taking in the day and capturing in my mind’s eye every ordinary moment that I know falls nothing short of extraordinary: the vines lying dormant for the winter, the yellow, red, and blue finches resting their tiny little feet on the barren tree branches, my mother’s voice over the phone, my father saying I love you in the background of the call, the Citrus candle flickering on my desk.
Like Theroux, I love to read the journals and/or letters by May Sarton, Marcus Aurelius, C.S. Lewis, Rachel Carson, and Theroux. When I journal through my Wine Country Diaries blog, I tap into a deeper wisdom that I spiritually know is guiding me, connecting my spirit to something larger than myself.
My inner voice whispers, “Trust, surrender to what is, and life will show you, allow life to unfold before you, even if it is painful, mysterious, or scary. You are not in the driver’s seat.”
In listening deeply to my wiser self, that singular voice, I write with conviction, live simply and honor my soul. I am home in my heart. When reading journals, personal essays or memoirs, I am in connected to their unique beauty and life. I am, for just a little while, welcomed into their homes, their souls.
My New Year’s wish for me and you is that we listen to our inner voice each and every day. And live from the heart.
Living in the wine country, I am keenly aware of the changing seasons.
In spring, the buds on our vines are exploding pink with color, living with purpose, and slowly preparing to produce fruit. With a little help from the wine makers, the grapes turn to wine.
The Jasmine is in bloom, offering a sweet fragrance into the spring air.
The birds are singing, foraging for seed and making their nests for their babies. Nature lives with purpose.
I know I am no different. If I trust my place in this life, if I create and produce with the energy given me, then I too naturally serve a role on this earth. I do this through my writing, parenting, and role as servant leader. I do this through my gardening, cooking, and reading of good books. I live fully by being a good friend, mother, daughter and sister.
Life gives life and so the story goes, until it is no more. As Emily Dickinson once wrote, “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” Living with a sense of purpose is the continuity we seek, need and desire until we can no longer bear the fruits of our labor and bloom into being.
Adversity comes when there is interruption. We struggle to reroot when a friend dies at a young age of cancer, when a child dies before a parent, when one quits a job or gets fired, or when one gives up their passion for living too soon.
Nature doesn’t like interruptions and neither do humans, but we do like change. We must grow and transform to be fully human. And when they’re interruptions, we reroot, we reinvent, we inspire one another with our new blooms.
Recently, I read a book called, The Distance Between Us, a heart wrenching and inspiring memoir by Reyna Grande about her childhood in Mexico and her teen years in Los Angeles, California. I couldn’t put her story down, and being a mother my heart broke for her and the children who were abandoned by their mothers and fathers, on and off throughout their lives, ping ponging back and forth from Mexico to the United States.
After reading her story, I understood another side of the immigrant experience, and the great suffering that took place when her parents left Reyna, her older sister and brother behind for ‘a better life’ in the United States. After reading about her life, I was a better person for it. I grew in wisdom and understanding while enduring her pain and sharing her hope. I watched as she, word for word wove a beautiful, colorful tapestry of her life onto the page.
Her story is one of poverty, childhood hardships, abandonment, shame and longing, but it is also about perseverance, stamina, hope and how the human spirit endures and even thrives in the face of adversity and in the name of justice.
From this memoir, I planted a seed in my Mother’s heart who is 82 years old. I asked if she would write her life story, one of immigration and hardship, leaving her mother, sister and brothers behind for a better life. Her parents were born in Italy, immigrated to Argentina and from there my parents moved to the United States in 1957.
Every day, she has been sending me e-mails about her life in which I am compiling together for her and the family. When she writes, I am taken to the days of her youth playing in the streets of Buenos Aires, to the smells of fresh basil in her mother’s kitchen, to the somber cloud her father’s dark moods stormed up whenever he came home acting like an oppressive king.
I understand her dreams, her troubles, her struggles, her precious Argentine traditions and her thoughts as a child then and mature woman today. From her writings, I can taste my mother’s Italian-Argentine recipes on my tongue that came from my abuela.
When I asked her to write her life down on paper, I knew the weaving of time, come and gone, would be cathartic for her, for me. And in fact, the writings have taken her on an emotional roller coaster ride where she asked her children, “What is the point of this again?”
We write to continue ourselves. We write to know we’re not alone. We write to forgive and forget, to inspire and feel whole once more.
When we share our most vulnerable moments in detail, it’s like opening a fine bottle of wine that has been corked for years but deserves and needs air to be appreciated and understood. Painful memories need to be released, losing their hold and power on us. Memories we cherish and hold dear are finally free to be tasted and savored, relishing every single drop that makes up our ‘one and only’ unique life.
I look at each of my life experiences as if they were a thread of color, interwoven together over the years to make a beautiful tapestry. The dark-colored threads, such as black, gray or brown symbolize moments of hardship, abandonment, pain, suffering, loss, death, betrayal, yet must exist in order for the bright-colored threads of our life, the gold, green, blue, yellow, red, purple and white to stand out, representing love, hope, wealth, warmth, healing, forgiveness and faith.
Our lives must include the full spectrum of color for us to weave a richly textured tapestry and offer a deep understanding of our lives.
I have been encouraging a number of my family and friends to write their life story. Their words will appear for others to see, like the colors of a rainbow on any beautiful God-given day.