Tag Archives: Sonoma

A Kiss of Bliss

Autumn Trees
Autumn Trees (Photo credit: Andrew Griffith)

This time of year has me head over heels in love with life.  The leaves are turning a bright red and orange, ultimately surrendering to the ground with grace.  The grapes are plump and purple, bursting with flavor, wanting to be touched and plucked off the vine.  The day starts to cloud over, the rain starts to fall softly. With humility, the word that comes to me is awe.

The definition of awe is: a mixed feeling of reverence, fear and wonder.  For me, to stand in awe before the heavens is to embrace life with a presence, a stilled concentration that is grounded in an appreciation for what we have, who we are, and what we offer this world.

Every morning when I wake up, I feel I have been given a second chance at life.  Another chance to soak in the moments, if by chance I had missed anything the day before.  Second chances, they are abundant, full of forgiveness and newness whether we are 1 or 90 years of age.  We begin again.  We are forever young.  We go full circle.

No matter the season, winter, spring, summer or fall, I ask in meditation, what does it mean for us to fall in love with life regardless of the challenges?

What is it that makes us feel a sense of awe at the dawning of a new day, or peace at the falling of night.  What gives us that sense of wonder? Is it a glimpse at the ocean, a walk down a narrow path filled with maples and old stone, is it a kiss of bliss that comes with a hug, an embrace, a prayer, a delicious breeze?

I know falling in love with life looks different for each and every one of us, but when we tap into this awe-inspiring, simple truth every day, it sure feels right and eternal.

What’s on your Bucket List?

Are there things you want to do before you die?  Are you feeling time is running out?  Well, I do, but…I procrastinate.  I delay the things in life that are important to me.  Don’t you?

I have a long list, my Bucket List if you will, of things I would like to do, but don’t.  Things I need to do, but won’t.  Things I dream of doing, but don’t dare.  I have much I want to do, do, do!  Don’t you?

But I get migraines, (probably over this procrastination busines), migraines that are more likely due to the fun, middle-aged, hormonal fluctuations in the body.  I am 50 sista!

I get frustrated, agitated, restless over this.  I find myself working at 40% capacity instead of what I am truly capable of.  I know I am not alone in this.

What else?  I want to get in perfect shape!  The emphasis is on perfect!  I want desperately to change what’s wrong with the world, and there’s plenty! I want to give more than I can possibly give.  I basically want to ride hard, like a fly on steroids, until I hit the wall.

My bucket list is long.  Did I mention Greece?  I want to go to Greece.  Take my boys to Argentina. Read the wikipedia from A-Z.  But the procrastination hits again, even the migraines and I feel tired, depleted, resigned.  (Did I mention I do have two young boys? So, maybe I’m busy doing that–oh, yeah!) Still…

The Barn Owl (Tyto Alba) - You Talkin' to me? ...
The Barn Owl (Tyto Alba) – You Talkin’ to me? – (Photo credit: Axel.Foley)

I call a friend.  We talk about each other’s lives and we laugh over it all.  I start to relax and feel human again.  I take a drive through the back roads of Sonoma to cool my jets and what do I see? I see a Barnyard owl looking at me! Wise and still, as if asking, “Are you talking to me?”

“Yes, yes I am!” But before I can ask the questions that lie in my heart, he just stands still for me.  He stands still.

I felt a deep and tremendous peace, at one with something larger than myself, aware of my natural surroundings.  The owl said with its eyes, “Listen to the quiet, the stillness.  Now.”

I have only now and to waste any moment of this life on tomorrow, is fiction at its finest.  It’s okay to slow down, it’s ok to rest, it’s okay to be still.  Right?

Nature reminds me to plant my pumpkins and watch them grow, stare at the barnyard owl and be in awe, marvel at the diamond lit skies and wake to the warming sun, and wait for the opening of a flower.

The soul reminds me to write what matters to me, read poetry that stills my heart, taste a juicy strawberry from the garden, walk a long walk until I’m a good kind of tired, hug my boys tight, say good night to my mother and father.

There is no nirvana around the corner.  There is only here and only now.  How cliche’ right?  But with all this texting, tweeting, ping-ponging, jabbing and poking, e-mailing, calling, crying and suffering, are we really living in the now?

In honor of now, and in honor of nature, I share a poem from Mary Oliver:

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars

of light, are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment,

the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders

of the ponds, and every pond, no matter what its name is, is

nameless now. Every year everything I have ever learned

in my lifetime leads back to this: the fires and the black river of loss whose other side

is salvation, whose meaning none of us will ever know. To live in this world

you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it

against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to

let it go, to let it go.

The Beauty of this Life

On this wintry day, from my kitchen island, I stir my mother’s homemade lentil soup and look out at the Redwood trees, dripping wet with rain.  The time to go inward is here, a simple but sure season of good things yet to come.  I think of all that is taking place outside and all that is going on inwardly.

Edna O’Brien, the Irish novelist said, “In a way, winter is the real spring–the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.” 

This is the case in the Sonoma wine country where the naked, golden brown branches after months of dormancy, resurge into pink buds and lush green vines, but not yet, not yet.

This is nature’s low-key time, perfect in every way with not much to do.  Winter makes me want less, need less, feeding myself and my family with only the basics: food, shelter, love, connection, and energy to create a new.  To be reborn like every living thing in the garden.

I am reminded of nature’s patience and the need to cultivate more of my own.  My German Shepherd Jeb waits for our daily walk near the veggie garden, still needing clearing for seeds this spring.  In good time, we will plant basil, cilantro, chili peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, cucumbers, and artichokes. 

But for now, my desire to go inward, observe and write is heightened.  The quiet allows for new songs of Sonoma to surface and make their way onto the page–of the orange breasted Robin hunting for seed on the grassy knoll of our vineyard, of the Camellias waiting to burst into red color from my kitchen window, of the night sky diamonds shining their brilliance under the valley of the moon.

I watch life with all its intensity, active stirrings and true offerings.  I accept the cycles of nature–of death and rebirth.  I see reality clearly and understand intuitively, the beauty of this life found in the silence, creativity, and simplicity of nature’s surroundings.  I think of Aristotle’s words…

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”


A Second Chance

christmas 2007

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.  I really, really am.  I wish, just once that it would snow in Sonoma on Christmas day, but alas, it would take a miracle for white blankets of snow to cover our homestead and nestle us in for the long winter’s night.  

But no matter–the cool crisp night air, delicious kitchen smells and white lights shining off our 6 foot wreath outside our home, puts me in a glowing, festive mood. 

I adore the warm colors of gold, red and green seen sparkling from our tree; I cherish the heartfelt moments by the fire, shared with family and friends; I immerse myself in the deep feelings of gratitude and joy, similar to Ebenezer Scrooge born with a second chance to live with heaven in his heart and ecstasy in his acts of kindness. 

I know the holidays can be a blue time, a sad and true time for those we love and for those we have lost, but we still have each other.  And for those we have lost, we carry them in our hearts.  They are with us still. 

As I approach 2012, I want to look at this year as a ‘second chance’ to really make the most of this life, this simple life I have created in the heart of the wine country. 

As Confucious once said, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Peaceful Essence: It’s the Little Things

As I run here and there, knowing that the next five weeks are going to be busy with the  Christmas and New Years’ holidays, I pause to take notice of the things that make life in Sonoma, beautiful and this time of year, joyful. 

It’s the little things: the hot cup of coffee (freshly dripped) that I bought this morning from Sonoma’s Best, a local market around the corner from my home.    

It’s my two cats, Martha and Sosa, sleeping together in the cold night air in their bed; 

It’s the Mum flowers on my coffee table, the angel on the mantlepiece, the pumpkin spice candles all in a row, with every little thing in its loving place. 

I immerse myself in the little things these days, to hear, smell, touch, feel it all.  I am alive and grounded in what my close friend calls, ‘Peaceful Essence,’ the place where I appreciate all that I have. 

I rest on Mother Teresa‘s wings and words today,“There are no great things, only small things with great love.”  

Country Roads Take Me Home

Vineyards in Napa Valley

I ride through the back country roads of the Sonoma wine country, rich in history, song and nature to admire the homes (a restored Victorian especially), living amongst the old Oaks. 

Along the way, I marvel at the rural rustic barns holding up against the hot sun and the deep blue sky with all their might.   

This bike path, in particular remains a favorite of mine on Burndale Road.  A favorite, not only for the scenic sites, but for the strong emotions these historical and natural views conjure up inside my being.  My father once said to me, “How fortunate you are to live in thick of Nature.” How true are his words.

These back country roads take me home, literally, figuratively and spiritually.  I ride for meditative purposes, where the stilled rhythmic movement, riding cyclically into the quiet workings of nature, brings me front and center to what really matters in life: simple joys, which the world at large seems to easily look over.  And these simple joys couldn’t be better conveyed in the song my sister shared with me recently from the play, Pippin.

“Simple Joys”

Sweet summer evenings, hot wine and bread
Sharing your supper, sharing your bed
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Why not go ahead?”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til he’s cold and dead

Well, I’ll sing you a story of a sorrowful lad
Had everything he wanted, didn’t want what he had
He had wealth and pelf and fame and name and all of that noise
But he didn’t have none of those simple joys
His life seemed purposeless and flat
Aren’t you glad you don’t feel like that?

So he ran from all the deeds he’d done, he ran from things he’d just begun
He ran from himself, which was mighty far to run
Out into the country where he’d played as a boy
‘Cause he knew he had to find him some simple joy
He wanted someplace warm and green
We all could use a change of scene

Sweet summer evenings, so full of sound
Gaining a lover, gaining a pound
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Take a look around”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Or a newt on the root of a banyan tree
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til he’s underground

Sweet summer evenings, sapphire skies
Feasting your belly, feasting your eyes
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Time is living’s prize”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Or a newt on the root of a banyan tree
Or a fig on a twig in Galilee
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til the day he, not ’til the day he
Not ’til the day, not ’til the day he

So, with that song in my head, and knowing time is life’s living prize, I ride from my home on Lovall Valley Road, down 7th Street East, towards Denmark Street.  There, I look out over the rows of vineyard and soak in the region’s unique beauty; Turning left and towards Gundlach Bundschuh winery, I think of its rich history and vast production of full bodied wines; knowing this. 

In 1858, Jacob Bundschu purchased 400 acres in Sonoma and christened it Rhinefarm.  He went back to Bavaria, married his childhood sweetheart and spent their honeymoon traveling through France and Germany purchasing the rootstock he would be planting here in Sonoma.  The wines, made to perfection over those many years, are a delight to the palate.   I especially love their 2009 Tempranillo.  Anyway, I digress, but what a love story of finding Gundlach’s woman and wine.

As I carry with me, the song of simple joys, Gundlach’s history, with its blood, sweat and tears labored in those wine country hills, I ride further across Napa Road to Burndale, taking a quick right on Hyde Burndale Road for a mile or so, where scattered homes hide alongside the bumpy, rocky road. 

I take a deep breath to muster the stamina to ride up Burndale, a killer hill (there’s a reason they call it BURNdale), panting and praying for the burn to end.  I make my way, very slowly back to Denmark and then, home when another song comes to mind. 

Country Roads by John Denver.  He once sang, (and my mother would sing in her own lyrical, funny sort of way) to my brother, sister and I, Country roads take me home, to the place I belong.”  These country roads in the wine country take me home, back to simple joys, simple living, where I can hear my simple voice, loud and clear, amongst the noise and confusion.