Tag Archives: United States

What is Your Happy Place?

English: the forests in new hampshire in autumn
English: the forests in new hampshire in autumn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was walking to the mailbox, hoping to find a letter from a long distance friend of mine and noticed how the Maple tree leaves were turning a bright orange.  Fall is just around the corner and the thought of that made me happy.

This happy thought led to another, of New England, a region I love to visit during the Autumn months.  It’s so peaceful, colorful and beautiful this time of year.

New England made me think of the late May Sarton, one of my favorite writers of Nelson, New Hampshire and later, York Maine who loved to live the simple life in nature–and lived to tell about it in her journals.  The thought of her daily life then, comforts me now, and makes me happy. She wrote every morning, read poetry, took a walk in the woods with her dog, put fresh flowers in her vases, fed the Eastern Cardinals, and lived amongst the things she loved the most: nature, solitude, books, her writings.  She lived in a small town, as shown here and taught me the meaning of true happiness.

Nelson, New Hampshire
Nelson, New Hampshire (Photo credit: Dougtone)

When I am out in nature and bask in the quiet of the morning, I am aware of how much noise, agitation and pain I can create within, worrying and trying to control the outcome of things and people I love most–the direction of my children’s lives, the health and safety, and quality of life of my aging parents, the future of our world.

I need and love the quiet found in the simple life.  Solitude nourishes me.  Peace is my happy place, deeply rooted inside the core of my being, where I can walk by the sea or the back country woods of Sonoma, tend to my flower garden, sit next to my animals, laugh with my family, have a hot cup of tea by the fire over a good book, or sit and write what inspires me, like today, with my blog.  All of this makes me serenely happy.

I am in my happy place when I am in nature because I am hardly noticed by her.

English: a beach in maine on a clear day with ...
English: a beach in maine on a clear day with a sailboat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nature is indifferent to my needs and my wants, and yet she feeds my soul profoundly if I just listen, look and take heed to the beauty of my surroundings every day.

What is it that makes you happy?  You must have a mental list of the things that bring you joy, and sustain you each and every day?

Why don’t we ask this question to ourselves more often, I wonder and practice the happy dance?  It feels better to be happy, to move about, to laugh, to dance, me thinks!

I found a letter waiting for me in the mailbox from my dear friend.  It’s a long one.  I smile.  I am grateful.

Rewards of the Harvest

We are what we create and I have proof of this on my 2011 desk calendar–an oil painting called Rewards of the Harvest, symbolizing gratitude, abundance and Thanksgiving. 

Rewards of the Harvest was originally mouthpainted by Mark Sotak, an artist, who paints only with his mouth.  It is clear to me, that Sotak is not his disability, he is, however the beauty he created on the white canvas and the perseverance, hope, productivity and love he manifested in his work. 

Mark Sotak painting in his studio below.

The painting (which I wish I could show you) is of a table centerpiece with bright orange pumpkins and persimmons, deep green gourds and clusters of purple grapes, a candle lit lamp glowing over the fruit, a brown basket with red apples in it and lavender flowers placed in a painted sunflower pot.  It represents the abundance of a good harvest. 

We are not painters, but we are small time wine makers of Nicolas Alexander wine and we had our own harvest yesterday.  We not only gathered over a ton of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes which will produce over 46 cases of Nicolas Alexander 2011 Meritage wine, but we did so with the help of close family and good friends gathering together to celebrate in the organic ritual of grape turning to wine, under the warm Sonoma sun

The day was made up of four hours of hard labor (picking grapes), two hours of separating the stems from the grapes, and just minutes to pour the pulp, juice and peel into big white sanitized bins for a few weeks of fermentation.  By midday, we indulged in delicious homemade delicacies ala Dano (my husband) and tasty varietal wines from the Sonoma wine country region.  

In Italy, the Italians describe a day such as yesterday, with one word, Abbondanza!  It was a full, beautiful, and fruitful day made up of long talks with friends I hadn’t seen in years, with family I hadn’t seen in months but always with abundant laughter and kindness pouring from their hearts. 

Robert Louis Stevenson said, Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” 

This weekend, we celebrated not only an abundant harvest, but reaped from the seeds we planted over the many years of our lives. 

We are what we create and I have to remind myself of this truth each and every day.

 

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
Dies!

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.

Nature’s Song

Acorn Woodpecker
Image via Wikipedia

The day is beautiful.  The sun warms on high.  The sky is blue, the air cool and crisp, and the birds are out in large number frolicking and finding food for the day. 

Here in this region, I am greeted by the American Red Robin and Goldfinch, the Western Scrub-Jay, the Chipping Sparrow, the Acorn Woodpecker (who seems to love pecking on our metal chimney top), the Cedar Waxwing, and Anna’s Hummingbird

These birds are poetry in motion.  And I love watching my backyard birds jump from limb to limb, hop from place to place, singing nature’s lullaby as I lie in our Panamanian blue hammock.  I marvel at the hummingbird who feed so close to my redwood deck, I can see his wings flutter a million times over.  It’s truly a backyard vacation for me.  As I watch, wide-eyed at Nature‘s feathered friends, I look for poems to express the childlike wonder I carry inside through my maturing years. 

Backyard Vacation by Wendy G. Black

I sit here and gaze at God‘s blue sky
With white puffy clouds drifting by
And the vibrant green of grass and trees
And the flowers all bowing in the breeze

Then I look out across the peaceful pond
At the woods and the pasture just beyond.
And closer in, flying into view
The finch, the cardinal, and the bluebird, too.

In the redwood swing, I lean back and then
Enjoy the melody of the wren.

The whir of the hummingbird darting by
The sight of the buzzard, floating high.
The robin defending its hidden nest
By chasing away the cowbird pest.

I sit out here and swing along
As I listen with joy to God’s nature song.

And as I listen to each trill and peep,
I close my eyes and fall asleep.

 Do you know a song more rapturous and intoxicating than Nature’s Song?