Sunday, August 23, 2015

In the woods I get some thinking done.  It's all a matter of scale.

My job, I am saint manqué, subliminal Jesus of bread and wine and lamb, village idiot on a stipend, wise man, comic, father confessor, subject of pontifications, connective tissue of a neighborhood, friend, confidant, listener, pillar of the community and sometimes sloppy, support group leader, therapist, enabler, wine consultant, guy, garçon.   I listen more than I talk, feeling what I might add would interrupt or disturb.  I listen a lot.  I would like to interject more, share a little knowledge, but, I practice heavy restraint.  I try to follow conversations, broken by duties here and there.

Charles, my hero of wine, beyond knowledgeable in these matters, comes from Williams Corner Wine to share some interesting wine.   He brings in a white and a red, both from just south of Muscadet, in a bottle shaped like the ancient Roman vessels fond in the caves below the chateau.  The white is a blend of chardonnay and chenin blanc, and the red, the true cabernet, and negrette, very rare outside of the south of France.

Eventually I get to ask him what he's drinking.  Italian...  wine...  Sicilian... wine.  He draws this out as he says it, in his French accent.  Wine... the word has an invisible beat before it, and is long for a monosyllable.  It could almost go on forever.  Like 'Aum' every sound that can be made is covered.  Well, we get to talking, about these Sicilian wines, the hottest in all Italy, from the slopes of Etna, higher up the better, to the northeast and southeast.  He rambles off what you call these wines, but it goes in one ear out the other, between his blazered reserve and soft respect and the jostling crowd of Restaurant Week.  (Restaurant Week, right when one could use a vacation, maybe find someway back into the mainstream work or back to school.)

A walk in the woods to the little bridge.  There is the carcass of an adult deer under the bridge by the far bank close to the parkway, on its side, legs up in the air, hide decaying.  These are woods, a landscape, not far away from those of the great Civil War, and here there is the same flavor, to my taste, between Gettysburg, Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fort Stevens just upstream.  Above the bridge coming down from the back there are three young deer making their way uptream before and then through the shallows of the tunnel beneath the parkway's stone bridge.   No snake, no turtle, no duck on the limbs, logs and urban plastic detritus caught on the pilings, but standing away from the odor of decay further on I spot the tiny fresh water shark shape of two alewives circling, then darting back and drifting downstream.  This is the time of the orb spider's great webs.  By the corner of the cemetery, just beyond the fence, as outside of the window of The Gaul, I've seen sizes of the yellow green arachnid, from extra small to extra large, and no one really ever explaining, how they do it.

I need the exercise, and walking is good enough.  The kudzu vine has blanketed the hillsides above the path right down to it and up the trees, as if to beckon in a new geological era in which the whole world is taken over and choked.  The flats are uninteresting as I cross under the Massachusetts Ave. bridge, until the stream is reached, following the rocks in the stream bed upward toward Dumbarton Oaks.

Walking back toward home via the Rite Aid for the odds and ends, wax paper, toilet paper, I feel like singing Hank Williams songs and I'm so lonesome I could cry.  Doing the dishes a friend checks in and gets me out to the Tombs, and I had forgotten how good that place is.  Good glass of French pinot noir, heirloom tomato salad, burger, fantastic, perfectly cast friendly barkeepers.  Even end up dancing a bit, The Twist no less.

Once upon a time, there was a cow in my life.  She was lovely and sweet.

When I was a kid I'd take long walks through the fields.  Dairy country, rolling hills, and back then forty years ago the cows were let out of the barn to feed in the pastures.  Sometimes biking and stopping by a fence a herd would be part curious, part defensive, part ignoring, some calm, going back to eating the grass after stopping and looking up at you, enjoying a bodily function let loose, the confident ones at the barbed wire fence where the grass was longer green going about their business.   But beyond that, not much.  We are cows, kid, you ain't.  Once, I'd walked a long way, over hill and dale, in some revery, all the way from Ernst Road and Chuck Root's field and the house he'd built out of a barn, to Reservoir Road to the farm beneath the big hill where the black and white shepherd dog would crouch low, lining up defenses, and then charge tear ass, always chasing the car and the school bus, going for the tires.  And I came upon a particular cow who beamed at me.  She stood there before me, smiling, almost shimmering in delight to find a new friend.  Who are you?  Sweet to have each other's company.  Did she like me for taking long unfettered walks through the fields like she did?  The other cows stood back, but that just made her more friendly.  We talked for awhile, before I had to head back, being a fairly long distance from the house and dinner approaching.  She was lovely, and sweet, friendliest creature I've ever met, like a lab, like a cat you're about to open a fresh can for in the morning.   It was as if you had come upon a very shy creature who'd not been able to talk to anyone for a long time, and something allowed both of you to open up and shrug off all that which was past, embracing the present in all its joy.

Later on in life I had a friend who'd done TV news in Prague, and once, there was an escaped cow, on the run, a lark.  Out of the pen, no one could catch her.  And such a personality she had.  A lovely cow, and all the people would root for her on a daily night.  Did she do interviews while out on her lark?  Footage of the joy of her freedom, clever contentment in the new woods and fields she'd found.  A great news story.

How far we are removed from nature.  The cows spend all their hours in the bar, lined up in their slots, fed, milked, their waste channeled away, barely moving.  No longer for the fields, to have their individual personalities.

A great story of Chekhov brings us back to nature.  Here we are at the end of The Lady with the Pet Dog, and we see how difficult it will be for them to continue, or discontinue, their relationship.  He is looking at a true state of nature, that it is indeed very difficult to have relationships, if we are honest with ourselves, particularly the kind of relationships of the neat sort of the successful career type.  By taking us to the difficulty he is bringing us back to nature, as if to show us the stars in the night sky again, an open expanse without all the convenience of the city, brought back face to face with our own nature, our own personality.  Taking us back to basic, to the inherent nature of our own creature, we can grasp what allows us to overcome the impossibility of relationship in the modern commodified accounted for times.  We can open trustingly to a kindly friend within, regarded less as babbling inconsequential impractical idiot, more simply something with uniqueness and personality and lots of reserve powers.

And perhaps wine is like that too.   The grape is not a creature of the green house, pampered, tended to to be big and jammy and full of alcohol, trussed, treated.  Is is a creature of nature, left outdoors over night and when the wind is blowing, in heat, and cold.  With each you have the potential of connecting, of appreciating, not just a factory cow, but one of the field, a farm half rundown, with a great personality all her own.  Each night our humanity returns to the vineyard, to nature, to a deeper past of simplicity, the embers of our soul ashine.

Our battles, sometimes, are over words.  No, you can't use that word.  No, you can't use that word that way.  No, you made that word up.  This is what I want the word to mean, indeed, I insist.  And the word applies to this set of things and/or people and not the other.   You can't use that word speaking to me.  (Even if ultimately the word could happily be used together, as far as what it means.)  To which standing in contrast are folks like Shakespeare and a whole line of poets, who, if need be, make up words, and who also put high octane into the meaning of words and give them fresh power through novel usage and application.   And often there is need, and that's how language comes about anyway.  The words find their own places.  I let them be, room to roam.  That basic liberty would have been very important to them, as far as addressing any issue, love, faith, justice, life.  Take Donne, the myriad of meanings, clever, punning, but beyond that, in a poem.  The opening of a word allows the opening of the poetic expanses.

Perhaps writing was one of the very few personally selfish thing she, did, Emily Dickinson.  Maybe she did it to keep her brilliant all-encompassing mind in track, the nightly absorbing, taking the scraps of paper thoughts out of her apron, reassembling, seeing the parts line up.  She had a deeper sense of self, I could imagine, one that lent itself to the Transcendentalism of her day, not far from the Buddhist concept.  As most people necessarily operate--we all do--in selfish ways she, nearer to truth, would have been hard to read for her lacking, her seeming ambivalence.  She was, of course, a non-conformist, even defiant of convention, carrying a finely honed sense of humor toward the vanity of belonging to various worldly activities.  Her lessons come across often through inhabiting nature, the bird about to take wing after taking its worm, carefully halved.  Such a mind would have likely appreciated the world of a domestic job to do on a daily basis, like baking the family bread.

She was true, perhaps as much as a person can be;  her lesson, her message, is the same, one thing said in a myriad of different ways of expression.  Taken as a whole her work lends truth to the old summations of gut spiritual sense, 'the word made flesh,' of a house undivided against itself.

As time passes into our own current now, into a vanity of instant words and out loud thoughts, we need her more than ever.  Instead of tweets, there are her "Gorgeous Nothings."  She herself gathers the things of life into thought, through her brief lines of poetry.  Full of passion, racy, chaste, circumspect, alive as the bird about to take wing just so.   Her inner thoughts, her meditative understandings brought out from deeper places, transmit to us when we allow them space and time.  The flow of one broad consciousness into our own.

Wine, I suppose, begs to be made literary in the same way, for its truths to be sung.

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