The Patience of the Vineyards

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s more than the pleasure of wine.

There’s an ambiance to it. Different than beer. Different than a cocktail. You pair it with a meal. Or maybe you just fill glasses with your favorite wine, regardless of how it pairs or is rated.

I lived in wine country in California. The other wine country. Livermore valley. It actually has the oldest wineries, but during Prohibition, Napa-Sonoma overtook it.

This is my favorite time of year in the vineyards around Livermore. The dying leaves turn vibrant yellows, oranges and reds, and the autumnal light makes them glow with a softness that contrasts with the gnarly twists and turns of the eternal vines.

The vines are old. I don’t know how old, but they are old.

It occurred to me one day as I drove along Arroyo Road that producing wine is an act of faith and patience. The vines have to survive late frosts in Spring. Too much rain or a drought. Heat that might shrivel the grapes into raisins.

Once the grapes are harvested and crushed, one has to let them sit years for them to transform into the wine that delivers pleasure.

It takes more than faith and patience. It takes extraordinary faith and patience. It gives one hope for the future.

I thought of that as I’ve watched the fires ravage and consume the lives and land north of San Francisco.

This is a scary time of year in California. There are really two seasons in that part of the state: dry and rainy. So when October comes, and rains are still a month or two out, the beautiful golden hills covered with live oaks are also kindling waiting to be ignited.

I read that the fires that started in the middle of the night on Sunday traveled at 40 to 50 miles an hour. One doesn’t think of fire as something that can travel like wind. But it can. And when it does, its wildness is ferocious. It’s appetite insatiable.

I remember the Oakland Hills Fire in 1991, watching as fire trucks sped past houses burning bright because they could not save them.

A firestorm.

I cannot read about the course of the fires without weeping. Towns with familiar names are being evacuated—places where people were surrounded by the patience and faith of the vines. At one winery, the fire consumed vines that originated in the 19th century.

The fires haven’t spared the apple orchards, where trees that gave us apples for over 100 years stood helpless in the path of its fury.

And, of course, it hasn’t spared the suburban homes and hotels with names like Hilton that sprang up around the vineyards. Sprang up to enjoy the faith and patience of the vineyards.

It’s apocalyptic people are saying. A black scar that once was filled with the colors of vineyards in October.

One can hardly catch one’s breath.

It is apocalyptic, what we’re seeing. There’s a depravity to it because climate change is certainly driving the apocalyptic tone of what nature does. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires happen. But they are becoming increasingly ferocious as the earth adapts to human-created changes in temperature.

And now, Americans are dying in Puerto Rico because they do not have clean water available to them.

I want to restore my faith and patience in my country. But right now, we are being held hostage by a man who has a festering wound in place of his soul. A man with a heart so tiny, it doesn’t exist.

I watched a couple of episodes of “The Newsroom” last night. It’s seven years old, and it eerily predicted where we are now.

The fourth estate, the journalists, right now are keeping us from tumbling off the precipice of self-governance into an oligarchy. We are blessed to have military leaders who take their oath to protect and defend the Constitution seriously.

If we are to be self-governing, we need to respect governance. Otherwise we end up with a self-serving oligarch whose festering wound spreads its lethal infection to the earth, and thus to us.

My patience for Trump’s learning curve expired months ago. To be honest, I never have had any patience for him. His actions are leading us to the brink of nuclear war. My patience for his party’s Congressional leaders has long expired. We are dependent on them to act, and they aren’t. They are stuck, it seems, in a La Brea tar pit of cowardice. They are not upholding their oath to preserve and protect the Constitution.

I’ve always had faith in my country, believed that it had the mechanism that would lead us to the better angels President Lincoln urged us to heed.

But, my faith is shaky now. The wine country shows us the ferocity of fire. Puerto Rico shows us the ferocity of wind and rain. Compassion is our only hope, but the man with the power to care is threatening to cut off aid to Puerto Rico.

We have given extraordinary power to this man who has a festering wound in place of his soul. As a journalist pointed out this morning, the president’s powers are limited by institutions in everything but initiating a nuclear launch.

I want the patience and faith of the vineyards to be restored. I want to feel the extraordinary faith and patience that a future will be filled with the autumnal colors of the vineyard. Not one scarred by the ferocity of fire or wind or rain—of nuclear winter.