People often ask writers, “Where do you get your ideas?” which is always an impossible question to untangle the threads of what personal tectonic shifts happen within my spheres that cause an eruption of this liquid fire of Words. Like a scientist, I am examining my thirst for knowledge with my hunger to turn that knowledge into something good for my brain & belly to chew upon, sucking nourishment from the bones of my prose or poetry.
This case, this poem (I’ve written **here http:chefcdb.livejournal.com) called “A Nocturne for Nowhere” has roots both longstanding in my soul as a veteran wine drinker with a rebel flair, and in an immediate trigger point in the photo above, informed by my sense that we are on the edge of a climate change calamity.
The photo is by Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon Wines, from his Twitter feed; where he cracks wine savvy puns, frequently endures the awkward questions at #LargePublicWineTastings, and by and bye lets us all peek behind the curtains to the amazing Rhone inspired wines (and his exquisite new ciders, too!) that he champions, that Grahm makes in California, along with his fellow Rhone Rangers who shaped the possibilities of winemaking in the US. He is that rare person of wit and profundity, his wines are stellar, made by biodynamic fruit grown in sun-splashed vineyards and thus in touch with the kind of wine history that lasted for 95% of the 2,000 years that vineyards have thrived in France. Natural wines, libations for the ancients and those yet of the unwritten future, and for us, today after a long day doing what we do; yes, I write often about wines because they connect us to our better selves, to our Dionysian revelries, to a sense of place, of terroir that we need to learn how to taste again— whether we are eating rice, wheat, grass fed beef, wild seafood, or sipping a wine that tells us where we belong in this crazy universe.
Ah, yes… if one is up for rediscovering history, then these rocks looming as the old fortress village of Minerve have seen some history. It is a complicated tale of religious persecution, of a doomed resistance to the conquerors of Christianity who chased down the last speaker of the Occitan dialect in the Albegenesian heresy of the late 1200s A.D. The old language of the region is memorialized in the name of southern France, as Languedoc literally refers to the language of Oc, but in exactly the same way much of the Americas and Australia host many places named by vanished indigenous peoples, a obscured nearly lost sense of history pervades Minerve, which in itself the name of the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom and handmade things who doubtless has gone by many other names from previous civilizations that were conquered by the Romans.
To truly realize that these remote vineyards were first planted atop a cliff close to two thousand years ago, but that in a mere 200 years from now these gnarled old vines will be endangered by man made changes is perplexing, and seems like a fever dream from a sci-fi movie. Is it wise to argue with Minerva, the goddess of all things wrought by hands and wise ingenuity, that won’t happen?
In Minerve, there is a timeless feature to the cliffs, where the old vines cling stubbornly to the silence, the strange sense of place that feels like the end of the world, or is it just the beginning… as we exit stage right from the play that we knew by heart from walking all over the world from Ethiopia to the farthest corners of Tierra del Fuego, or sailing by starlight reckoning over the vast reaches of the Pacific in canoes, what if the playwright warned us all along that we were born to leave the cradle of Eden, into a disrupted warming planet, a melting world rising with the acidic waters, driven every step of the way by an unexamined belief that only winners get to write history. What if the obvious truth of the matter all along is this: violence decides not who wins, but who must be haunted by what they buried with misunderstanding, like Banquo’s accusing ghost in Macbeth?
What if there are no winners? What if what was won is a mirror that humanity looks into just like the curse of Medusa, and frightened by our violence in the name of that old time religion, whichever flavor used to justify the means are worth the the victory, that furtively we slide the mirror into the dusty attic and never learn to see our intimate connections to the land, to ecology, to each other as dreamers, as we were born as seeds to bring the peace of our own blossoming to this rocky place named Nowhere? Will we never see that hatred can be stopped, that revenge can be forgiven, and that non-violence opens the key to our highest forms of the dancing minds? Hadn’t we better get started, and with what better than a juicy bottle of history-drenched wine from Minervois?
I wrote this poem in the wake of the “sincere beliefs” of corporations as people in Hobby Lobby, as the foul derangement of climate denial became the official policy of Australia, as a plane carrying 298 people and 6 brilliant HIV fighting scientists perished in a plane that dropped in a field of sunflowers in Ukraine, as bombs are aimed against civilians in Gaza, in Israel, and aimed too in Syria in a horrific civil war, and as 70,000 kids fleeing right wing coups and hopeless drug gangs in Central America stand en masse on the US border and are turned away by hatred, and as oceans swell with acidity just off the Pacific coast that lay waste to starfish and oyster spats are unable to reproduce. And as people seek ever more to connect with each other across the planet, furiously aware that what we do together in the name of love can be the verb that changes the world for the better, maybe we too should cling to the cliffs where the ancient wisdom that Minerve tells us how to locate deep inside our purposeful hearts so that we don’t pull the fail switch. Maybe the persistence of love as a verb carries the night. The flame given by the acts love commands us to do, of the blood language speech, and we must learn our lines for a final dress rehearsal before the curtain rises one last matinee performance. Surely, we aren’t a vanishing act, forsaking this troubled Eden for a place called Nowhere?
If you take the time to read “A Nocturne for Nowhere” these political echoes from the news are there, but what I ask you to witness in the poem is something else. We have one shot to commit to making our peace, before we are seen as the penumbral generation that refused to care enough to count our blessings.
I hope just as Randall Grahm’s Twitter pic of Minerve galvanized a moment of strong inspiration for me that you, too, Dearest Reader will gnaw upon my words, which are just tough weeds that share space with old vines waiting for the elixir in a shared bottle opened for friends who’ll see this through together. Lemme know if my aim was true….
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