Travelers Don’t Know Where They’re Going

Sunrise through the treesSunrise through the trees at Alfriston Camping Park
Dawn at Alfriston Camping Park

Travelers don’t know where they’re going,
Tourists don’t know where they’ve been.—Hostel Wall in Inverness

I saw that quote on my first trip to Britain and Ireland, and it neatly sums up my approach to traveling. I plan, loosely, but leave as much wiggle room as possible. The world has a much better idea of what I should be doing and where exactly I’ll be going than I do.

I expected to do a lot of blogging on the trip I’ve just come home from, for example. That didn’t happen, and I’ll be doing my best to make up for it now. There was too much living packed into too little time. Old friends and new, and people I wanted to see but didn’t get to. I planned carefully, but allowed for last minute changes wherever I could. Hostel reservations, for example, can be cancelled, in most cases. The few times I did get hooked for an extra night, it’s usually cheaper to book in advance and eat that cost than to try and get a bed on arrival. Train tickets, likewise, are much cheaper in advance, and a few minutes with a site like trainsplit.com will let me know which fares never change and what the difference in cost is if I book a nonrefundable fare in advance, or get a fare that can be changed or canceled. Besides, I find trip researching a particularly pleasant form of daydreaming.

Loaded bike trailer and laid out bivy sack in Alfriston Camping Park
Camping in Sussex

My first stop was Anderida Camp, in Sussex. It was the first stop on my first trip to the UK, and it was a bit off the beaten track this time, but I was determined to return. I had missed climbing the Tump in Lewes the first time, and thanks to some time on Google Earth before I left, this time I was able to walk right to it. Thanks to some overambitious travel plans though, by the time I got there I was in a slightly altered state. I’d gotten about two hours sleep in the last 48, and had learned by then that Caffeine is Good, Food is Dangerous. I found I could function as long as I remembered that, and kept busy. It took two cabbies and an online map to figure out where camp was—I knew, but they didn’t, and I was giving directions from a different country, really. I walked in there at around hour 50, but this time all my friends were there, and I was soon set up among their tents, being fed tea, and generally having a wonderful time. I was also talking to Tony Stark by then, and by hour 55 I felt like I was surrounded by pillows. I decided I’d better sleep, and missed the opening ritual.

I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling much more grounded in reality, and went to the fire. A weekend of connection and community followed. Anderida Camp is known for Burning Things, and this camp was no exception. The firesides are also the best to be found anywhere. There was the happy-off, where we all played the happiest music we knew, and the hippy-off—well, you get the idea. A camp-wide version of the Age of Aquarius had us all on our feet. This, for me, is the heart of Druidry. Connection with people, and with the Land. Once again I felt the chrysalis around our world. It may feel as if we are dying, but it is only the old ways dissolving to make way for the new. This, I think, was one of the reasons I didn’t know why I was making the trip, or the shape of it. I still don’t, but the work I have to do is before me and the more of it I do, the clearer things become.

Maybe it was the ridiculous marathon of getting to Camp, maybe it was meant to be, but I lost the pouch with all my magical things in it somewhere along the line. Among them was my set of ogam feda. These look like a bundle of sticks, but they represent the ogam alphabet. They can be thought of as wooden tarot cards, though the system they represent is more a skeleton on which oral knowledge is hung. It is a way of memorizing such knowledge and organizing the relationships between it. The first letter, for example, is called Beith. The word means Birch, but it is also associated with Ban (white), Besan (pheasant), and beginnings. Among other things. The old Bardic schools used to teach oral knowledge, and for the first three years, students memorized 50 sets of associations for each letter. Once that structure was in place, their education continued with stories, philosophy lessons, grammar, etc. A Victorian reconstruction of a list of their studies can be found in P.W. Joyce’s A Social History of Ancient Ireland. One of the sets of associations are the different woods in the Irish forests, and modern use of this system tends to emphasize that set of meanings over the others. Accordingly, I decided to make my first set out of the woods. It took me many years to learn to recognize the trees and collect the various woods, and make the first set. It was very hard to lose it, along with my first Awen, and the pouch full of items that was attached to it, the presents I had for people, and so on. However, gone was gone. I could grieve over what were essentially things and let the loss overshadow the trip, or I could realize that I made many of the things that had been in that pouch, including the pouches themselves, and treat this as a new beginning.

I was in the land where the forest reflected the ogham. I decided to treat this as a “final exam.” The first set I’d constructed had been made by trial and error. I know more now, and can do a better job this next time. I also have a chance to make a set that is wholly from the forests of England and Wales. My first set reflected my own American state of being, being constructed from woods from several states as well as a few I could find only in Albion. My first trip gave me the last woods to complete that set.

So my trip was a chance to look closely at the forests around me and find the trees I needed. It was a chance to connect with each tree, and exchange gifts. It was a chance to create a ritual to contain that sharing, and to explore the difference between giving and theft. I didn’t have much time, and I am not completely satisfied with how I went about this task, but I did complete it, and learned a lot in the process. I came home with a forest in the form of a bundle of sticks. I know now that I can recognize every tree in the system in its natural habitat, and I have a ritual for collecting that creates connection between the gatherer and the gathered. I have seen a community in a field of Heather, and had a centuries-old Oak throw a branch at my feet. I know where each wood came from and can remember the conversation we had. Most of all, I am involved in a process, and am learning the phases of creation of a set as a set, rather than disparate woods gathered at different times. All of them came home with me as a bundle of green wood. Now I am in the process of stripping them of their bark and allowing them to dry completely. That has to happen before I can choose a size for each fid (wood), as each stave is called. I also have to decide how I will shape them this time as I no longer have access to the tools I used the first time.

Not knowing, but trusting, was a wonderful way to travel. It wasn’t all good, but neither is life. I feel as if the Land was testing me. The first two trips the red carpet was rolled out. I was cradled and protected by the Land. This time, more is expected of me. The gifts were no less munificent, and I count the tasks among them. What I lost may be the catalyst for someone else when they find what amounts to a kit for Druidry somewhere. In the meantime I have articles and songs to write, blog entries and recordings to make, and experiences to share. I have friendships and memories to sustain me here on the Shores of the Western Sea. I am blessed beyond measure by the Druids and the Land of Albion.

Chalk path--South Downs Way
South Downs Way

 

The Strands of the Tale

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A life, or an experience such as the trip I’ve just taken, is woven of many strands. You can’t take a bunch of those strands, spin them all together, and tell all the stories at once, though I feel that that’s pretty much what’s happened to me. No, if you want to be intelligible a little sorting is needed. I’ll start at the beginning–and the ending, because one strand flows through the two camps that began and ended my trip.

I flew against the sun to a place I had never been before, places my people had come from so long ago that I don’t know exactly where or when it happened. Those strands are broken, and I was not able to pick them up and spin them back into my life. But the land had plans for me, and new threads to be taken up.

I spent my first night in Sussex, sleeping with the solid earth beneath me, and hazels and hawthorns sheltering me from the rain that had kissed this land with green. So green. California is hot and dry in September, the hills shining gold and beautiful, and needing only one spark to erupt in flames. When I come down from the hills at home, I smell of Lugh, dry grass and sunlight and essence of summer. In Sussex we burned logs so large some had to be carried to the fire by two people. The sparks climbed to the sky and fell on the damp grass and no one thought anything of it. I was enchanted–I do love fire. We sang and danced and drummed around that fire for hours. I shared some of my songs, and heard some of theirs, and while I arrived a stranger, when I left Anderida I was a part of what we had shared. The same constellations wheeled above Sussex as they do in California, and now they have additional names: Corona Borealis is Caer Aranrhod (The Fort of Aranrhod), Lyra is Telyn Arthur (Arthur’s Harp). The Milky Way is Caer Gwydion (The Fort of Gwydion), and Cassiopeia is Llys Don (The Court of Don). So I began the trip by putting my feet solidly on the land and looking up at the sky.

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was go to a Druid camp. Anderida Gorsedd just happened to be held the weekend I arrived. It turned out to be all that I’d hoped for and more. The story we worked, the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, was one I thought I knew. I’d read it multiple times, in multiple translations, had taken a Celtic Literature course from a wonderful and inspired teacher that worked with it–but I only knew the sequence of events! I was shown so much in such a short time, and I will never look at the Mabinogi the same way again. It took its place beside the Tain and the other Irish tales as part of my heritage, and it shaped and changed the trip, setting the stage for all the experiences to come.

I had also wanted to be in the biome the ogham was created in. There was enough woodland at Anderida to give me a taste, and to begin my education. September really was the best month to come. All the trees were in fruit, and I was able to see them in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in spring. The good people at camp were patient with my constant questions– “what is this tree? What does a blackthorn look like? Can you eat sloes, hawthorn berries?” By the end of the weekend the trees were beginning to emerge as distinct entities, and I had most of the ogham woods I needed to complete my set of feda. My baggage was full of sticks and berries, my heart was full of new names and faces. My kettle, bought so I could have hot drinks, was unused. There was always a kettle on, and these people know the meaning of hospitality. My first morning I was made a perfect cup of tea with milk and sugar. My first night the sweetness of the mead poured into my cup mirrored that of the people I shared it with. I also had a ride to the train station, and went off to London to spend the night before catching a train to Scotland.

I met Kristoffer Hughes at Anderida. He brought the Fourth Branch to life for me. I have only scratched the surface, but what wealth there is there! There is nothing–nothing–like learning from a native speaker and a scholar, who has read these tales in the oldest shapes we have, who understands inspiration and mystery and is in love with the beauty of these tales. He told me about another camp in Wales, conveniently on the last weekend I would be in the UK. It would involve going to Wales, however, something I hadn’t planned on. I hadn’t planned anything after Dublin, actually, and now I knew why.  

Before I had a chance to assimilate the lessons and the tasks I had gotten at Anderida, I was off to Scotland, and Ireland, but that is another set of strands. My last weekend I got on a train to Shrewsbury, and was picked up at the station and taken to Wales before I even had a chance to go and look at the Severn (can’t do everything!). It was like going back to Anderida, back into the fold of magical folk. Their house was full of delicious books, of which I only had time to take down a few titles, and warm companionship. We piled into their huge van and rocketed down the narrow hawthorn-lined roads of Wales. The folded land was green and beautiful and I felt as if I’d stumbled into Faerie. One minute the hawthorns would hem us in and all I could see was sharp leaves and red berries, and then the road would fall away and I’d be looking into a valley so green and inviting I just wanted to stop right there and explore. I know why dogs hang their heads out the windows of cars now…

On the ride, the penny was dropped. Bala Lake is Llyn Tegid, the place where the myth we would be working–the story of how Cerridwen brewed the Awen and Gwion Bach became Taliesin–had happened. I had been so caught up in making  travel arrangements, getting into the camp, and traveling that this had escaped me. And Bala Lake was a name that meant nothing to me. A pretty place, an experiential camp and more inspired education courtesy of Kris Hughes–sign me up! I felt as if I’d been presented with the treasures of the Otherworld, and something more. A shiver went up my spine. This was the very same story we’d worked at the only Witch Camp I’d ever been to. I knew I was in the lap of the gods. I’d been brought here, and had taken on a lot more than I expected.

There were friends from Anderida here. It was easier walking in to some faces I knew, and everyone was just as welcoming. We came in at the tail end of the witches’ tea party, which was a great way to meet people. Real china and Welsh cakes. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even need a kettle at Llyn Tegid. These folk actually did Anderida one better. In the marquee was a large gas fired kettle of hot water, teabags, and milk and sugar. All the little milk and sugar packs I had assembled in various hostels and takeaway places went unused. I finally had to jettison them when I was getting my gear down to baggage allowance weight.  

Llyn Tegid is Otherworldly. The lake is prone to flooding and the roots of the trees are exposed, twisted into weird shapes and disappearing into a soft gray shore of rounded stones and dusty soil. It looks as if the trees walk around at night when no one’s looking, and perhaps they do. It is as strangely beautiful as Mt. Tamalpais back at home, another sacred spot that looks as if it is half in another reality. The trees of the ogham are of course everywhere. I went looking for another spot like the one I had at Anderida, and found it. I slept tucked under two hawthorns and a hazel, the shingle was so soft it conformed to my body. It was a lot more comfortable than most of the hostel beds with my thermarest pad. It was warm enough at night to sleep with the top of the bivy sack open, looking up at the stars filtering through the leaves, listening to the lake lapping against the shore.

All too quickly the weekend was over. I have a yearlong relationship with the cauldron to develop, and songs to write, and songs to perfect. And this was only one strand of the tale!

If you are curious about the ritual work, or about the tales associated with it, the information can be found in Kristoffer Hughes’s book From the Cauldron Born. I’m devouring it even as we speak. It deserves a prominent place on any Pagan or Celtic Studies bookshelf. It will give an acquaintance with the relevant source materials to the one, and the flavor of experiential practice to the other.

Fantasy Leads to Reality

Books are paper ships. They take our minds places where our bodies will never go. I reread My Side of the Mountain as a little mental vacation and found that the path led right back to Druidry. A really good book will reveal something new every time you read it. I wasn’t expecting this, as a child I read this book so many times the cover practically fell off. I really thought I had gotten everything that was there from its pages long ago. Like so many other kids, I wanted more than anything to be Sam Gribley and run off to the woods. I was all about the mechanics back then. How do you make a fire with flint and steel? Will a fishhook made of twigs really catch a fish? I still eat blackberries, miners lettuce and the like out of my local wild places, but killing something for food was way too icky back then and I didn’t find a flint and steel and learn to use them till I was an adult.

Rereading it this time the connection with nature unfolded for me. Sam lets the forest guide him. The animals tell him when the snowstorms are coming, not in words, but by seeking shelter. By watching what they eat, he learns to find food. The trees provide a home for him:

“I looked at that tree. Somehow I knew it was home, but I was not quite sure how it was home. The limbs were high and not right for a tree house… Slowly I circled the great trunk. Halfway around the whole plan became perfectly obvious. To the west, between two of the flanges of the tree that spread out to be roots, was a cavity. The heart of the tree was rotting away. I scraped it out with my hands; old, rotten insect ridden dust came tumbling out. I dug on and on, using my ax from time to time as my excitement grew.”

Sam has that connection with the world that religion is supposed to provide, that some of us seek through Druidry. To him it is as natural as breathing, a part of life rather than a set of specific skills filed in the mind under “spirituality,” “religion,” or “connection.” He has no need to cast a circle or sit in meditation to get guidance from the natural world:

“I was singing and chopping and playing a game with a raccoon I had come to know. He had just crawled into a hollow tree and had gone to bed for the day when I came to the meadow. From time to time I would tap on his tree with my ax. He would hang his sleepy head out, snarl at me, close his eyes, and slide out of sight. The third time I did this, I knew something was happening in the forest. Instead of closing his eyes, he pricked up his ears and his face became drawn and tense. His eyes were focused on something down the mountain. I stood up and looked. I could see nothing.”

The world will indeed talk to us if we listen. Specific exercises are only one person’s attempt to show us how to create an experience like Sam’s with the raccoon, to teach us one way of listening. The story is all around us. The aspens showed me how they would gladly create a forest on the Laney College campus last Saturday night. I stopped to say hi on my way home, and to tell them how glad I was they were there. I fear they won’t be soon, the college seems to be systematically chopping them down, small grove by small grove. I am enjoying them while they’re here and the experience is all the more precious to me knowing how suddenly they may be gone. I had just spent a moment with my hands buried in the leaves, eyes closed, watching them flicker in my mind as the wind blew softly around us. I turned to look at the estuary before us, and saw the tree’s clones, lining up before it, marching slowly down towards the water. The brackish water would stop them when they got there, as would the concrete and steel of the buildings behind me. If left to themselves, though, they would gladly fill the space between, until the wide streets stopped them. In time, though, if left to themselves, they would even crack through the concrete and asphalt.

Was that vision a spiritual experience? I could certainly file it mentally that way, if I chose. But it’s just the way the world is. What the trees told me is the very definition of “invasive species,” and that is undoubtedly why the College, who planted those trees in the first place, is taking them out slowly. Methinks it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black, because if we humans aren’t “invasive” I don’t know what is. I thanked the trees, wished them well, but with a little trepidation. I realized that I’d done the same thing with the trees along the bank next to the road, and now they were stumps. Last December when I discovered them cut, I wrote this poem:

With my eyes I see only sky.
Where branches were lacelike there are only stars.
Chain link lies trailing in the dark water.  

But the tide flows out, necklaces of ripples shine silver.
A night heron glides low, silent, then gone to my eyes.
We stand together in the dark, the peace of the ghostly grove an echo of what was.

Those stumps are now clusters of shoots, many as tall as I am. They say very little to me now, they’re far too busy with the work of growing. It is almost as if they were knocked back to babyhood, rediscovering their fingers and toes and stretching towards the sun. I didn’t realize, until I stood with the mature grove that evening just how much I had missed what amounts to conversation with adults. It’s completely different, but essentially the same. The questions I asked last year are being answered, as if the campus aspens are one being, which leads me back to Gaia, and the fact that we truly are one organism. The conversation is far too big to write down, and stretches backwards in time, and far into the future. Long after I am gone it will still be going on. Off somewhere on the sidelines is the thoughtlessness of the college, planting trees as if they were ornaments, cutting them to stumps when it suits them, leaving those stumps to grow again. The chainsaw and the grounds staff have the armaments to win this battle easily, but the aspens may well win because time and the inexorable energy of life is on their “side.” Battle is only joined on one side because the aspens have more sense than they do.

What really struck me about “My Side of the Mountain” this time was how similar Sam’s conversations with his forest are to mine with my urban forest. The longer he spends on the land, the quieter he gets, the more he hears. In my forest, at first I heard nothing, or so I thought. I have come to realize that our conversations span years. Trees really do live on a totally different timescale. Consciousness is similar, on a deeper level it is one, but its expression is unique to each individual. The trees are gone, but the roots remain. One aspect of Druidry for me is to get at those roots, whether it be the aspens, a story written in a book, or the heart of a song. All any of us have to do is say hello, ask a question, and listen for the answer.

We Are The Groundbreakers

We all stand on the shoulders of others. We can see farther because we have their revelations to build on. If we listen, and learn, we might just be lucky enough to carry the whole species forward. Today, what I’ve heard and read has made me feel that we can carry the whole planet forward, that we’re going to make the right choices and do the tasks that are set before us.

I heard an amazing broadcast this morning: Re-creating the world with Michael Meade and then I read an amazing post: We Are Still in the Pagan Playground so Let’s Play!

These led me back even farther, to college and some of the ideas I was exposed to there. Years ago, my favorite archaeology teacher gave me a real touchstone. She spoke of the excessive weight given to what she called origin myths. The farther back you can push a bit of knowledge, the truer it is seen to be and the greater its importance. She thought that that obscured, rather than revealed the truth, and that lecture taught me to peel back the layers till I get to the kernel of the matter ever since.

So paradoxically, we need the past to build on, but we can never get too comfortable with what appears to be the truth. The one sure thing about the truth is that it’s ever-shifting. To pin it down and write it in a book and assume that that’s the end of it is to kill it. That leads me to yet another thing I learned in school. At San Francisco State I was lucky enough to have a number of very good instructors, who knew their business and gave me not truths, but ideas. My Celtic literature instructor told us the Druidic idea that the knowledge travels on the breath, that to write it down is to kill it. But she also told us how the Druids had learned from literate cultures the value of writing down knowledge, lest it be lost completely if all the holders were killed. So we have the great books of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where Tales we would likely not know otherwise were written down in the shape they held in the time they were recorded. She was also wise enough to let me write a song rather than a paper for my final project, which allowed me to experience this truth firsthand, and helped me create the musical path I walk today.

A Tale, after all, is always the same, unchanged. Good fortune accrues to the listener and the teller when it is told truly and completely. As my Irish dance teacher told us, the steps are always the same. Then she’d show us how the step was done in the north, in her youth, and how it was done in the south–though it was of course the same step. In the same way, the Cattle Raid of Cooley is the same whether it comes from the Book of Leinster or Morgan Llywelyn’s _Red Branch_. The wonder of our age is that we can see these versions side by side and hold the paradox in our hands. We can see the relationship of truth and idea, and how they are shaped as they pass through time. Is this what the Druids who understood the value and the necessity of recording their knowledge knew, and was this the fruit of their labors that they never saw in the way we can with all the examples we now have but which they were prescient enough to envision?  

Knowledge is carried on the breath, the world is a never ending story. Anyone who’s ever meditated realizes how pervasive that voice in our minds is, how difficult it can be to even become fully aware of it and taste the silence between its stories. Once again, paradox. Thoughts are sources of wisdom, but they should never be allowed to be our masters. In his broadcast, Michael Meade told a wonderful story of an old woman in a cave who wove a beautiful garment. When it was unraveled completely, she took the end of the thread and began to remake it, the wisdom she had gained the last time she wove it only adding to its beauty. He illuminated the great crossroads we stand at for me, as well as the process we are going through in order to create the new world that is in the process of being born. Can any of us doubt that the world is falling apart even as we speak? Things we were once so sure of are threatened, and in some cases literally swept away. We are left to pick up the pieces and build again. Destruction and creation are one and the same and that is a good thing. Life is a journey, a story, a process.

The image of the birch, the first tree in the ogham, the colonizer of new ground came to me as I read the words of Damh the Bard. All the beautiful ideas of the modern Pagan movement are seeds falling on fertile soil. We draw from our past the mythology and wisdom that is there, but at our best we are growing community that is solidly rooted in this time and place. We’re still in the beginning, we are tending the first trees growing in this new time. This is a powerful, wonderful time, and I feel very lucky to be alive now as this next cycle is shaped. This new knowledge is every bit as authentic and valid as the long-established roots of the yew, and only time will test it fully. But the beginning is now. After all, when we reach the last tree of the ogham, it’s time to go back to the beginning and take up the birch again, bringing the learning to the next level.

I follow a Pagan path, by and large, but it is only a shell within the Unitarianism I was raised in. Try as I might, I can’t find the edges of that idea. I can’t really call it a belief system because I can’t think of anything we believe in, except perhaps coffee hour and the exchange of ideas. The sanctuary of the church I was raised in has always been big enough for any idea I care to bring into it, and though I see the inside of it rarely, the idea of it, and its reality are always solidly at my back. I know I will always have a home there. As my father told me once, we don’t have to go to church every Sunday because God trusts us.

If I have any faith at all, it is in humanity, and the web of life. I believe that together we are smart enough to handle anything. If we just take a deep breath and look honestly at ourselves and our world, we can not only live through the great changes that are upon us, we can be the calm awareness shining out of the eyes of Gaia that we were evolved to be. Part of a greater whole, not rulers standing apart from creation. Not all of who we appear to be now serves this whole, but if we accept who we are, we can change. We will change anyway. The only question is, will we do it consciously, or will we let the consequences of our actions do it to us?

Harvest

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It isn’t fall without a harvest of some kind. This year I am blessed. Tomatoes and peppers in the back yard, my busking, which is a harvest of all those years of practice and skill building that I didn’t realize I was doing. My favorite harvest of all is the crush, though. It is something my dad has done since before I can really remember, and it has accordingly been woven into my life, part of the cycle of the seasons. There have been years without it, but even then, I always think of the grapes in August and September.

At its best, it starts early, early in the morning. Accordingly, we had to get up at the crack of oh-dark-thirty. Of course, if I hadn’t left my wallet and 5# of meat at work, we could have slept in a bit longer, but it did add to the experience I suppose. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Novato before dawn. We saw the full moon in darkness crossing the Bay Bridge, and tendrils of fog were added to the experience on her more famous sister. It was one of those perfect mornings where the marine layer is low on the water, but the skies are largely clear above. One of those mornings that persuades people to move to San Francisco where they learn what is, to them, the awful truth, that it is indeed cold and gray here most of the time.

We met up in Novato and drove to Windsor. The vineyard was beautiful–they all are, but this one was something special:

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We picked merlot, and we had a lot of people this year wanting to have the whole experience. With ten people, we picked 400 lbs. in less than 45 minutes. The fruit was beautiful, sweet and small and perfect:

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Since there was really so little work to do, I took a moment to talk to the vines. Muin, the vine, has an ogham correspondence. Some see it as the bramble, others the vine. Having grown up in the Bay Area, I see it in both plants. Muin is the path of the voice, the strength of it to unite as the vine and the bramble climb on the backs of other things to reach the light. Whether that be a trellis, a tree, or an idea, the principle is the same. Muin has a dark side, however. Beautiful words are not necessarily true, and a vine can strangle that which supports it. Wine brings misery as well as joy if its power is not respected and understood.

I didn’t have much time, and frankly, these vines were singing only one song, of joy and completion. They were focused on fruit, twinkling purple and green in my mind, one soaring note of fulfillment. I was busy too, it was all too soon time to leave, to tell the rest of the story, to set the table and the equipment, to coax people into the harvest dance. Come, take off your shoes, wash your feet and feel the grapes between your toes. Just like Lucille Ball, it only feels icky for a moment, till you remember what your ancestors knew. Wine is magic, the god is trampled beneath your feet and rises stronger than before. Plunge your hands into the bin, pick out the stems until the must is soft with grape skins and seeds. Let it rest, and next year we will feast and drink what this year was fruit soaking in the summer sunlight. Or some other year. By now my dad has been doing this so long that there’s always quite a selection. To me, that is the taste of home.

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