What Now?

I have heard others wonder, many a time, a thing that I have speculated on myself, namely, what the animals we look at so quizzically in nature, home or zoo think, in turn, of us. Do they even think of us at all, and if so, is it with curiosity? Is the curiosity limited to what we could feed them or whether, in point of fact, we could be fed to them–or does it go beyond this into realms we cannot even begin to guess?

As the calendar year trickles toward its end, many of us turn our inquiring minds toward the future and ask ourselves what lies ahead, and whether we can have any influence on it. We long to be happy and healthy, rich and free, but are often puzzled when directed to think not about how the universe can confer these delights upon our undeserving heads but instead, how we might earn or attain them by our own efforts.

For some reason, all of this recently began to merge in my own head, coalescing into an odd and perhaps contorted mystery of a related but new variant. Thanks to my appallingly unscientific mind, I suppose I have often pondered the universe in the same way that I do animals in relationship to humans, imagining the universe’s workings as some sort of parody of Baroque stage machinery. We occupy a stage on which we animals and plants and other living things act out a madly unscripted play amid the apparently clumsy clockworks of our artificially constructed container and wait for the deus ex machina resolution to clarify all that is, was and ever shall be therein.digital collageSuddenly, though, I’m struck by a further thought that if there is indeed any such power running the show, perhaps the universe is looking at us, at me, in great consternation and mystification, wondering when and how I will be explained. It makes me feel smaller than ever in the grand scheme of things, yet somehow comforted that I may not be entirely alone in my wondering. Will the year ahead, or the decade or lifetime, see my questions answered? Will the universe get its answers? I can’t even begin to imagine. But I like the thought that whatever is waiting on the other side of New Year’s Day may be just that much more miraculous than all of the exciting and surprising and wonderful stuff that went before it. I, for one, plan to stick around until the curtain falls.digital collage

Foodie Tuesday: Wine, Dark & Light

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Close observation magnifies everything, both the good and the bad.

One day in the wine aisle of the local store I had occasion to observe a striking study in contrasts.

As I drifted along in search of a couple of bottles for an upcoming dinner party, I couldn’t avoid overhearing two twenty-something guys as one told the other quite volubly that he was hoping he could fine a lawyer good enough to negotiate him out of Resisting Arrest charges if he pleaded guilty to the Driving Under the Influence charge. There were a whole slew of reasons I was horrified to hear this conversation. First of all, it was yet another example of the loss of social inhibition that saddens and frustrates me these days; how is it acceptable to discuss personal, legal, private matters in normal tones and in great detail in a public place like a grocery store?

I was privy, however unwillingly, to details like the confessor’s noting his level of drunkenness as having been so profound that three hours later when he was having blood tests in the hospital he was still unable to speak clearly, and his friend’s commiseration for apparently having had a similar experience. What I did not overhear, not once, was any indication of regret, remorse or contrition. This was all discussed pretty much in the same manner as they might have recounted a tedious everyday hassle at the office. No sense anywhere in this that the guys themselves could’ve been killed or maimed, or property been damaged or destroyed, let alone that they had opted to put everyone in their proximity at the same risks by choosing to get behind the wheel.

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Of course, when seen so clearly, some things, and people, turn out to be just a bunch of drips.

Talk about, no pun intended, a sobering time.

But I drink alcohol, too. It’s just that I find the idea of drinking past where it’s for taste into where the drink starts making my decisions for me repugnant. I drink specifically to taste.

So it was a startling, and rather refreshing, change of pace when the offending fools finally vacated the aisle and I was approached by a very gracious young woman who asked me politely for advice to a neophyte on choosing red wines. Her adorable toddler daughter sat cheerily and peaceably in the shopping cart throughout what turned into a fairly lengthy conversation, because of course I was suddenly acutely aware of all sorts of questions I’d not considered in a long time. It seems that this lady had a companion who was encouraging her to broaden her horizons and join him in his enjoyment of red wines, and she was accustomed only to cocktail liquor. That’s admittedly a pretty big leap for a palate, whether you’re used to straight vodka or mixed drinks with it as an ingredient.

What could I say that would be of any use to her at all?

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Wine choosing is so hard to learn. Is it *true* that eggs and wine are *always* terrible companions?

Start, yes, with the idea that wines have enormous range in terms of flavors, intensities and affinities–there can be something for nearly every taste and occasion. This, coupled with the personality of wine being perhaps even more of an acquired taste than fruity, herbal or spicy cocktails even when those are made high-octane with something like vodka, is hugely intimidating. Wine snobs do nothing to dispel the fears, with their wacky vernacular of nose and legs, drinkable cement and tar and leather, and huffiness toward anyone drinking anything not Serious or trendy enough.

Finally I did think to tell her that the only really useful and non-terrifying way I’ve learned about red wines other than over a long, long time is to turn to that friendlier set of ‘experts’, those who have an interest in selling you wines. I rarely think of salespeople as my first choice for information resources, but in the (pun intended, this time) case of wine merchants, their vested interest in selling their wares and further, in making them appealing and accessible to a wide audience, makes them a bit more willing and artful educators on the subject than experts who have only themselves to please.

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I mean, sheesh, there are so many red wines; what on earth is my ideal one to drink with a grass-fed skirt steak?

That’s what moved me to tell the nice lady not to risk her hard-earned cash on bottle by bottle experimentation but to seek out the local venues that offer wine tastings. A series of sips, and any amount of snob-sanctioned spitting that it takes to keep sanely sober and free of swallowing swill, is a far quicker way to get a hint of what one actually likes than any other.

Get thee to a wine tasting! My palate is far from sophisticated, but I’ve learned enough over time about what I do and don’t enjoy in wines that I can choose–red or white or any other color, still or bubbly, dry or sweet, or distinct in any other way–with some confidence that I’ll enjoy what I taste. One good glass at a time. Meanwhile, don’t forget to read, too. Not only can articles and even wine labels themselves tell you a lot of useful stuff you might find helpful in your search for deliciousness, as any of you reading this blog would undoubtedly know, being veteran web researchers, there are now a huge number of online resources devoted to oenophilic wisdom.

Most importantly, trust yourself and do what suits you. You might find, after all of the effort and education, that wine is simply Not Your Thing. Why on earth waste time and money (and, potentially, healthy sobriety) on something that doesn’t suit you! You may very well find, if you do like wines that the wines you enjoy most aren’t those that the critics and suave sophisticates admire and tout. If so, feel free to come slumming with me. I’m sure I have a bottle or two in my tiny collection that would make any expert swoon with horror, yet I am more than content to keep sipping at what I like because I like it. And I have been through a few wine tastings, done a bit of reading, and spent plenty of adult years getting the experience that has taught me what I do like, and that it’s perfectly okay to like what wines I like and drink them, no matter what anyone else thinks. Including having a cocktail or beer instead, if that’s my mood.

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Two drink-related things I *am* pretty sure about involve salt: 1, avoid that hideous abomination purporting to be ‘cooking wine’ that is really just cheap vino with salt added to it (as wiser folk have admonished, if it ain’t worth drinking, it ain’t worth cooking with it); 2, salt can, conversely, be quite friendly with tequila or beer if applied properly. See also: Margaritas, Coronitas…

Unfinished in Perpetuity

digital artworkWork Forever in Progress

Hundreds of lines later,

I have nothing to show

except if you count

a sense of accomplishment in having

been faithful to a commitment, in having

persisted steadily in the face of the

unseen and unknown, in being

somewhat soothed by the simple

process of having given a little

heart and soul to something

simply because I could.

However I came to exist,

I think I might be a little bit

the same kind of puzzle myself,

imperfect and utterly incomplete,

but nicely so, for all of that–

nicely, because,

after all, I am working my way

toward being something at last,

and whether I have

an encompassing purpose or not,

I have at least

begun to Be . . .digital artwork