Thursday, July 19, 2012

What has become of our land?

Tonight in front of a sold-out crowd in the back room at my favorite Italian store I led the group through a tasting of Italian wines. There were a lot of new folks there so I told them my story. And for the first time I realized how tied I am not to one, but three places. First is California, which is where I was born and grew up. Next is Italy, which is my wellspring for inspiration. And lastly, there’s Texas, which in its basic natural state, can affect a gravitational pull. All three of these places share a commonality – they are being altered radically from the vision I have of them inside my heart of hearts.

I’m not sure it is because of the time we live in, whereby civility seems to be breaking down. Maybe it is a byproduct of living long enough to have certain realizations about humanity. Perhaps there is a confluence in time of the both of those factors.

My Californian expat friends, we often remark that the California we grew up in no longer exists. That’s not necessarily a bad thing on its own. I remember many days living as a child in the Los Angeles basin, my lungs searing from the smoke and the smog. Is it worse now? Or has it been exacerbated by a larger population? Orange groves and date palm plantations, vineyards and almond farms, peach and olive orchards, many of those from my early time in Californian are now gone, in the dustbin of history. Is Californian worse off? The dream that California has represented to me seems to have been shattered. There is no place to go home to in California for me.

Italy is changing too. While I never really entertained the idea of going back to Italy like California, I go there often enough to see the changes. The photographs show the changes. Italy in 1971 was still a lot more like the rural Italy it had been for ages. Italy in 2012 takes a lot of money and patience. Still, folks email me from wineries this week, telling me they will be out from July 23 until August 20. Three weeks to go to the beach or the mountains, to stop time. As bad as the economy is in Italy, and it is a whole lot worse there than in the US, the Italians still take the time to stop and recharge.

And then there is Texas, which is trying it’s ever most hardest to demonstrate it is independent from any other part of the continental United States. This mania to prove to the rest of the world how liberated we are, how we don’t need the world. A lot of that is the political climate in an election year, but there seems to be a hardening of the state's arteries and many of the people in it. It has become a place where I live but not a state that I live in, does that make any sense? It appears full of rage and for the life of me I cannot figure out why many of my neighbors are so angry. Our economy is diverse. Our weather isn’t perfect, but there are a lot worse places. Syria. Afghanistan. East Sudan. Chechnya. An endless list. We have climate control and good roads. We have access to building business, with the local population supporting the infrastructure via taxes. People have risen up from living in mud structures to a higher standard of living. But still, there are folks who just can’t get enough. And across the river there are folks who can’t get what they need to get through the day. There’s an indifferent disconnect.

All through this there is the land. Vineyards in California are either large industrial operations or elite special operations launched by uber-wealthy. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the middle.

Italy still has the small farmer, but the land has been depleted though bad farming processes. The vineyards of Italy are in need of rebuilding. All is not well in the vineyards of Italy.

And Texas, the vineyards? Not high on the list of priorities, we are still dealing with our other natural resources, energy, be it oil or gas or wind. But the land here has been ravaged as well.

Like I said, maybe it is just a factor of introspection when looking at our world from this point on my life. I just worry what kind of wines and what kind of world awaits us in the next 50 years.

I don’t know why I am sharing this. Maybe it’s because I have been thinking of it and I am in no mood to write lyrical about Vino Nobile or Aglianico. I cannot take any more of the political circus that has hijacked our world. The lies, the violence, the self-interests. I am more worried about the harvest and the droughts in America and Italy, not the next year’s model of Fiat which has an espresso machine in it.

As the folks left the room, there were so many who just seemed thankful that they had two hours to not have to think about the problems outside of our little Circolo del Vino. Maybe in my own way, I am doing what I can. I know it will never be enough. But I can get someone excited about Sangiovese or Corvina. I can make a difference in the lives of those around me. And for now, I will take it. I just hope these lands we ravage with chemicals and pollution will be able to sustain their viability. If not we are in for some challenging days ahead.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy Wine

1 comment:

Winey the Elder said...

Thank you for giving voice to what I have been feeling. The volume of vitriol, the amplitude of acrimony are deafening and your voice, your thoughts a "rest area" on the interstate to insanity.

I see hope for civility in the small gestures of people throughout my day, but not in the media, not in politics - on either "side", and not in those who look for someone else to blame for the void in their hearts.

May your spirit and your glass never run empty.

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