Sunday, March 22, 2020

Life on the Island - in 2020

In writing this post, I want to be mindful of the pain and suffering any of us might be having or will be having in the future. So as not to trivialize the bigger phenomenon we are all collectively experiencing, I will attempt to keep what it is we are involved with in our lives and our careers in the wine trade in perspective to larger events shaping our world.

Wine is not essential, but right now it can be very, very comforting. A prized magnum of Barolo you might have been storing for a special occasion might now be just the thing to open with that mushroom risotto you are making and will be eating on for several days. That’ll be fine with the magnum, as you will be able to drink on it during those days as well.

To make a list of the 10 or 50 or 100 most important Italian wines might be an excess that could look unimportant 6 months or a year from now. So, you won’t be getting any of that here. But that’s not to dismiss such an exercise, if someone out there feels the need for a list like that. Everyone is coping and grieving in their own personal manner, and it is not for me to say if one is right or wrong. For me though, it doesn’t feel right. I want to share something different, something personal, but also something that you might be able to identify with. I’m not sure I’m that good of a writer. But one thing I do know, and that is love and loss.

Months from now we might be reading about this winemaker or that wine person who no longer is with us. We will feel their loss next month just as we did last month. This predicament we are all in doesn’t change that. What has changed in the last month, though, is our collective ache for a better world, for a world that once was and might not be ever again as it was. But that really always was the case, for as we breathe in and out, every time, we lose a moment and we gain a moment. It never really comes back. What can change that mutual assemblage of pain that we are feeling will be the way we go to those new breaths and moments. I’m probably not saying this as clearly as I’d like to, so let me tell you a little story.

When my wife was in the last six months of her life, everyday we woke up, it was like getting hit on the side of the head with a baseball bat. It was brutal. It was painful. And it was relentless. But everyday we got up and faced it. We were mostly at home, which we called our little island, Isola da Cevola (and yes, I know that is not the proper way to say it in Italian, but that’s the way it is and will be).

And at times we did feel isolated. And scared. But on our little island the sun shone and the birds sang and the flowers bloomed. So, we weren’t really alone. And there was love to help us through the darkest nights. And there were some pretty dark nights.

But we got through it, each in our own way. My wife passed away and can no longer feel pain or sadness. I, on the other hand, took years to heal, making my way through a very dark and long tunnel. I’m still in it, will probably never get out of it. But my tunnel now has galleries to let more light in, and I am a hopeful old sod who believes in believing in something.

So, I will get back to telling stories about wine and Italy and that old rugged wine trail in Italy, someday. But not today. Today, I am fortifying my island with hope and resilience and pasta and Pecorino and yes, with generous amounts of Italian wine from the closet. For surely this isn’t going to be a three-hour tour. We’re going to be here for a while. But we’re going to be of good mind and heart and breathe in affirmative breaths until the cloud passes over this island and the sun shines brightly again. And I wish the same for you on your island, wherever you may be.

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