Sunday, December 31, 2023

Walking on Frozen Water

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” — Shauna Niequist

Often, I sit down at the desk here and just start typing, as I am doing now. And then the words appear, maybe making sense, and sometimes not so much. After eighteen years doing this, at least once a week, often more, I’m resigned to seeing where it takes me, and you, if you’re still with me.

About 85% of you will not make it to this sentence and new paragraph. So, it goes. We want it in small bites, and we want the punch, the energy and the electricity right from the get-go. No time to waste.

Knowing more acutely about that aspect of time at this point in life, I empathize. There is precious little to waste.

What will 2024 bring on the wine trail in Italy? I have no idea. I know there will be some early physical challenges to be overcome next year. That kind of goes with the territory of the elders. Does my voice have any bearing in the world of Italian wine? At this point, if I haven’t already done and said what I was going to do and say, I’d hope that whatever aftertaste I leave in the mind of the reader will be a light one. Soft and trailing off into the sunset, a dessert wine, a Moscato passito from Sicily perhaps. That would be fine with me.

I was looking at one the other day in the wine shop that I go to – it was from Pantelleria, an island I spent time on and loved dearly. Great memories, even if some of them were profoundly sad, made that way by grief and loss. But the sweetness of the wine, as I remember, offered solace. So, perhaps, in 2024, maybe my voice can assuage that around me, and that which occasionally pulls up to these pages. It is a hope of mine. Dare I say it is one of my resolutions for the new year? I would if I did such things. In any event, it’s on the punch list.

One of the things I want to focus on, with regards to wine and writing about it, is not so much how it tastes and what a great time I’m having with whatever magnificent bottle is in front of me. Rather, how it embeds itself into the greater picture of life, and a life that is looking more for peace and tranquility than one mired in chaos and upheaval. Girding our loins for this new year, there will be plenty of that from the souls who feed on such impulses. Feeling more alive among disruption seems to be a dominant dystopian trope in these times. But at this point in my life, I’ve seen as bad, maybe even worse, in previous eras. We will either get through it – or we won’t. It’s, more or less, out of our hands.

One of the things I want to grapple more with in 2024 is the level of seriousness we seem to take ourselves when we are in present moment situations. I know that when I was working full time, that work took up a lot of mental and psychic energy, not to mention the physicality that went along with it during some of those times. I was all in, which wasn’t such a bad thing. But now I look at folks who are all in, and I wonder if that is really why we are here. Of course, I could turn that right back at me and ask myself if where I am now, my “all in-ness” is any less ludicrous than those who are in the work place and earning their way. There is this future me, somewhere 5-10-15 years from now, looking back and wondering why I am doing what I am doing now. Could I be engaged otherwise? Should I be volunteering? Should I read more? Should I finally get my photographic archives sorted out, so that sometime after I am long gone, there might be a story about a time, with images galore, that could help clarify this time and why it turned out the way it did? Am I walking on frozen water, not knowing if the surface will hold the weight? Does that matter?

Ukraine, July 26: The body of a Russian soldier in the Zaporizhzhia
region, where Ukraine was waging a counteroffensive. @tylerhicksphoto

The departed soldier in the photo above (getting my vote for photo of the year), in a way, tells the story of all of us these past few years. We’ve been plowed under by the weight of events that have passed over us. How we decide to persevere and pivot under such overwhelming odds is up to each and every one of us, individually. For better or worse, I’ve inherited a survival mechanism that has taken me thus far. I imagine it taking me further, or so my future me tells me. What I plan to do between now and then is what is left of my journey on this pretty little orb.

Happy New Year to all y’all. See you in 2024. Warm wishes and marshmallow kisses!

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