“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.” – Anais Nin
It’s a nearly perfect summer evening. The patio door is open wide, the dronesome sound of cicadas compete with one another, punctuated by occasional abrupt silences they uniformly feel compelled to observe. The light is throwing that ever so hushed tone that tells one the season is coming to an end. The harvest is upon us. I drink it in, the view and a stunning glass of Collier Saumur Chenin, as I try to imagine what’s to come in just a matter of hours.
I have only had the opportunity to play at harvest here an there for days at a time– some more hands on than others. Never have I followed it from start to finish at one winery, though. Never could I have imagined ten years ago, a fledgling student in the world of wine, that I would find myself booking train tickets from Paris to Morey-Saint-Denis via Dijon and Gevrey-Chambertin to work a full harvest season at Domaine Dujac.
But… here I am.
To articulate this moment– the ‘just before’ kind of moment I hold inside like a long, meditative breath– well, words come and go, as the unwritten and unknowable are perhaps the most complex (and invigorating) of all the emotions we get to feel. The imagination is so rich. It naturally reaches for any data it can– the times I have stepped on Burgundy soil, the countless bottles I have treasured, the maps I have pored, the harvests I have experienced however brief and the thousands of hours of study that have given me a general idea what goes on from vine to barrel. Though, if I have learned anything, it’s that winemakers are like snowflakes– each one’s approach different than the next, however nuanced. But none of it will prepare me for what I will take in… I am sure of that. And I embrace these moments in life where mystery has an actual pulse and they really make me feel I am living when I relish them.
These punctuated points in my life have come to signal growth and evolution in a very short time–a space where I just know I am hovering on the threshold of becoming more than I am as myself today. I felt this way the night before my mom died when I was ten years old. I felt this the day before I moved to New York City in 2007– alone without any contacts, and my only plan was to live at the YMCA in Greenpoint until I found something more permanent. I felt it the day before my marriage. And again before my marriage ended. All these moments had my heart beating hard with nervous anticipation– in full awareness of not knowing what might come next. All involved courage. None were without fear. I had no idea who I could be on the other side. But, as Nin so beautifully explains, it’s less a ‘new’ self on the other side, rather an adding to– a manifestation of old and new selves. A sentiment of multitudes that echo Whitman.
Perhaps a harvest doesn’t (or shouldn’t) compare to some of these other life-changing transitions. But the same sensations are stirring (perhaps with a bit more excitement balancing my nerves), and I realize that this is more than just a little adventure. It has recently occurred to me that I am standing in and staring at my mid-life crisis. Really! I didn’t quite recognize it for what it was at first. Images of ridiculous sports cars, Las Vegas benders and twenty-something lovers on the side seemed to fit the symptoms fit for a mid-life crisis diagnosis. But that’s not really what it’s about at all. In fact, seems a lot of friends in their thirties and forties are in a similar place. We wake up one day and mortality is a real thing. It sets in for the first time, really. We take stock. We ask ourselves the hard questions. We answer them with honesty. We contemplate choices–those that are safe with those that involve risk.
My reasons for going have taken so many shapes over the past couple years. When I first learned this was a possibility, I wanted the challenge– what might it feel like to rise each morning and live as a vigneron? Could I do it? Could this be a path for me? My life took turns I rather didn’t anticipate shortly thereafter, and this opportunity began to feel like an escape– a brief interlude from day-to-day real life to answer questions about who I am, what I want, where I am going. I am grateful, though, the past couple years brought a lot of self work, and I have answered many of the unsettling questions, and I can go now with a whole heart, clearer mind and really very few expectations. Just a willingness to do the best I can, ask a ton of questions and revel in being part of it all. Just being.
To press pause, just for a few weeks. To live differently. People talk a lot about being ‘present’ as the anecdote to daily anxiety, our frenetic lives. It’s hard to be present in the grind, which is so filled with ruminations on yesterday and worries and plans for tomorrow. I’d like to stop that churning for a bit and have my mind and my body in the same place, doing the same things, at the same time. Rising with the sun and closing each day with a few well earned delicious aches in my bones. To reflect on what it means to create. To relish curiosity. To savor learning. These are the reasons I am so eager to board that plane this Friday to France, where I have always felt a little closer to myself.