One chill morning I awoke before dawn and waited for the sun to begin rising over the vineyard. Morning light is perfect for invigorating one’s spirit and for photography. In search of a picture or two, Woody and I wandered through the back-acre chardonnay and then down a path to where my kids had nailed a sign saying “Unfriendly Forest” to a tree. It’s a thick scrub forest, full of buckthorn and juniper – completely impassable for the most part. The wildlife loves it and every starlit night I can hear a chorus of coyotes singing at the moon.
Part of our forest is a seasonal wetland, making navigation problematic for much of the year. In the summer drought, it’s a dry area with deep quack grass. Then as the ground freezes, water piles up amongst the trees. When snow is lacking, it’s a wonderful spot to go skating – you can glide through the forest at high speeds, dodging the occasional tree and fallen branch. The ice isn’t clean and you run over bits of wood and grass, so you likely need to sharpen your skates afterward. The sacrifice is worth it. An aura of majesty can be found in the woods.
Woody scampers onto the ice ahead of me. He slips and slides, and dips his snout to joyfully munch on the snow. “Woody, I don’t think the ice is that thick over there,” I say to him, as he wanders onto some darker ice. Ice never completely forms over the swampiest area – it’s warmer from composting biomass and the water never sits still enough to gel. Woody pretends that he doesn’t understand and runs out into the middle of the black area, and promptly breaks through. He scrambles a moment and quickly retreats to thicker white ice where I’m standing. “I guess I know best, eh Woody?”
We linger a few moments longer and I dream about bringing our family out for some skating on Family Day. Then we hike through the winter chill back to the warmth of the winery.
A day of hard work awaits –-racking and filtering wine, cleaning tanks and barrels, carefully preparing delicious wine for the busy tourist season a few short months from now.
Surrounded by beauty we become desensitized. I step outside for a few moments and reset my nose by breathing pure winter air and to admire the long shadows painted by the setting sun. When I come back inside, the beautiful smell of the winery assaults my senses — rich aromas of chardonnay, vidal and French oak.
Winter and summer, city and country, busy-ness and quietude. Each helps us appreciate the other.