Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spirituality of wine and savagery of man felt in one night

At bedtime under the comfort of a down duvet, my wife Eddi and I are reading to each other Ruta Sepetys' novel Between Shades of Gray. The story starts one dark night when the Soviet NKVD soldiers banged the door of a family's home in Lithuania. "You have 20 minutes to pack." Mother was alone with her two children, Lina and her younger brother. Father mysteriously hadn't come home that night. Where was he? Then mother and two children are stuffed into a railroad cattle car with a librarian, teacher, housewife and dozens of other ordinary people. Their cattle car is only one of a long train of cars stuffed with hundreds, if not thousands of people. The NKVD soldiers shoot or beat anyone who speaks out. The trip takes weeks to reach the freezing Siberian empty wasteland, which will be their new home. Each cattle car of people is allotted one bucket of water and one bucket of gruel per day.

Stalin thought these defenseless people should have been banished
because they are intellectuals and land owners. Is this same theme being played out today?

I personally know the cruelty spelled out in Sepetys' book. I am of Latvian roots, so her story stabs my heart. In Latvia,
at the same time period as the Lithunainian novel, my father was arrested and scheduled to be killed. With the help of neighbors, he escaped and fled the country with my mom. They buried the silverware and left everything else. Otherwise I would not be here.

During their exodus, my mom's best friend and her husband turned their horse-drawn cart back to their home. Not long after, they were arrested and shipped in cattle cars to Siberia. One of their sons froze to death there.

Years later, during the tumultuous turning point of Soviet disintegration, I returned to Latvia to reclaim our farm. The capitol city, Riga, was free. But in our rural area, the Soviets still clutched control. The local Collective director had given our farm to one of his friends.
But as a brash American living free, I spoke out against his judgement. Someone behind me whispered, "this man has the power to kill you."

Just before Eddi and I laid comfortably in bed reading this Soviet era novel, that stirs my personal memories of man's savage cruelty, I was reading about the spiritual aspects of wine in Sondra Barrett's book Wine's Hidden Beauty. In a spread sheet-like list she lays out all of the pagan wine gods and goddesses through history. Wine is also very important to the Jewish religious ceremonies and not surprisingly, it followed Jesus into Christianity. During the Last Supper, the night before Jesus was crucified, he urged his disciples to drink the wine that it would become like the blood he would shed.

Somehow the juxtaposition of those two themes–savagery of man and the spirituality of wine–stretched my inner being.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thank you Jim Foliek at Santa Barbara County Wines

I want to thank Jim Foliek, executive director at the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association and fellow Latvian, for introducing me to Santa Barbara vineyards and wineries. Wow was I surprised. Check out these landscapes. No wonder Ronald Regan wanted a ranch in the area.
A mechanical pruning machine cuts the longest vines in the flatter areas of the Bien Nacido vineyards. Skilled workers will follow up hand cutting to the final two vines.

The above four photographs are Bien Nacido Vineyards near Santa Maria, California. And yes, those are goats charged with keeping the healthy weed population at bay.

The above two photographs are Dierberg Vineyards and winery. The interior photograph is nearly a 360 degree view inside the rotunda of the winery. Just too bad that the winery is not generally open to the public because of neighborhood restrictions. While Dierberg has several vineyards, these are near Santa Ynez, California.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rorschaching Vineyards into Mandalas?

It started with such a simple we-did-it-in-high-school idea, flip the image to see what you get. So the cloud over Dundee vineyards was my first effort. Pretty rorschachie, eh?
Ok, then let's fip the same image six times and crop it to get the image Fall Colors in Brandborg Winery's Ferris Wheel Vineyard below. Can you figure out where the 6 images are? (Don't bother looking for Waldo, he left.)

Back in the old college days while working on my Masters of Fine Arts degree, the instructors would chide us little students to take an idea to the next step. Well, to me the next logical step was to create a Mandala, the sacred art of Hindus and Buddhists. Wouldn't that be the next step for you?
My thought thread, I studied with a bunch of Tibetan Buddhists in Nepal and Sikkim.
(I believe Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means circle. The art form usually has a square with four gates containing the circle. Check out Wikipedia or Google Mandala for a better explanation.)
The Mandala below is based on the flipped Brandborg Vineyard image seen above.
Below is another image I call Rower above Knudsen and Bella Vida Vineyards Mandala.
The two images below are details from the above Rower Mandala. Do you see where the details fit?
Check out the texture.

My hope is that these can be viewed from a distance and close up. Wait until you see the one I'm creating right now.

So what kind of ideas or suggestions do you have?