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Posts Tagged ‘joie de vivre’

Friday, as I blew off a networking breakfast on the other end of town, a friend’s face appeared over the booth next to me at Panera. “What are you doing way over here?” he asked surprised to see me out of downtown.

“Trying to figure out if I can buy a vineyard,” I told him.

He was there to meet a friend who just happened to be highly knowledgable and well connected in the angel investment world. My friend quickly introduced us, invited themselves to my table and without hesitation began creating, aloud, my business plan for the bank and a case for investors.

I laughed as they joined in my dreaming, already planning their weekend stays at the vineyards and dates with their wives at a barn dance. The investment guru stopped abruptly. “Why are you laughing? If you had one million dollars, would you buy the vineyard, or would you be thinking about it?”

“I would buy the vineyard.”

“Then don’t laugh. You owe it to yourself to investigate the opportunity. Or be prepared for the next one.”

Two hours later, I left with a list of tips and contacts and suggestions…and perhaps more than a little concern that they might decide to buy the vineyard instead. “What did it matter if they did?” said a voice inside my head asked. “It’s a complete long shot you could ever get that kind of money from a bank.”

But, yes, if I had one million dollars, I would indeed buy the vineyard.

I continued to noodle the plan as I drove back downtown and prepared to teach etiquette to a class of fourth-grade students. But a nagging voice kept repeating itself in my mind. “You love their wine and their story, but you’ve never laid eyes on the place. It could be a REAL nightmare!”

It could, that’s true. But I have a hard time imaging a vineyard as a nightmare…and I’m pretty good at imagining nightmares what with all this logic I inherited from my German ancestors.

Still, there must be some gypsy in me for sooner rather than later, I found myself standing on a curvaceous ridge with sunlight streaming all around me and a more-than-gentle breeze tussling my curls all over the place while I overlooked the Ohio River. And the vineyard.

Rows and rows of grapes lined the view, like stitching on a quilt. It was broken only by a fast moving, noisily burbling brook that appeared like a gash in the earth and my grape-vine quilt.

Strangely, and strangely compellingly, the air smelled strongly of onion and honey so that I had to take several curious deep breaths to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I wasn’t. Otherwise, how would you explain my shoes sinking in the mud and the herd of muddy white cows mooing lazily across the fence as they stared at me, probably wondering what I was doing there as much as I was.

There’s something magical about being put into proper size and perspective. And surrounded by the enormity of the ridge, the vastness of the view and the wildness of the wind, I felt suddenly lovely…but lonely.

If I had five million dollars, I would build an onsite guest house to encourage family, friends, the investment guru and his wife and paying guests to come and stay with me, to share the perspective and view, to be a part of the magic that is nature. And wine.

The house looked newer than the picture on the web. Charming. And yellow. The winery, down in the town, looked functional. Which is more than I could say for the town. It looked deserted. I’m sad to report that the only life I saw as I drove up and down each street and back again was a construction crew at the McDonalds on the edge of town.

All along the main street, buildings and houses were boarded up. Sidewalks were empty. Parking spaces were plentiful. Even the churches looked as if they were deserted. What there was was a soda shop, shiny and new in the old fashioned way. And a pub of sorts. And the Ohio River.

I stood there feeling sad for the place, wondering where the people were—the children with their seemingly unending running and play, the parents whose energy level was sapped following their bounding children from a safe but protective distance, the teens falling in love for the first time or gathering in gender crowds to plot and scheme, the golden generation strolling hand in hand slowly down the center of town…maybe with a dog, or a cane.

Probably they were all where the jobs were. And it didn’t look like there were any here.

If I had ten million dollars, I would invest in the town too. A bakery. A butcher. A tailor. An auto mechanic. A handyman. A music teacher. A library. An art studio. A grocer or someone to organize a farmers market. And in return, they each would invest their money in the houses, the buildings, the energy of the town so that guests at the vineyard would want to come down off the ridge and stroll through the town.

And everyone would realize that you don’t have to be rich, or travel far away to enjoy life. Joie de vivre might just be everywhere.

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I have come to the big fork in the road, and now I must choose.  Which path will I take?  Which life will I make?

Shall I follow my heart or my mind?  Which way will lead me better?  Will one just be leading me astray?

The year of Reduction is ALMOST over…26 more days to go…not that I’m counting.  And when it’s gone, I will finally step on one of two paths laid out before me, one of two ways to live the rest of my life.   For I cannot travel them both.   It’s impossible.

Down one path I see my future clearly laid out with milestones marked and goal posts.  The path is paved with books and lined by sleek metal rails riveted with golden coins.  At marked intervals there are targets, goals, clearly marked sign posts with arrows, big bright windows, crisp clean lines and a sailboat out in the distance off a neat, trim pier.

Down the other path, well, I can barely see at all.  The path isn’t clearly marked, in fact, I can only see as far as where to step on the path.  But the sunshine glimmers through the leaves, and I think I hear a waterfall.  Some of the brush shakes from, what, the wind?  a deer?  a sprite?  And off in the distance there…is that a castle or a giant troll napping?

I already know my choice.  I decided it in the very first few moments of writing to you, my Gentle Penguin.  Perhaps I’m writing you now in hopes that I talk myself into the other path.  I’ve struggled over which path to pick from the moment I realized that having reduced my life to its essence, I would be free to build the foundation for a life I REALLY want to lead.  One that makes me hop out of bed each day before my alarm because, gosh darnit, life is too much fun and far too short to sleep any longer!

I could have a better life with either of these choices.  Really, I could.  Well, maybe I could.  Actually, I don’t know that I could.  But I don’t want to go back to a life of accumulation and false truths and slavery to the mundane.

I’ve trusted the Fates and the Muses to guide me.  And then I’ve looked away and struggled to find opposite information.  When I have paid attention (primarily because I had no choice), I’ve misinterpreted their message.  But that all changed the moment I started writing to you, my Gentle Penguin.

Life looks so much clearer when my fingertips are dancing.

And I’m immediately relieved with my choice.  I can’t even TELL you how relieved I am.  I feel instantly lighter, brighter, happier and more free.  I reevaluate all the information I’ve been given over the past few months, I reexamine the signs of things going on in my life—my family, my health, my business, my community, my social life—and I can see no other way to go except the obvious one.

Because, you see, I don’t want to live not knowing whether that’s a giant troll or not.    Maybe he has a sailboat too.

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The Fates and Muses must be frustrated with my lack of attention to their message, because it’s smacking me in the face blatantly right about now.  So I take the day to listen, and I’m inundated with messages about quality of life.  As it regards to health, to working conditions, to care for Hospice patients, to travel, to educational opportunities, to community, to food, to dogs, to music, to…pretty much everything.

Or maybe it’s not my lack of attention, but rather a growing need to pay better attention to this topic.

Earlier this fall, I had decided my theme for next year was going to be Romance.  I’m tired of Reducing and Changing and working hard.  I want to have a little fun for a change!  I’ve begun dozens of posts to tell you about my intent, but something has always interrupted them and I’d move on to another topic instead.  Now, as I think about having just removed all the excess and gotten at the essence of what matters to me, to who I am, I find I want to build my foundation.  On Quality of Life.

What an unromantic topic for 2013!  Quality of Life.  But what a great starting point to build on my essence-free-of-excess.  It doesn’t hurt that I need to spend a little time paying some attention to my health.  Quality of Life definitely involves taking care of health.  And my curiosity.  So I’m off…like a horse at a race who hears the bell and watches the gates lift knowing there’s a wide open track up ahead just begging to be covered, not knowing what’s around the bend or what kind of position I might find myself in at the end but eager to go nonetheless.

As with all things, I must start with defining Quality of Life and what the Year of Quality of Life will challenge me with.  French phrases spring to mind fast and unbidden—savoir vivre, joie de vivre and even c’est la vie.  Yes, in my Quality Lifestyle, they are fundamentals.  Maybe a trip to Paris after the new year will help get me started?  And maybe Romance will be in my cards anyway.  We’ll just have to see…

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