I read old installments and shudder. My voice only goes as far as those are to listen and I think as of late I am happier to not necessarily be heard, but heard for myself, maybe something more honest to myself, and if I happen to lose listeners and maybe speak only so that myself is heard, so be it.
I love the winery and the people involved, and have started to see it far beyond the bounds of the normalcy I considered it constrained within before. I am in love with the people. Plenty of times in my life I was very quick to shirk off what other’s said; compliments, praise, little quips repeated to say ‘thank you’ or that I am doing great work. I was happy to see them, happy to talk as I have, but I got tired of the thanks directed towards me. I don’t deserve them, I have the namesake and the INCREDIBLE good fortune to have the father I did and subsequent community thereafter to even be affiliated with it, but the praise isn’t mine. I want to make that point, mine is only good fortune. I live my life as everyone else lives theirs, but mine is not the one that is, or is yet, given to Brooks for everything it is now the honest image that people see for it. I believe the thanks are owed to Janie and Chris—as well as the rest of the team—the two who have been there from the start, the two that continued through it all. They appear inhuman, in a world all their own; keepers of an intense and incredible secret, of stress owed to work, of production, and continuation; commiserates for companionable fires, and in all honesty, I don’t know why they continue it.
Weaker people, those too young or inexperienced to understand love, passion, and sacrifice for something higher would be quick to run, but not they, or the plenty of others that have entered the business, or the many that came in to help the two, that perhaps started out to remember my father, but stoked the coals far enough to produce a separate entity all it’s own. This is not my world, not my present one. People continue the business because they want to and it is an incredible mark of pride to see it, knowing full well this is not my doing, but an intense debt with want to repay. This business, this incredible thing that has been built for over a decade, founded now in more permanent and tailored place, was not built for me because when I was growing up, began to learn my life, grow, and get hungry with curiosity, they continued to do what they wanted to to the fullest extent of their being and made what you happen to enjoy. This was the huge realization for this year. People do it for themselves, I think they don’t do their work and make a product they can be happy for with me in mind, they do it because it’s an outlet for what they’re good at. Anything more would be too self centered, and anything less would rob them of their honest work. They’re making the wine they want to make. They want to sell the wine they happen to enjoy. I think everyone in the business is honest. No one works for a “thank you”, they work for an industry that seems only to enlist from passionate people, with a clear and present ‘in’ and ‘out’. To have anyone else in the business would be impossible. It seems an industry that’s good at settling out those that can’t make it, and gives the fix for those that have an obsessive trait in their beings like that of my father. Roll a rock up the mountain of industry that follows the same cycle year in year out, knowing full well the same and different struggles lead to absolution and the path they have taken for better or worse. It is a business of tailored people, where only the most human manage to survive, where the struggle seems real and demanding, where the finished product is crafted rather than made, and for all of those that have made their dreams, sacrificed their lives, ruined sweatshirts, beaten cold and drank beer late in the night, smelled fermented grapes, or cursed their luck and smiling joy of a child born in harvest, this is for you, not me. Let’s raise our glasses for that warm cheeked and hidden humility.
When in New York, a trip to the coast, brought the brightest star’s I have yet seen. At the risk of sounding shamefully sappy, I remember most from my summer’s the different night skies–that night happened to be the first time they really threw themselves out at me, and I was alright being just a casual observer to an indifferent world. There was Indian food with my cousin, books bought at used bookstores–where I found not only my new favorite For Whom The Bell Tolls, but also found that “used-book” would make for an irresistible perfume. There was Chicago, where I lounged in the park, under the sun, eating Cuban sandwiches with “[butt] firmly planted on ground” looking up at the skyline and being particularly awed by the incandescent sign of old, The Harrison Travel Lodge. There was swimming in the Ocean in Oregon, driving up and down it’s coasts, flying through the baking grain, that I affectionately called “the golden hour” for the time of day. I remember the fields of light, orange from a lowered sun, filtering in minimal light from old mossy oak trees on back country-roads. I remember my two favorite teachers giving me their copies of both The Iliad and The Odyssey, inscribed with personal notes to send me on my way: “Odysseus was never lost.” There was more to be read, but there was work: a little on the winery, and some on a friends property. It was enough, and I’ll do more, but I was humbled that I only worked a week or two at most, and others made it their job to keep their passion not only afloat, but profitable and an extension of themselves. I was happy to help where ever I could. There were a couple days in Bend, where I became very sunburnt while tubing down one of their many rivers with a friend–“Hands up! (yeah, I put it in print). There was a bike trip to DC that lasted 8 days, ending with an amazing meal and a last night of eating the rest of our rations, a raging fire, and a five person spoon–it was cold, out of necessity, I swear. Weeks passed and I saw the last of my friends leave to go to school, where I was happy to spend the rest of my time in Oregon and hear the stories of their welcome weeks trickle back to me. . I find it fitting to add that my gift were both of my father’s travel bags, and a polite, reaffirming nudge to find the world for myself. I tasted want and reason to find.
The last two weeks of the longest summer to be had ended with a 10 backpacking trip through and over Yosemite, traveling through the Ansel Adam’s wilderness. We sat on rock bluffs overlooking the valley 600+ feet below. We woke early and swam in alpine lakes, to not only wake up, but to then burn energy trying desperately not to freeze–there’s no better feeling than immediately dry clothes, not caring whether you wet them or not, but jumping around to and fro in the hope of warming up. We scaled a mountain, 11,600 feet up, and slept in it’s shadow, so high up the very shadow of the Earth stood out on the orange. We shivered together and swore as individuals in the same plight; a kind of commiseration, not just griping. We carried all on our backs, all the way up and all the way back, under the astonishing might of gargantuan cedars and stone facades that made man infinitely small under the meager pack weight of 65 lb’s. It was a trip to remember, and I find that in memory I am more fond of the trip that occurred, but I faced my fears and scaled rock formations, hiked miles with good and loving people, and experienced the simple joy of dry and clean,clean, socks.
My first year of college has started, and it wasn’t until now that I see just how much life the world is filled with. My eyes are open, but I have no idea what I’m looking at. Only too many times did I look up this summer and realize that I was mute and internally silent when looking at what is before me. I’m not saying I’m right, but to sit back from it all, breath in, and realize that the entire world is vibrating around you is an indescribable experience. I can only say that the world is alive, and I with it, but not to the expansion of it’s entirety; simply, it’s beautiful.
Cool mist and fog mingle momentarily in the streetlights of San Francisco. It’s early morning but already it signifies the end to a summer. It’s cool, it’s cleansing and I know I welcomed it as I stood in line to check my bags in. I was taught to recognize rain as a cleansing force when interpreting things while reading; no force seemed more fitting. As I stand and bask in the cool embrace of the early morning, I look back to the summer that has been.
As any other entry from years past can show, I begin with an anxiety filled plane ride west, this I previously thought was the start to my summer; this year was different. As I landed in California, I was greeted by the familiar face and preliminary questioning that belonged to my Aunt. Little did I know, this would not be last time by her and other loved ones. Intense shouts, a clamor for the front door and I was suddenly under the peeping, peering gaze of my two cousins as they stood bewildered to finally see me. The rest of the summer remained in order for us to get reacquainted; though a few minutes was all that was necessary. Summer was well under way but it still didn’t feel like the event I longed for during this year; the rest was yet to come.
While in California I spent the next two weeks enjoying all that Monterey had to offer. My Aunt was able to get me a part-time job working at a summer camp. I thought I was out of my school routine but soon found myself mired within the same structure that forced me to get up early and to attempt to go to bed the same; often to my disbelief. In my spare time I found time to bike around the breathtaking nature around me, to play video games with my cousin, keep in touch with people back home and read my ever-increasing-in-size stack of books. It seemed very little actually differed from my home life and yet, I was content with that.
Soon the week lapsed and I again found myself on a plane bound northward. As we entered the Portland landscape we all breathed in the cool Cascadian air and gazed upon the Cascade Range afar as we drove closer to our mountain hideaway. It took me many a morning to wake up in our bunk beds, drink a grateful cup of coffee and lounging in the sun before I started to get the impression that my summer has begun.
The days congealed from clear and distinct to become dreamlike events that seemed to just naturally flow into the next. Our days were not filled with boredom but rather moments of introspection, lounging, and well, fun. Within days of our arrival we clocked trips to local restaurants, family friends, as well as many of the natural sights that Yamhill had to offer. On one such occasion a trip to the Yamhill River to cool off proved to be eventful. A dare escalated and eventually turned into an adventure as my cousin Ryan and I attempted and succeeded in swimming across the river; a feat easier said than done. But as we emerged on the other bank, slightly tired, a little cold from the water, and warmed by the sun we looked back at the opposite shore that we successfully crossed and felt a little pride well within us. The current was so strong that the eddies suspended us in the water long enough to push us 250 meters further down river than we anticipated; something all too obvious as we swam and realized “we’re not going anywhere”. The funny thing is, rather than brave the current again, we enjoyed the welcome reprieve of a ferry ride back across; a ferry ride free to pedestrians and swimmers unwilling to cross the rivers currents again.
Summer, like the days around me, transitioned slowly and surely, gradually becoming acclimated with the final freedom I longed for so long. It didn’t begin with the ring of a bell, or stepping onto a plane to fly west, but rather began unwittingly, without notice or attention from me, and when I was ready nestled gently on my shoulder to remind me another year has come. As I emerged from the semi-placid but cool Yamhill River I was greeted by what was to come.
The week prior to the Fourth of July were filled with the comfortable moments of time to myself. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath stole my free time as I lay comfortably on a deck and absorbed the warm summer breeze. This house, nestled on the hillock overlooking the entirety of the valley afforded me a welcome place of rehabilitation, as I was able to enjoy simple things that gave me pleasure without the distraction of petty drama and events unfolding back home. With the utmost care to absorb and enthrall myself in books I was in a mindset deemed fit for summer. This surreal notion and feeling of contentment was rocked slightly by the death of a very dear friend of ours. Something that to me proved to again be eye opening as all death tends to be. Within a short time, a funeral was added to our agenda.
I don’t really want to get into that other than describing the feeling we all walked away from, a feeling that things shouldn’t be as difficult as we make them to be and to cherish the things we care about as sooner rather than later we wont be given the opportunity to do so. It’s difficult to say whether we went on living comfortably after that but we went on nonetheless. We approached things differently; soaked up the little things we looked over and just continued in ours ways to enjoy the upcoming celebration of the Fourth of July. We put on a face and lived in her shadow; a solemn thing no more.
A shroud of madness and good feelings congealed to give way to the days ahead. Fireworks, food, conversation and company drove the message home; live, live, live! The excitement and inspiration for it only proved so recently seemed clear.
A rodeo, a party, and a fireworks display filled with the company of close friends and good food gave way to what was the greatest Fourth of July I have yet to experience. I had the honor of lighting fireworks, large dangerous ones we brandished towards the sky, and managed to walk away with a popped ear and two WHOLE eyebrows intact. The night passed as any other but with the added benefit of a party, one where the anniversary of the declaration was not celebrated, rather a celebration of good company.
The week climaxed but passed without events comparable to those of day’s prior. The peace and quiet that happened after was a welcome thing. Books and events drifted lazily on by as we tried to acclimate ourselves back to what our world was like without the excitement and uproar of the weeks events. It was easier said then done but soon I was not left with time to stay in Oregon as we boarded again a flight and headed down south.
It was days before we reached the Pacific Ocean, our destination under the sun took place with our annual trip. Fly into LA, see distant family and within the end of reuniting head south to San Diego. The house hadn’t changed but the people showed a contrast to our memories. This, however, did not lessen our love for the beach and cold water of the Pacific. The first days transpired slowly, we felt glad to have a week there. The food was good, the weather bright and hot, and the water oh so cool and crisp it took a second to adjust yourself to the burning heat of the sand. To say the least, it made me feel at ease. I felt no obligation other than to read and inhale the sunshine for the dark wintry months I would certainly encounter. As I boarded the plane, I slept soundly knowing I would wake up back to where I felt at home.
The last weeks in Oregon contained a feeling that I felt reflected many of the things that happened; the contained a feeling of fleetingness, that I would not have enough time to enjoy all that I was experienced to, and yet, what I experienced left an impression on me that proceeded longer than those weeks.
Looking back, the structures of the weeks just fold. I remember only events and some of the feelings I happened to write down. It started with our first morning back, up early and at the winery, I feel the chill of the dew and morning mist. By days end the breakfast planned and delivered by our good friend went off without a hitch. I, his “assistant”, spent most of my time talking with him, cleaning, and talking to our guests than actually cooking. It’s funny to look back and see that my one job of toasting muffins resulted in them burning and leaving a charred, acrid smell lingering in the air. My contribution made us both laugh as he thought it went without saying to “not burn them”.
But the week was not entirely grounded as we soon started to travel northward again towards Seattle. Our trip, though pleasurable, defined a future business. Our investment brought us north to look at schools and enjoy all the Emerald City had to offer. The schools proved refreshing, they both calmed my nerves for the growing anxiety of applying to college as well as instilled me with fervor to tackle it all soon. My mind was awash as we headed home. I felt I had an obligation to enjoy the last week I had in Oregon.
As I write this now, I remember pieces. The sun radiated heat on the land. A climate turned to convection oven, but I loved it nonetheless. It felt good, even while sweating when bottling. It made one feel good to sit down and look at the pallets and pallets of wine bottled and stacked in part by ones own hands. Sweaty and dirty you knew you’d sleep well that night and felt especially glad to sit and eat at the next meal. It felt good to say the least, and was made even better by a friend who came to visit.
I was filled with no anxiety to leave but accepted the fact that I came out to this place to accomplish whatever conscious and unconscious goals I established and left with a feeling of gratification as I surmounted many. It was the first summer to really feel good, first summer to really feel alive. I don’t know how to describe it, I had more than a month till I went back to school and summer was technically over but I felt my real summer in my real home was over for the time being. I left with few regrets, a few cautioning bruises and a grin to know that no matter what happened this summer, little if at all could mimic what I had experienced.
Much of the summer passed between my flight to California and that chilly return flight home. I’ve thought a lot about what happened and simply smile at the singular string of memories devoid of distinction from days. Just happy memories to ponder as I sit enjoying a good book and the sun shining the pages. Cheers!