By the Night of the Silvery Harvest Moon

Living my dream. Really. Truly. Like I have died and gone to heaven. In heaven. Me. Camping at a beautiful, gorgeous winery in San Miguel, CA, Four Sisters Winery, by Serena and Michael, former doctors from Southern California who decided to switch it up. They have two-and-a-half acres of grapes behind their home and the winery they rent out for special events, including weddings, which is occurring tomorrow. They are partners with Harvest Hosts, truly ingenious collaboration between small farmers and wineries and other unique businesses across the Nation. This amazing resource connects like-minded campers, like me, with small business owners who are passionate about their respective projects and are looking for unique ways to market their products and services. 

My dream has always been to stay at a winery. Today, tonight, I am living the dream as I solo camp, with my pup, of course, in the winery, just about 12 feet from the vines. I get to feel the air, smell the dirt and crisping-up-just-after-harvest leaves, talk to the owners, enjoy delicious wines, and feel the peace of living this life I have wondered about. 

It is twilight right now and the hum of the cooling system, or something wine-related, is doing its work. The birds are catching tiny flies, and the sunset is haloing the gentle mountains strutting the sea. The vineyard is empty, but soon, Michael shared, I might see wild boar and coyotes hunting for rodents and rabbit. “Keep your eye on your dog,” he cautioned. 

It is vast and now that the winery mechanism is turned off, quiet, like the solitude of a silent movie theater in which you are the only theater-goer. The viewing arena is large and dark and colorful and about to flash with coming attractions. The sunset is brushed with streaks of amber. A few minutes ago, it was pale peach. The frogs or birds or something is high-pitch tweeting. Behind me, someone just lifted a door to bring something out of the winery. There’s a light on. It’s harvest season and there’s still work to do at this small and stunning winery. 

Now the sunset is streaked raspberry sherbet and I am here in the almost-dark, drinking the rest of my glass of chardonnay, which doesn’t seem right because now it’s chilly enough for me to wear a coat on top of my tie-dyed pajamas and I rightly should be drinking a hot toddy. I’m in my PJ’s outside in the vineyard, in my slippers, about to take a snooze in my cozy VW camper van. It is a dream, something I’d see in a movie and say, “I wish that was me,” but it is me and I’m alone trying to explain what it’s like to step into a dream.

It is cinematic. Wide angle lenses aren’t wide enough to capture this 3-D experience. Cool ankles. Warm knitted cap head. Cheesecake core wrapped in my puffy blue Patagonia coat. Glowing. It’s actually glowing this radiating sunset that just keeps getting more extraordinary. Like my life. At age 66.

And then, breaking the absolute enjoying-in-the-moment glory, I am reminded of yesterday’s “The Phone Call”:

A person, who will remain nameless, phoned, out of the blue, while I was enjoying Life with a capital L. Just having my second cup of coffee, about to plan my day, savor my last 24 hours in the Eastern Sierras, and this unnamed person smeared a lot of animal feces on me (metaphorically). It was unexpected. It was unkind. It felt like I was hit in the back of the head with a 2 x 4. Honestly, despite my newly acquired enlightenment, it kind’a ruined my day. I couldn’t sleep all that night. Tossing and turning. It really royally annoyed me off that The Phone Call person decided to regurgitate on me while I was in the midst of my healing sojourn.

I lost a day and a night, thanks to The Phone Call person

Still, sitting here in the Big Top Circus Sky of amazingness, The Phone Call is still occupying my thoughts.

Unwanted, yet The Phone Call pushed me to figure things out I didn’t think I still needed to figure out: I need to stop giving up my time/life trying to change/fix/heal/transform/etc/other people. I can’t change the past. I can’t erase what people think of me, whether they like me or not, what I did or didn’t do. But I can put my foot down and stop allowing certain individuals to blame me for their lives. We all did/do our best. We all screw up. We all do a great job every now and then. I wish I could have a do-over, wish I could take back, wish I had the perspective I have now. But that’s not the way it works. Hopefully, we grow, we get better, we are self-reflective, apologetic when need be, and transform our imperfections into better versions of ourselves.

As I sit here beneath the stars, listening to the songs of a coyote in the distance, and the unexpected jolt of a winery worker doing his job, I realize how important it is for me to drop the sandbag weights that have burdened me throughout my life, the would ofs, should ofs, could ofs

While it may not mean anything to The Phone Call person, I can say that God knows I have done my absolute best  to navigate life’s complications. Just like everyone I know. Most of us mean no malice. But, we are flawed, we are imperfect. 

Like the folks I’ve been meeting on my travels, like the two winemakers I spent several hours chatting with; they both have completely different life experiences than me, different political philosophies. One admitted he only watches TV news that agrees with his point of view. Another said he was too busy working me to spend with his daughters. Both gents were being honest, self-reflective. 

Breathe Janet, breathe.

Here, beneath the pinprick sky, it feels good to release all the negativity and focus on evolution, growth and love. 

This place, the place of my dreams. Nothing, not even The Phone Call person holding so much venom toward me, can rid me of the love and joy I feel. Forgive them for they know not what they do. These profound, last words expressed by Jesus inspire and console me. If He could, so can I. 

Turns out the Great American October Solo Road Trip isn’t just about cool landscapes and scenic campgrounds. This precious time gives me space to think, ponder, embrace and shed. Alone. With God. On this Friday night, writing to the crackling grape leaves, the hooting owl, and the crescent moon cresting above the jagged horizon. 

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