Never having read the first book about Olive, the book that won the Pulitzer for Strout, I did not know what to expect. As I read, I often laughed out loud and then later thought, “What!” Olive is quite the character, sometimes almost blunt to the point of cruelty, sometimes unexpectedly considerate and kind, and always strongly opinionated about things I did not expect. She also has the ability to sometimes look at herself accurately and question herself, which would seem to be a good characteristic. Olive goes on in spite of numerous setbacks, mishaps, and illnesses, including the realities of old age. Strout’s portrayal of some of these realities seems stark, almost brutal. Yes, it’s accurate and she’s good at it, but I kept thinking, “Do I really want to read this?” If I get like this, they can just shoot me. But they won’t.
Off to another winery, Santo Tomas, after visiting the fish market where I glanced at all the fish and saw fish I could not begin to identify. This winery is in a different valley, Santo Tomas Valley, and the second oldest winery in Mexico. Although their official sign says it is 130 years old, it is actually older and originated years before that to produce wine for communion and the Catholic Church.
Rather than have the wine tasting in a building or patio, here they put us on a wagon pulled by an old tractor and transported us to the vineyards where they drove around then stopped to give us various wines to try while we sat on the wagon. Our guides brought along cheese and other goodies for snacks as we tasted the wine.
The main building for production.
Vineyards for miles. They have 800 acres of vineyards mostly in this valley but a few in another area we did not visit.
After visiting the winery in the previous trip post, we headed to another winery, Las Nubes (The Clouds), for more tasting and lunch. We did not visit the cellars here but the lunch view was spectacular as were the sandwiches. Like many other buildings at other wineries, a lot of the building material is local stone.
Taken from below the winery and restaurant area. Then off we went to winery three for the day, Clos de Tres Cantos. This winery is created with a philosophy dedicated to making natural wine, caring for Earth, and blending into nature. They also have deliberately grown varietals that can best withstand climate change. All the buildings are made from local materials and designed by a local architect.
A wall made from wine bottles.
A shrine to the Virgen de Guadalupe with wine aging to the side.
A natural roof of soil and flowers.
From here we drove through the countryside to La Laja restaurant for dinner. It is located way out in the country where they grow what they serve except for the fish which is locally caught in Ensenada area. It is rated as one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America. We experienced a six course meal including two desserts, one of which was a slice of mango steeped in mescal.
Day Two we visited several wineries and went to dinner at one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America, La Laja. The following photos are from the first winery where we not only tasted various wines but also took a tour of their remarkable wine cellar dug deep into solid rock.
This is the name of the winery and each barrel is marked with varietal, date, etc.
The hills in some part of Valle de Guadalupe reminded me of the hills near Temecula, CA.
Here you can see how the cellar is dug out of the rock. The rock was oozing moisture due to the unusual amount of rain they received this winter.
I loved this message so much I had to take a photo of it.
I wish I could find a duplicate to hang outside on one of the empty sides of my house.
The wines here are all natural. Many of the wineries we visited do not use pesticides or herbicides.The sophistication of many of the wineries in Baja is very impressive.
One Book a Week-16, “The Promise”, Damon Galgut
Winner of the 2021 Booker Prize, this novel illustrates the dismal consequences of colonialism and racism. South Africa before and after apartheid comes alive in this story about an Afrikaner family whose matriarch dies young enough to leave her husband with three children, only one of whom is old enough to be on his own. In her dying, she returns to her Jewish roots much to the horror of her husband and many others. Her youngest daughter overhears her dying wish which her husband promises to fulfill even though he has no intention of doing so. This remains an underlying thread, the promise which this daughter never forgets.
The difficult, often prejudiced and unequal, relations between the races underpins the actions of most of the characters, leading a few to greater humanity and kindness, but most into lives of loss, disappointment, and anger.
One Book a Week-15: “Oh, William”, Elizabeth Strout
Told from the point of view of the main character, Lucy, in first person, the simple language the author uses as Lucy tells her story, reflections, and anecdotes belies the deep knowledge of marriage, parenthood, the entire human condition underlying this novel. Two once married individuals go on a trip to Maine to learn about a relative one did not even know he had until he received the results of a casual DNA test, a gift he did not originally take all that seriously. They’ve been married and then divorced for years and have two daughters together. In spite of their best efforts to the contrary, they remain connected even when they find each other a mystery.
A rather simple story, written in plain language, holds the following piece of wisdom–Lucy’s words which end the novel:
“Everybody in this whole wide world, we do not know anybody, not even ourselves!
Except a little tiny bit we do. But we are all mythologies, mysterious. We are all mysteries, is what I mean.
This may be the only thing in the world I know to be true.”
National Poetry Month-2: Butter Love
Is it inherited?
Six year old me watched Grandmother
look around, take silver knife, cut into pale
yellow rectangular prism, plop a chunk into
her mouth, close her eyes,
In Aunt Julia’s presence, this never occurred,
Was it our shared secret,
Grandmother and me?
Yesterday, I told the cafeteria lady,
“Please bring me biscuits, extra butter.”
Less courageous than Grandmother,
I use blue corn pancakes, homemade bread, pasta,
excuses to eat butter, lots of golden, melted
Who eats butter on conchiglie?
I do, scooping out a tablespoon
from the butter bowl, watch it melt
in hot, drained Italian pasta from a
sprinkle on some sea salt, plop
a spoonful in my mouth, close my eyes,
Note: This poem is published in my book “You’re Gonna Eat That? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends”. My grandmother, Mom’s mom, rarely smiled. When Mom went to the hospital to have my sister, the family story is that Grandmother fed me so many bread, butter, and sugar sandwiches, I became fat. I was two. I remember a mint patch in her backyard. She’d gather mint, boil water, and make mint tea with cream and sugar. I liked it. When Aunt Julia traveled out of town, I remember seeing Grandmother eat butter and smile. This is Grandmother’s wedding photo.
National Poetry Month: 1: The Kingdom of Trees
An essence within the heart of trees
allows them to communicate
with other trees to
-aid each other when disturbed
-send secret signals, warnings to other trees
-express pain, sympathy.
The kingdom of trees now cries
worldwide in pain,
watching each other’s murders.
land laid naked, nature destroyed.
Note: I wrote this poem last year. It is published in the anthology, “Writing Through The Apocalypse, Pandemic Poetry and Prose”,
Editor: Marcia Meier
One Book a Week-14: Trust, Hernan Diaz
The first half annoyed me. I kept asking, “What? Why? What is wrong with these greedy, despicable people?” I almost quit reading it (I never quit reading a book) but plunged on. Then, about halfway through “A Memoir, Remembered” section entranced me. Aha. Now I “get” it. I became so engaged I read the last half almost straight through without stopping.
The title should be Truth. This novel deftly explores these questions:
-What is true?
-Whose truth is true?
It does this via competing narratives involved with financial markets, how investors have and can manipulate the stock market, and relationships. It also quietly addresses the issue of how men take credit for the acumen of the women with whom they are involved and the destructive power of wealth and influence.
One Book a Week-13: Blue Desert, Celia Jeffries
As an ardent reader who prefers what are usually referred to as literary novels and serious non-fiction, few books impact me deeply and emotionally like this one has. As soon as I finished it, I reread parts of it several times, then sat silently stunned.
After her family moves to North Africa for her father’s work, an 18 year old British girl, rescued by a Taureg leader, is believed dead by her family until she resurfaces years later at a Catholic “home” run by nuns in North Africa. She re-enters British society, marries, leads a relatively “normal” life while keeping a secret for decades. When she receives a telegram, “Abu is dead”, everything changes. Her past comes rushing back in unexpected ways.