The other day I decided to get a bottle of wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) for a dinner at home. It's not something we do often, in fact, I think it was only our second bottle, but it was only $6.29 and pretty good, from California (I dont remember the name, sorry). Anyways, I noticed that instead of the traditional cork stopper, it had some sort of plastic blend, and I was reminded of a story I heard a few months ago on NPR. (really, you should listen to it right now.)
I remember thinking at the time, "This is why I like NPR." The story shed light (that golden, late afternoon sort) on a topic that I not only knew nothing about, but had never even thought about. I was taken to the Alentenjo forest in Portugal where the sound of rustling trees, singing birds, and finally the low, muted sound of an ax chopping soft wood introduced me to Antonio Dominguez, a Portuguese cork farmer. Not surprisingly, many wine produces have switched in recent years to cheaper and more sterile plastic stoppers. But this story tells of the art and history and local importance that plastic simply cannot replace. Antonio describes how it takes a master to "look at the tree and feel," in order to get the bark without damaging the tree, which can only be harvested once every nine years and takes 25 years to reach the appropriate maturity. It is a SLOW process. And it requires tenderness and understanding. I think this is a perfect example of the richness of local, non-mass-produced economy. And unlike the synthetic, thinking about the processes and origin of these things leads us to thinking about life. There is something deep within us that senses that a thing that needs a master's touch and almost half a lifetime to be produced is valuable, and thankfully, as in this case, not necesarily in monetary terms. Even if we don't know the details, we sense that it has a story, is connected to the earth and to a real, complex person. And this is good. We know trees, we dream of Portugal, we are reminded of our great grandfather laboring on a farm. We can relate. This is good like the layers of flavor in coffee, wine, and good beer are good. These flavors take time, an acquired taste, they are not easy, but this is what makes them good. Keith often talks about how learning to enjoy wine has taught him about patience. You simply cannot chug wine. You must sip it. Slowly. And that's the beauty in it. I know that I have a lot to learn about patience, and I am thankful for little things in life that are used to teach me if I will take the time to notice.