Thursday, February 03, 2005


There’s a Zen sand garden on my desk with a miniature rake. A gift from a friend, it’s supposed to soothe my troubled spirit. Through raking the sand, I will find enlightenment, and peace.

I’m raking like crazy , as if the sand were a pile of dead autumn leaves. No smooth, serene tracks in the sand for this neurotic writer. Yup, I’m scraping and tossing sand, zigging and zagging. It may not lead to enlightenment, but it sure as hell makes me feel better seeing those crazy patterns in the sand, like the chaos of my life.

Amazing how much better being home with my hubby, my two doggies and plenty of rest will make me feel. My depression, which now I realize was partly physical (&#*@&#@* hormones!) is abated. I gave myself permission to read for pure enjoyment as I did in PPD (pre-published days). I devoured two books and felt sated, thank you very much. I slept, something I had not done all week in Honduras. And with much TLC by hubby and rest and a good movie, I was able to tilt my world back on its axis. And introspection, which can get quite maudlin and self-pitying, is sometimes best presented in a mirror image. Such as the movie we saw.

Sideways. (Spoiler alert) Quite funny, very entertaining but for me, the true revelation was the hangdog, bassett-hound English teacher hopeful author who was awaiting word from his agent on his first novel being accepted for publication. His words in the film, “I’m a thumbprint on a skyscraper” in regards to his writing, were brilliant. And I saw in this middle-aged, somewhat frumpy, fussy wine taster and melancholy writer, a glimpse of myself. Miles is anxious to get his novel published not just for the sake of seeing it in print, but to aspire to something greater than his mundane existence. Divorced, “Officially depressed,” he actually has a meltdown in a winery after he phones his agent and gets word that yet again, the novel has been rejected by a publisher. The agent, a female with a gentle, soothing tone tells him it’s not marketable.

Miles goes ballistic and drinks the chum others have tossed away into the spit bucket, spilling it all over his blue shirt. The dregs of what wasn’t good enough for others is what he feels he deserves. God only knows what is in that bucket of salvia-mixed chardonnays and merlots and pinots (maybe a secretly tossed Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill?). Later that night when DH and I were watching The Last Days of Pompei on the discovery channel, I learned about fulleries. These were the ancient Roman laundries that actually used human urine to get out stains from laundry (because of the acid). Slaves did the dirty work, stomping about in vats of urine to get those togas clean and bright and white again. And I thought of Miles again, left with the dregs of waste. Yeah, poor, angry Miles, probably feeling like someone’s piss boy when he gets the news of his novel being rejected and dumps the used wine all over himself, like some kind of dyslexic baptism. Instead of being made clean, he wallows in waste.

Watching Miles and his dour, mournful face was like peeking at myself in the mirror (well, without the beard and mustache and certainly without the high dome forehead and mournful brown eyes, plus he has no boobs, well, maybe, but mine are bigger). How many times have I been tempted to figuratively wallow in self-pity and drown myself when I get bad news? And life goes on. Yup. There always will be times when you hit the bottom of the wine barrel, but then there is, as Miles so aptly illustrated, that special bottle of ’61 Cheval Blanc.

It becomes a celebration when he opens it, in the most perfect setting, a fast food restaurant. While noshing on fried onion rings. And that little scene for me, more than the knock on the pretty waitress’s door at the film’s end, signified real hope in real life. If you keep all the good stuff bottled up and tucked away like a bottle of rare wine, it’s going to go to waste. It will peak and then slowly die, and lose its flavor. And eventually, turn to vinegar. So better to swallow the offerings in a greasy spoon than keep it bottled up, even if the only person appreciating its rare, excellent bouquet is yourself.

Who wants vinegar when they can have the rarified experience of a good bottle of wine? I see inside myself a plethora of stories like that bottle of ’61 Cheval Blanc, waiting to peak. And if I keep them bottled up, tucked away into a dark corner and never uncork them and let their effervescence bubble, and sample their bouquet, they’ll just sour and I’ll be the one turning to vinegar. I don’t want to be vinegar. I want to be wine. I want to make others happy with what I have to give, and give the best I’ve got to give at that moment. The bouquet is zesty, heady and bold, piquant on the palate, even sharp and a bit acid. Others might spit out, but if one or two people smack their lips and proclaim, “Wow!” then it’s all worth it. Even if the only person saying “Wow!” is me.

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