About once a month we get together with the other local winery owners. We take the open bottles that we’ve been using for tasting (they won’t keep until the next weekend), some cheese, some crackers, and some bonhomie. We talk shop, catch up, and compare notes. It is a pleasant and gastronomically gratifying diversion since most vineyard people are also very much into their food.
So Sunday evening found us with our friends at Blue Bird Hill Cellars, sampling the wines, eating ceviche (a stretch from cheese and crackers, but we’d never complain) and just generally letting our hair down after the rigors of running a tasting room for five hours. For those of you who haven’t been there, Blue Bird is actually on a Hill. We enjoyed watching the sun gradually set in our beautiful West, the shadows of the long fir trees slowly lengthening across the valley. An hour later we couldn’t see the valley for the smoke. It was nothing short of alarming. I asked Brian, who is a retired fire chief from Tahoe what he thought was going on. “I am not sure,” he said. “But it’s not good and we should go home now.”
We have watched, as I’m sure you have, with deepening dread and absolute horror at what is happening in our Oregon. Our beautiful Oregon. The heart simply aches. Watching the gaping maw of the firestorm engulf and consume some of the most magnificent countryside in the entire world has been an exercise in restraining unbounded grief. As much as one wishes one could look away, and perhaps one could if they lived elsewhere, it is impossible as an Oregonian. There is not a single one of us who has not been impacted by this in some manner or another.
There seems to be no limit to the vast depths of human suffering. Friends of ours living on the McKenzie evacuated to Bend and told us the town of Blue River was completely gone. We were there just last summer. Another dear friend left his arboreal home in McKenzie Bridge and posted that it was likely he’d never see it again. Under a surreal orange sky, other friends asked if they could decamp to our house. Other friends asked if they could load their RV’s with their precious items and park them at our house. We readily agreed and would have taken more if the need was there. Devon has been called up by the Oregon Army National Guard to fight the fires. The unprecedented malevolent wind from the east actually bent over a section of our trellising. These are steel pickets, driven two feet into the ground. A layer of ash coats the earth like a white blanket of sorrow. How understandable it would be that someone who doesn’t live here simply could not comprehend the very evidence before their eyes.
Trudy and I talked and it just seems to us that this is not an appropriate time to have our first Khaleesi Club release. Not when the level of suffering in this, our beloved home land, is so profound. Now is not the time for anyone to be outside. Now is not the time to think of marketing, moving product, sales, and all the other crass, but necessary, aspects of running a business. Now is the time to focus on those of our fellow citizens who have lost so much, to focus on fighting this destroyer of worlds, to focus on being there for those who need it.
Now is not the time for levity. Now is not the time for division or partisanship. This crisis transcends politics, religion, race, creed, or color. Now is also not the time to worry about the vineyard. A short section of trellis was blown over, sure, but that is easily remedied. The grapes are coated with ash and ash is a contaminant, but we will follow best practices and if it is possible at all, we will rescue the harvest. But those problems pale given the tragedy that has befallen so many of our fellow Oregonians. The vineyard is not our livelihood; it is a passion and an extremely gratifying task that brings joy to us and to many, but it is the least of our concerns. But, most importantly, now is not the time for despair.
Because we must never despair. There must be no room for it in our hearts or minds. Now is the time for resiliency. Now is the time for stout hearts and firm resolve. Now is the time for compassion, for grace, and for generosity. Now is also the time for calm deliberation, clear-headed decisions, and an unbending dedication to the state we all love.
So we are cancelling the club release. Trudy and I really have no idea what we’re doing; we are literally making it up as we go along. But what we have noticed, and believe to be a very good omen of what is to come, is the number of you that we see again and again. There is no guarantee that by this weekend it will be safe to go outside and breath the air that was once so pure and now so hazardous. We would not think of putting any of our clients, or dare I say friends, in harm’s way. You are dear to us; we plan to keep you that way.
This too, shall pass. Just as one day the pandemic will. And if we don’t get a vintage this year, there will always be next year. But hope springs eternal in our hearts and I truly hope it does in yours. You have to be tough to be a farmer, plaything as you are to the weather, the odds, and the Gods. But we are a tough people and we will get through this together. But let us live our lives in a manner that when this is over we can say we set a shining example for the rest of these, our wondrous United States of America, in how we came together and took care of the least of us, the displaced of us, the grieving of us.
All my most heart felt best.