Hope is An Act (A Roundup)

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Handmade print by by Luke Thomas of Just Seeds

In its short life, s i r s e e — both the wine and the harvest journal -have led me on a path of discovery. I’m not only facing my own capabilities, but witnessing the fierce prowess of others who are doing related work.

As I wrap production on the journal (now set to release this summer) I feel compelled to share some of the projects I’ve found that best weave together agriculture, wine, art, and/or philanthropy. They inspire me in my own endeavors.

Sample them for yourself. Bon appetit.

 

Just Seeds 

While its name may suggest an agricultural affiliation, this 20-year-old artists’ cooperative is broadly political in nature, addressing a range of social issues. Check out their free protest graphic downloads or their shop.

Perennial Plate 

Filmmaker, chef, and activist Daniel Klein has put out nearly 200 short films about sustainable food. His project Perennial Plate has won two coveted James Beard awards. In the wake of the recent election and travel ban, he’s now focusing on telling the stories of immigrants. I, for one, cannot wait to see how his latest project unfolds ….

La Cocina

As I’ve explored funding options that might make s i r s e e  sustainable and long-lasting, I stumbled across La Cocina. Working with low-income women, the San Francisco based nonprofit serves as a business incubator for food entrepreneurs. To support La Cocina, consider making a donation or having your next event catered by one of their chefs.

Uphold Wines

If you know Ryme Cellars, then you surely know good wine. Megan Glaab and husband Ryan have produced such distinctive varietals as Vermentino, Aglianico, Carignane. This spring, they launched Uphold Wines to “be greater agents of positive change.” 100% of net profits from the wines go to social causes.

Feast it Forward 

Harnessing the bounty of wine country and paying it forward, this ambitious multimedia lifestyle project brings people together in a spirit of generosity. Find my profile on founder Katie Hamilton Schaffer here.

Wine to Water 

I found this organization five years ago, when I was organizing a multiwinery event that would benefit global water availability. Wine to Water caught my attention not only because it seemed to be doing good work, but because it was based in the little mountain town where I went to college: Boone, North Carolina. Founded by a local bartender who’d spent time doing relief work in Sudan, the project aims to support communities around the globe that need clean water.

Comestible Journal 

I’d long since decided to publish a harvest journal when I realized someone else was already doing it—and doing a damn fine job, too. Writer and artist Anna Brones launched a humble publishing project quickly that evolved into a quarterly production with branded merchandise. As an editor, she has excellent taste—each journal includes essays from such fine journalists as Debbie Weingarten. I’m honored that one of her beautiful papercuts will appear in s i r s e e journal.

Edible Government

Is it possible to save the country by crafting portraits of federal  officials out of food scraps? I dunno–but there’s only one way to find out.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, lovingly crafted from nacho chips. You’re welcome.

Female Farmer Project 

It’s a podcast! It’s a photo essay! It’s a coloring book! It’s the story of women in agriculture, curated by the multitalented Audra Mulkern.

 

 

 

Taking Stock

Order and collaboration: This assemblage, which was displayed in my living quarters, was created by a group of artists who’ve been associated with Penland over the years.


Winter is my season of list-making. I list the things I’ve done. I list the things I’ll do. I list the things I should do, but probably won’t (resolutions, dontcha know).
Alllll the lists.

And then I pivot from reflective, navel-gazing mode into get ‘er done mode. At my recent creative residency at Penland, I powered through my lists. Indeed, I did get things done!

I’m here to briefly report some of that progress–namely, on  s i r s e e.  I launched this project in hopes of finding the beauty of the world and paying it forward. So far, Continue reading

What’s Cooking

“Be ardent in your work, and you will find God in your cooking pots.” -St. Teresa of Avila

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Lloyd R. Moylan (1883-1963). “Navajo Women Cooking

Our 2016 Presidential election was nothing if not a call to action. With one of the lowest voter turnouts in history and a result that’s instilled fear and anger in most, this election has proven what we’ve been told all along: Our democracy only works when we do.

In the last 10 days, I’ve watched friends and family roll up their sleeves and do just that: call representatives,  write letters, march in the streets, and take other actions to uplift the ideals so many of us share. Is it my imagination, or have I witnessed a growing kindness in daily life, as well? My heart swells at this sudden social and civic engagement (even if I wish it’d come before the election).

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my pet project: s i r s e e. At a time when the nation seems to really need a drink, I’ll be offering wine. (Hey, we all make an impact in different ways, okay?) The wine will not be not for sale. Instead, you will be able to access the wine by making a donation to your choice of featured charities.

Yes, that means I’m giving the wine away! My community partners–including the printer, the designer, the shipper, and others–are donating in kind, too. We have gathered a lot of resources in hopes of raising funds for important projects.

First, I want to outline which organizations  s i r s e e   aims to support this winter, and why. It is my hope that Continue reading

s i r s e e | the gift

My winemaking project is evolving!

With stars aligned, the project has won donated labor, equipment, and brand design. This logo is the handiwork of veteran designer Lisa Hobro. She and other folks who’ve put their faith in this experiment are blowing my mind with their generosity.

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A sirsee is an unexpected gift, in Southern parlance. (Some of y’all know this, already.) I learned the word from my mother, who often surprised us with tokens of love. While the origin of the word is uncertain, the value of a good sirsee is clear.

Continue reading

Karma Chameleon

We hospitality workers subtly shift roles to seek the same beauty guests do.

Most people—you and me and that woman making your latte and that man turning down your bed—we want the same thing. We want to taste beauty so potent it transforms us. “She wants to hear wine pouring,” writes the poet Rita Dove,“… taste change.” We pursue that beauty relentlessly, if in different ways.

Those of us working in hospitality, however, lead double lives.

I am one of you; I am not one of you. Here I am behind the bar; there I am slipping from my post to mingle with the crowd. First I pour your wine; later I sip from my own glass. We are alike, you and me—although when I pull on my work boots, tie back my hair, and roll up my sleeves, the resemblance might be hard to see.

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It wasn’t purely aesthetics that first drew me to wine—I can’t make such a romantic claim. Necessity factored heavily. At the height of the Recession, I arrived in Sonoma County with a lagging freelance business and no safety net. I felt wildly lucky, then, to find a gig working with a boutique winery. I’d soon become their first full-time employee. Seven years later, I still help run the place.

No, I didn’t come to wine just for the beauty—but I stayed for it. Continue reading

Solstice Means Stillness

Photo by Wibeke Bruland

Nearly a decade ago, I promised myself I’d spend summer solstice in the brightest part of the world. It wasn’t so much a bucket-list thing—not sure I have one of those—but more a kind of calling. At the time, I’d been visiting one of the darker parts of the world: Denmark in December. I’ve since craved light in its most potent form.

When a writing residency took me to Iceland during this year’s summer solstice, then, I relished not only the time to write, but the fulfillment of that promise. (No, neither Iceland nor Denmark are part of the Arctic Circle, where light and dark would be most extreme. But I’m calling it “close enough”.) I’ve just returned from that trip, after a month of soaking up the brightest light I’ve known. Continue reading