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.

 

 

 

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.

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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

Nerve & Me

 

This week, I was honored to share an essay in Vela Magazine , a publication I’ve long admired. The essay explores what life with epilepsy has taught me about uncertainty.

The world—and our bodies—do not always operate in a neat and orderly fashion. Control is not our default modus operandi, or even our ideal. Thirty years with epilepsy has taught me to accept, even love, this truth.

I rarely talk about my epilepsy, and when I do, it feels vaguely dissatisfying, as if I’m not quite expressing things adequately. Writing this piece, then, was healing.

It was also difficult, requiring a ton of research. In the process, I learned a lot about epilepsy in the workplace that I’d never known–even as I’ve managed my own condition. In terms of career,  epilepsy has can be a nasty deterrent. 

Still, I like to think the human spirit is indomitable. And this seems like a fine time for a “Garden State” throwback (which, for those too young to remember, features Natalie Portman as an epileptic). No seizures here, just love…!

Let nothing hold us back from the life we crave.

 

Raising the Bar

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Vincent Van Gogh, Sower at Sunset

Much of my career, I’ve used my enthusiasm and communication skills to champion products or causes. Naturally, I gravitate toward gigs that allow me to promote matters I genuinely support. So, I’ve had some fulfilling jobs.

Along the way, I’ve witnessed some colleagues working without much gusto. From my vantage point, this seems to happen when there is a lack of authenticity in the company or cause. Does this happen in the wine world? You betcha.

My latest article for Nomacorc calls for greater accountability and truth in winery marketing. Here’s that piece. Thanks for reading.

 

Self-Employees of the Month: Andrea Enright & Michael Boudreaux

Andrea Enright and Michael Boudreaux

A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then … the glory … a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories.”

–John Steinbeck

In 2005, Andrea Enright was living a golden, idyllic freelancer’s lifestyle, her communications portfolio fattening ever with contracts from well-known clients that ranged from Boston Market to Planned Parenthood. She had already successfully escaped the proverbial grind … but something was still missing. Her husband, Michael Boudreaux, a tech maestro for DIRECTV, thought so too. After a bit of soul-searching, they blew out of Denver and joined the Peace Corps.

When their two years of service in Bulgaria came to a close, Andrea and Michael kept going. On a mission they call “Wanderlust or Bust” they continued across the globe, including Syria, Lebanon, and Kurdistan (yeah, that’s Northern Iraq), couchsurfing, blogging, videoing and volunteering as they went. Continue reading

The Rest You Must Invent

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Just trying to keep it in perspective. (Salt mines, Czech Republic) 

 

You think the world owes you
It don’t owe you a thing.
When it’s given all it can
The rest you must invent.

–Morees Bickman, “Rosebush Inside”

Especially here in America, we think that we deserve the good life. Isn’t it is our birthright? Isn’t it in the constitution? Isn’t it written somewhere?

Even if it is, I would like to know who exactly can honor that contract. Natural disasters, accidents, villains, and just plain chance intervene in our otherwise glorious destiny and sometimes, bad things are going to happen. The good life is not something we should expect; it’s something we have to work for. And even when we do, there are no guarantees.

We are spoiled.

I mention this because it relates to the general conception of what a healthy work life really is. What kinds of demands and expectations can we reasonably place on our work lives?

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