Afar, California

The Tea Garden

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There’s something gently meditative about tea gardens, with their perfume of camellia flowers, the sound of perpetually running water, and the meandering pathways. San Francisco’s is a particularly fine rendition, with carefully pruned trees, painted structures, and a pergola where you can sip the tea in question. I’ve visited a few times, the latest with an old friend on a sunny January afternoon. We wandered and reminisced and, when all our stories were told for the time being, sat quietly together in the companionable, peaceful way that only old friends can.

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Afar, California

To the Sea

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“Some years ago- never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.”

  • Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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The Mustard Fields

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After the grape harvest, mustard is planted to replenish the soil while the vines rest dormant, so that by the end of January you’re faced with the most remarkable explosion of yellow along the valley floor. The mustard flower is akin to that of oilseed rape, which blooms in early summer in England, and the scent brings me back to days spent lost in golden fields and wandering ancient megaliths on those rare hot days you get in the English countryside. Already in Napa we’ve experienced sporadic days of remarkable warmth, and I am increasingly convinced that this is my favorite season here – not least of all for its capacity to evoke seasons passed elsewhere.

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After Harvest

Harvest, Napa Valley, California www.bluemesablog.com

Harvest has come to an end in Napa. The days of bright green vines bursting with deep purple fruit have given way to leaves of gold and red, and air that’s turning cold. This year’s grapes are resting in barrel, waiting to be bottled and drunk and remind us of late summer days all over again.

As we sip them, we’ll remember early morning pickings before dawn, languid, bright, hot afternoons spent in the shade of old porches, fuchsia sunsets over the distant hills, cool evenings among the vines, and clear nights beneath the stars. We’ll remember days when we hardly knew the place, when we got lost in those hills and wandered through the vines, when we tasted ripe grapes and imagined what sort of wines they would become.

Harvest, Napa Valley, California www.bluemesablog.com

Harvest, Napa Valley, California www.bluemesablog.com

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