A Toast To Hardships And Imperfections

[Found this while cleaning out some files on my laptop. Originally dated September 10, 2015]


Wanting to explain my surprise and excitement over a batch of wine derived from the Pineapple Hill “test vineyard”, I went looking for something Hemingway had said about trial and error… I ended up at a blog post about kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with seams of gold such that the container is made more beautiful than ever. What a perfect metaphor for where I am, finally, in my life now after having been, for the longest time it seemed, the poster child for “Stuff Happens”.

First, the transition to rural South Carolina from city life wasn’t as easy as planned (more on that another time –I’m writing a book called Blue Rubber Pool). Then, in rapid succession, my dog died, then a good friendship ended, then the recession hit as I was building an unusual house with an already unpredictable construction budget, then I lost my mom and daughter while, also, my dad slipped deeper into dementia. Then some other things happened too. Let’s just say I could write the sorriest country song ever.

All I could do was keep breathing. Keep forging ahead (like a sailboat pressing on, tacking back and forth, sometimes even backtracking and sidestepping, to cross a spot of snotty sky and pissed off sea). And, when I could, to clear my mind, go out to the pathetic little vineyard to tinker with its raggedy grapevines.

What you need to know, here and now, is that I once killed a 27-year-old Bonzai tree after owning it less than two weeks. My thumbs are not green. I do some things very well but other things not well at all. There’s a lot of hit and miss involved. For instance, some of my grapevines died slow horrible strangling deaths due to poor soil conditioning or not enough water. Others went down in the blink of an eye (weed wacker …or lawn tractor). And every year the making of the wine itself got better only enough to give another try next time (it’s amazing how even the seemingly thinnest of screw ups causes vivid red to become rusty brown practically overnight).

If you’ve seen The Replacements, you know what is meant by “quicksand” (the sudden arrival of an inexplicable force that pulls you down in a succession of setbacks). Others might call it a rut. Or bad karma. For me that succession of bad things that happened felt as if I’d walked into a giant sticky spider web and, no matter how hard I tried, couldn’t shake it off. Or like attempting to dislodge a streamer of toilet paper stuck to a shoe exiting an airport restroom.

But this year the grapes were good. Despite the drought, the deer, the weed wacker and all else, they were bigger and tastier and more abundant. And for the first time, a sampling of last year’s juice (between rackings) tasted just fine.

And a bunch of other great things have opened up around me –causing the world to feel like a meadow full of wildflowers again.

I will always miss the people I’ve lost …but I’ve discovered in myself the presence of a new resilience. Or, getting back to kintsukuroi, I’m improved from having been broken.

I’ve labeled this latest batch of wine “Pineapple Hill Blended Catawba Puerto”. Every glass is a toast to hardships and imperfections.

 “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”
Ernest Hemingway

Here’s a link to that blog about kintsukuroi

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill