Glorious Beginnings

Some people, they like to go out dancing
And other people like us, they have to work
And there’s even some evil mothers
Well they’re gonna tell you that everything is just dirt

You know that women never really faint,
And that villains always blink their eyes
And that  children are the only ones who blush
And  life is just to die
– “Sweet Jane” Lou Reed

sunriseThis morning I awakened before the dawn, to steal a line from a far better writer than I will ever be, and was gung ho to fire up the computer and get some work done. Instead, I forced myself to go for a nice long walk as penance for too much BBQ last night. I strapped on my iPod and headed out into the humid Houston morning just as the first hints of morning sun began to reveal colors all around me.

I hadn’t wanted to walk, but as the music played and the glimmers of sunshine revealed the beauty of my neighbor’s flowers and the bright blue of the Bay Area sky, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. As the morning broke it seemed that the shuffle on my iPod became less random and was being orchestrated to compliment the sunrise and the day that it would become. Each song built on the other and I kept increasing the volume slightly with each one.

At nearly the half point of my walk the sun was over the horizon and the sky was clear and an impossible blue. I turned a corner just as the opening strains of Lou Reed’s live version of “Sweet Jane” from his “Rock N Roll Animal” masterpiece began. This is a fantastic song that has always fascinated me; and given the ridiculous number of cover versions of it, apparently I am not the only one. The live version, which I hear is Reed’s least favorite, is the one I love the best.

There is a point in the song where the intro has traversed genres and time signatures, and just before the more recognizable chords of the familiar song begin, that is the perfect melding of the power of both rock and traditional orchestral glory and power. Not in a forced way, this is not some Metal band with too much money hiring an orchestra to play back-up strings, but organically created from a commonality of intent.

It was at this moment, on the horizon, out over the water, large clouds like mountains, were rising as if to greet the morning. Their perfect whiteness was being painted rosy hues by the sunrise. The perfect view combined with a nearly perfect piece of music and the result was an instant of contentment or bliss. With it came the knowledge that such moments are both rare and fleeting. Moments like that seem to go one of two ways, perhaps we have a choice in their outcome, and maybe not, but either we savor them or feel stabs of regret and longing because they will be gone as quickly as they arrived.

This morning I had the tremendous good fortune to have the ability to savor the moment, without my typical feelings of remorse. The colors, every note of the music, the majesty of creation, I took it all in and relished the moment. As I did so, it occurred to me that this was like tasting wine. When we are really and truly tasting wine, we savor everything about it. The color and the aroma tantalize, we roll the liquid around our mouths so that every taste bud can work with the information the nose has already gathered to present us with experiences that range from the whimsical to the profound.

There is a ritual attached to tasting wine, we look at the color, we swirl, we sip it a certain way, we swish it around our mouth, and we then think about what we taste. I admit that sometimes I go through this ritual solely because that is how I have been taught to taste wine. But when we do each step with a sense of wonder and enjoyment,  this ritual becomes something akin to prayer.

Perhaps that is what wine teaches us. We need to savor and enjoy every moment of our lives that we possibly can. Look at them, use every sense available to us to take in the joy, beauty, contentment or just plain fun, and savor what we have been given. Forget the regret,  longing and sorrow just because the moment can not last. As the taste of wine fades we do not cry over it, we take another sip.

There is a passage in the Bible that exhorts us to pray without ceasing. I have always wondered how anyone could possibly do that. Maybe Lou Reed, a sunrise, and wine have combined to teach me how to get started.

Heavenly wine and roses
Seems to whisper to her when he smiles
Heavenly wine and roses
Seems to whisper to her when she smiles


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