This Christmas, I received what I think is going to be the most amazing bottle of beer ever from my son Connor’s equally amazing girlfriend, Morgan. Technically speaking, Dialogues, made by The Referend Bier Blendery in Kutztown, PA, is a spontaneously fermented ale that has been aged in oak barrels along with various grapes, juice, and pomace. Wow, right?? That’s what I think too. To make matters even more interesting, there is a Pablo Neruda quote on the back of the bottle that is part of a poem called “Ode to the Dictionary:”
…words as slippery as smooth grapes, words exploding in the light like dormant seeds waiting in the vaults of vocabulary, alive again, and giving life: once again the heart distills them.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the winter solstice is defined as either of the two annual moments when the path of the sun is farthest south in the Northern hemisphere on December 21st or 22nd and farthest north in the Southern hemisphere on June 20th or 21st. Because the solstice is the shortest day of the year, we tend to associate it with the immense dark and intense quiet that winter brings when, in truth, what this moment actually represents is the return of the light. In terms of astrology, the solstice is marked by the ingress of the sun into Capricorn, one of the zodiac’s four cardinal signs that signals, by definition, that it is time to begin anew. This year’s solstice officially occurred on Wednesday, December 21st at 4:48 in the afternoon, but please don’t be alarmed if you missed it. Solstice energy lingers, and this particular one is followed by today’s new moon in Capricorn, which represents the perfect time for setting new intentions. The solstice is the standing still of the sun in its most far away place and, as such, it invites us to also find a point of stillness and reflection within ourselves. As we pause, we turn to look behind us and gather the lessons brought to us by the past year, finding wisdom as we rest in this moment of consideration, before we turn our eyes towards the future and the hopes and fears that it inevitably brings. What have we learned? What can we release? What will we dare to encounter or dream?
Earlier this week, my wonderful, wonderful cousin Nancy, who has always been like the sister I never had in so many ways, sent me this quote by Rumi: “There is a moon inside every human being. Learn to be companions with it.” Now, I have written quite a few posts about the moon during the lifetime of this blog; the most recent one entitled Moon Cycle was back in July of this year. It remains my favorite. In it, I talk a lot about the difficulty we can have in trusting the things we see by the light of the moon because they are shadowy and obscure, and we often end up second guessing their reality. Additionally, if we are afraid of the dark, like yours truly, being outside at night can bring on quite a bit of anxiety. To get past these feelings of uncertainty or fear, we have to learn to listen to our intuition, and meeting this requirement gives us one of the moon’s greatest gifts. Because the moon has always been the earth’s only satellite and therefore the most observable celestial object in the sky, ancient astrologers correlated its changing phases and constant movement with both our physical bodies and our deepest emotions. While modern astrology favors the emotional component a bit more heavily, both sides agree that the moon’s reflective quality, as it relates to the sun, symbolizes the means by which we come to understand and interact with the world. When viewed in this way, the moon becomes our interpreter, our transmitter, and our guide.
A week or so ago, I was driving up to work at Recklesstown Farm Distillery in Columbus when I happened to see one of those large swaying banner flags at the edge of a gas station that read, “Today’s Coffee Flavor: Espresso!” Well now. Am I the only one who finds the idea of a gas station espresso to be a bit of an oxymoron? I doubt that I am, but I can’t say that with absolute certainty. What I can say, however, is that Andrea and Ernesto Illy, father and son chairmen respectively of Illycaffé, would most definitely agree with me. Illycaffé, or just Illy, was founded in Italy in 1933 and remains a family controlled business that specializes in espresso and markets to 140 countries worldwide. Their annual revenue is over 600 million euros, and in 1999, they established the University of Coffee, Unicaffe, in Naples, an institution dedicated to coffee education and research. According to Ernesto Illy, “the quintessential expression of coffee is espresso.” Andrea takes that concept one step further by stating that “espresso is a miracle of chemistry in a cup” and “coffee is the official beverage of culture.” If we consider our favorite morning drink in these terms, I think that most of us would see the possibility of finding either a miracle or culture at a mini mart along Route 206 to be a highly unlikely one. But what if we happen to have an overwhelming desire for an espresso just as we read the words on that banner flag? Will any cup that we can get our hands on suffice at that point? I wonder.