The saying “Ive died on gone to heaven” keeps coming into my mind. When we arrived in California, the air was the first thing to take my breath away. It is so clean and crisp in San Francisco. It brought me to the thought of if we are stuck in a place where we don’t experience anything more than the four walls around us, we may only think that those four walls are all that exist. When I was growing up in the small town of LaGrange, Georgia, I didn’t know what else was out in the world. LaGrange was a lovely place to grow up but it is also very sheltered from other parts of the country not to mention, the world. My father wanted me to be close to home when I left for college. I could have traveled over two states to Mississippi (I know, crazy far) to attend school but one of the reasons I chose not to was because my Dad didn’t want me so far away. I really didn’t want to be far away from them either out of fear. But, I remember vividly my first trip past the Mason Dixon line. I had traveled to Nantucket and we were at a cute little restaurant in the town of Nantucket but, the waitress was from Switzerland. I began a conversation with her and she explained to me how she and many of her friends traveled every summer over to Nantucket to work. My eyes grew big at this new thought. That thought was – there are so many beautiful places to see and experience in this world and there is nothing to be afraid of. How simple is the thought? This thought had never occurred to me and it isn’t something that can be taught, only experienced. People are mostly kind and generous no matter where you go. I feel lucky and grateful to have learned this. I do know, not all of us get to travel to far away places, but if we can, I recommend it. If anything, it teaches us to appreciate our home that we return to.
We began driving north on “the 101” into the Alexander Valley. The view alone is spectacular. Our destination was a beautiful estate on a vineyard that is over 5,000 acres. There really is nothing like it that I have seen. In my mind, this is what heaven would be like. Your eyes could look out in every direction and see beautiful rolling hills, blue sky, white clouds, and green grape vines. The vegetable garden is probably 4-6 acres large with every food imaginable growing. There are very few bugs because of the dry air. We pulled strawberries that were the deepest red, different varieties of pears, peaches, and apples that were the sweetest, most flavorful, juicy fruits to ever come into my mouth. I never understood the love of figs until I ate one from a fig tree and added a little almond butter and dark chocolate. My eyes and my mouth are watering with the joy these simple things brought to me. I want to cry with joy now as I write about it on a plane back home to Atlanta. It was and is such a special place. We broke off leaves of dinosaur kale and ate them right on the spot. They weren’t so bitter that you needed something to wash it down. They were refreshing and warm with the taste of the sun that was just hitting it. I believe we can have this in Georgia. It inspires me to crusade for farm to table food and better food in our lunch rooms for our children. There is no reason why we cannot have more of this here.
Everything tangible was so heavenly, but what really hit me to be so angelic, were the people. We were in Northern California for a wedding. I had never experienced a wedding so beautiful before. And I don’t mean beauty with the eyes, even though everything was beautiful to my eyes. I am talking about two people, whom I had never met, exuding love to each other and to all those who had come to share with them their love for each other. It was amazing. When the female minister spoke, it was so soothing and more like a meditation than a service. The wind that blew in the air and rustled in the trees while the couple made their own vows was like a whisper from god blessing them and all of us lucky enough to share in their moment.
There was also the family we stayed with during our visit. Tara can make you feel as though you had known her for a lifetime. She has this beautiful way of showing you a comfort and a feeling of being right at home 3,000 miles away from it. She must have had a thousand other things on her mind and exhausted from being up all night with her little ones, but she never showed it. She inspired me to be a better woman, mother, partner and friend.
All of this experience, the vision, the tastes, the warm hearts, it is what heaven on earth is to me. I was lucky enough to experience it. This, I will bring back with me to Atlanta. This, I look forward to sharing with all of you.
There is no recipe for this. Here is to the simple tastes of eating right from the garden, to the mouth, and straight to the heart. Cheers!