It was La Dive weekend, I was outside relishing air and talking to a friend, glass glued to hand. “It’s coming up to a year for you in France,” he said, “what’s next?” when my alarm bells rang. Cue existential panic – Must I go through this again? Because I know “Back to the Loire for èbourgeonnage, my sixth stage” isn’t what people back home want to hear. They want to hear The Plan.
And there isn’t one.
At least not most days. There was a plan for one day. 12 February. The day I had the ‘click’.
I panic that while I’m drinking wine at lunch, my real-world career prospects are evaporating.
As bad as pruning is for your back, it’s good for ruminating. Marinating. Teasing the meat off the steak bones of our minds. I wish I had more words than ‘click’ to express the immense swell of relief that washed over me like a cold Atlantic wave after baking bone dry for years on a beach, but I don’t. Wished I could better describe the confidence of an adrenaline rush in the shape of “YES”.
On the afternoon of a sunny February 12 amidst François Saint-Lô’s Cabernet Franc; his horse going back and fourth, the sounds, the smells, the soil: things just made sense. I decided I’m doing this, I want to make wine, and I bought postcards that say ‘Saumur’ to write the people I thought I should tell. Unusually, I even bought the stamps.
But if you haven’t received yours, don’t worry – no one did. They’re still in their little paper bag and now I feel I’ve lost my chance. Because while it might look like I’m on holiday, my mental state is not a stable 72 degrees and sunny. For every day it’s a ‘yes’ there are many no’s, same goes with the highs and lows. Today my note from Beaujolais would go, “Dear so-and-so, I hope you’re well, I’m basically OK but every other day I ask what the hell am I doing? P.S. Kill me now: next week is my eighth week pruning.”
In a longer letter I would go on:
Do you know how much ‘real’ work you could do in the forty hours a week I clip and pick up pieces of wood? How many words you could write, how much money some people make? I studied law but this is labour. Is dad right? Am I making a mistake? I miss my friends and my cat and wine bars and light-bulbs with shades on. I miss toilets that flush, am sick of baguettes and of always having boots on.
Am I really going to be a farmer?
I’m bored of people who drink all the time and breathe smoke and speak bad to incomprehensible to (literally) backwards French. I’m tired of mud, thick socks and fleece. I worry about the strength of the sun. That I’ve missed the boat. I worry that I’m floating: unaffiliated, distracted. Too young to live a life so old. That I’ll be poor, that I’m already so disconnected. I have callouses in places I didn’t know existed. I panic that while I’m drinking wine at lunch, my real-world career prospects are evaporating. That somehow I’m selling myself, my parents and my education short; that the romance of country life is exaggerated. When I’m too hot or cold or tired or stressed because I have a million other things to do or bored, I wonder if tending vines naturally isn’t a life-long fool’s errand. The day to day is repetitive, but what about the philosophy? Wine’s supposed ‘humanity’? What about when people talk about it as alchemy? Isn’t that a bit overstated? A bit emperor’s new clothes?
I worry that to live and work at nature’s mercy is, if not stupid, increasingly complicated. That I don’t have the grit to do this job, that I’ll make vinegar. What if I don’t want the commitment of land or a horse, or can’t turn the tractor? And am I really going to go to a school reunion and say hi guys, it’s been what, 13 years and look at your glistening careers while I’ve been sleeping on winemakers’ couches?
Anyway, enough from me. What’s new with you?
Love Hannah, it’s been too long (did I mention today it’s a year?) XO