Brian and I took a walk this afternoon. He was taking a break from writing a report. I needed to step away from writing this letter. We had made it to the river before I had somewhat of a handle on what I wanted to tell you. My grip is already slipping, so let me hurry up.
A few weeks ago, I was preparing to shoot my friends Jeff and Gita pressing the apples that Jeff had just gleaned from an orchard. It was going to be good action footage for the video I was making for their fundraising campaign. They’re opening a winery in Minneapolis and need to raise $20,000 to do it without taking on too much debt.
The red Lehman’s apple grinder sat a short distance from a swing set. It was going to look great on camera. As the press became harder to crank, Jeff used a stick for leverage and pretended to be a buffalo as he pushed it round and round the grinder to squeeze out the last drop of the juice that flowed into a squat stainless steel kettle planted on the grass below.
“I love this.” He said. “I love this.”I had been working on the video for weeks by the time I had heard this particular declaration of passion. I know the story. Jeff has been making wine for 20 years. He’s opening a winery with his wife. They bought and renovated a building on East Lake Street. He has a crazy idea about sourcing his fruit mainly from backyards all over the City. They’re serious. And even though he didn’t shout or pound on his chest when he said it, Jeff is passionate. Instead, it was a quiet acknowledgment of the moment that called me to be present.
“I love this. I love this.”
From the chef at my favorite restaurant to my piano tuner to the guy who’s going to reupholster a chair that has been sitting on our porch for the last six years, it’s a charge to be around people who are deeply engaged in their life’s work. So from the beginning I have wanted Jeff and Gita to succeed because it’s just cool when people get to do what makes their eyes light up. And like packing a lunch for a visitor who is about to hit the road again, there is purpose in taking care to help a person get started on the journey and it feels good to do it.
“I love this. I love this.”
I believed him. I was there to believe him.
As much as “being present” is a lovely idea and a popular subject according to Google (12M hits), I suspect that most of us don’t do this very well because giving something our full attention requires skill. We blame smart phones and texting for our inattentiveness. We used to blame television. These distractions are challenging. But, the main culprit is a simple lack of discipline. Who practices paying attention? I don’t. Would these blissful moments of heightened awareness be less random if we did?
Showing no signs of fatigue after a full day of picking apples, Jeff remarked on the color of the juice. Beautiful. He sent me into the house for some glasses so that we could sample it. By the time I returned from the kitchen, the sound of traffic had been turned up again and in the distance I could hear construction and the whirling of a leaf blower, where before there was nothing but the smell of apples and leaves and the awareness that I was standing next to a man who was internally driven. Jeff was in the zone, a rich deeply human zone. And for a second, I got to be there too.
The Urban Forage Winery & Cider House touches on a lot of things that I care about. Good wine, for one thing. Locally produced wine. That’s really nice. Gleaning fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste? Making better use of resources? Engaging our imagination as we think about how to localize food production? Inviting all of us to play a role? To become an urban farmer? A contributor in the land of the real as opposed to a cog in an abstract system that gives us no satisfaction let alone something we can drink? Now that’s where it gets exciting for me.
It was a pleasure to make a video for Jeff and Gita’s fundraising campaign. I’d like to see them have a chance to demonstrate a new model for making good products using locally grown “crowd sourced” ingredients (It makes me think that another good name for their business would have been “Stone Soup Winery and Cider House”, although Urban Forage is perfect too!). I like to think that supporting this endeavor is an affirmation of the human spirit that increases the probability that we all will be surrounded by more people who love what they are doing and – with any luck – will be one of those people ourselves.
While I know that Jeff and Gita would be thrilled to have your support, maybe you don’t have $5-$50 to help them get going on their winery. Don’t sweat it. But, please do me this favor. Practice giving the thing in front of you your full attention. Make it a point this week to really notice the person who needs help and help him or her however you can. Listen. Notice what is needed and give it. And see what happens. I would love to hear about your observations!
Thanks for giving this your consideration. If you know of others who might get a charge out of Jeff and Gita’s idea, by all means let them know about it. Most of these Kickstarter campaigns are funded by hundreds of backers with $25 donations. So, spreading the word where it makes sense would be helpful.
To see the video I made, learn more about the Urban Forage Winery & Cider House and to make a donation, see Jeff and Gita’s Kickstarter page.