Wine Making With Aretha Franklin

“So,” I’m going through a set of challenging wine-making instructions for a high quality Negroamaro (juice plus skins – a first for me).

I had to edit and translate them into hand-written, clear Binglish (Bob-friendly English) and decided to come to grips with the spelling and pronunciation of the following additive:

kieselsol

The incredibly helpful and generous person I buy my juice from, Joe, has as much fun pronouncing it as I do, but he sure knows how to make wine!

The word “kieselsol” wouldn’t stay in my septuagenarian, but fussy, brain, so I took time to look at it carefully. The first part, keisel, I thought must rhyme with Diesel and it did! The sol part, for a maternal anglo like me, is easy: Saul, like the biblical king.

But, if you want to be absolut richtig and use the handsome German pronunciation, just think Diesel-Soul – as in Aretha Franklin, RIP. I will call kieselsol “Diesel-Soul” from now on. And I will replace some of my cuss words with it.

I may even make it a mantra…

A Special Book

 

I have just finished The Stones Speak by the prolific, much-loved, 20th Century writer, Thórbergur Thórdarson, born in 1888, who grew up on a remote family farm named Hali in southeastern Iceland, very near to Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland at 2119 metres.

I bought the book at the Þórbergssetur museum, where our tour group stopped on July 18th, two days into our 10 day bus tour. The centre was built in 2006 in Hali, (near Reynivellir in Southeast Iceland) and is dedicated to this unique man. He was largely self-educated, being too poor to attend high school or university.

The Stones Speak, translated in 2012 by Professor Julian Melton d’Arcy of the U. of Iceland, is Thórdarson’s only complete book that has been translated into English. Written when he was in his 60’s, this is an inspired, witty and sometimes caustic collection of his earliest memories – those of a precocious, hypersensitive visionary who lived very close to nature.

The book is, in my opinion, a must-read for folks who plan to visit Iceland and really want to work at understanding its recent (20th C.) history and its people. The introduction and notes by d’Arcy deserve to be read both before and after reading the book. They even contain the simplest, best guide to Icelandic pronunciation that I have found.

I went to Iceland because it was my wife’s choice and must confess that, uncharacteristically, my only research before the trip was to google the heck out of each place we were visiting on our Ring Road tour and look for things worth escaping from the pre-arranged options to see. And because we were arriving in Reykjavík (KEF) at 6 AM on the red-eye from Toronto on July 16th I was looking keenly for the most interesting places we might explore that day on our own. Our Grand Hotel was only a half-hour walk or a # 15 city bus from the centre of town. These were, for this dyed-in-the-wool self-directed traveler, the vital facts, since we were not due to meet our tour director at the hotel until 5:30 P.M.

Combined with the superb tour itself, reading The Stones Speak has given me wonderful, intensely personal insight/hindsight into the unique Icelandic people. It was, for me, not an easy read. It does not grab you like The DaVinci Code. I put it down and picked it up several times, as I have done with Proust, until realizing that, by making margin notes and studying maps and breaking down words in what is for the superbly gifted Daniel Tammet this oh-so-special language, I fell in love with Iceland and humanity in general, starting with the folks in 1890’s Suðursveit. 

If you have already visited Iceland, take the time to study The Stones Speak. You will, through it, reconnect with human nature and, perhaps, yourself.

P.S. If you have not gone yet, check out Guide To Iceland, a great website community to which my post travel research luckily led me. They justifiably claim to be an “unrivalled source of information.”

 

Crocus

 

Crocus Cries, "Spring!"
Crocus

Crocus laconique, saillant

Montre nous, les hommes

Comment passer sans rancoeur

 

Reflecting on this photo this morning (now Tuesday, two days after I posted this photo on Sunday) I realized that the tiny plant that had made me think so carefully since then deserved a poem. I wrote it in French mainly because the French “sans” saved me a syllable and thereby satisfied the rigor of the Haiku, but discovered that I liked the sound, lucidity and subtlety of what I could say in French much better than what I had produced in English. After posting this photo on Sunday, I have reflected long upon the flower’s shockingly short life in bloom and realized that little brother Crocus was rewarding me for my attention by teaching me a surprising lesson. The lessons for me were several (cyclicity, fleetingness, acceptance, grace, opportunity, attention, action, brilliance…) but I will highlight this one:

The beauty of the crocus bloom is made more precious by its very fleetingness.

Still more learning: Writing a poem with strict parameters is a process of discovery in any language. One is forced to forage around for the right word and the searching often reveals better words that don’t quickly come to mind. Continue reading “Crocus”