QUAIL MUTTERINGS #31. Wine Wednesdays (September 19, 2014)

QUAIL MUTTERINGS #31.  Wine Wednesdays (September 19, 2014)

My sister and I were looking forward to having veggie salads with bleu cheese dressing on that evening in mid June. We had specifically chosen that day because one of the local restaurants held Wine Wednesdays in which they offered a bottle of wine for half price when meals were ordered. Of course, the day we went was the day they ended this deal. Boo hoo. “We’ll just have to create our own Wine Wednesdays,” I said. The salads were delicious anyway and we each got a glass of wine.
During the month of July I hosted my own Wine Wednesdays out front under the oaks for my liberal-minded crone friends. They were a hit. My sister would arrive early and help cover the picnic tables with table cloths, take out the pitcher of iced cucumber water, pick flowers for the rustic vases, and carry out the wine glasses, plates, utensils and napkins. Semi-elegance in the summer shade with a light potluck.
When a bunch of women over fifty get together the discussions can be quite interesting as well as entertaining. M says that her husband wonders what we all talk about. On one occasion someone has brought up that a friend’s ninety-year-old mother is getting chemotherapy.
“Can you imagine going through that at that age? I can’t even fathom it.”
“I sure wouldn’t do it. I’d just take the morphine.”
“I think that the local Indians, back when, would just take peyote and jump off a big boulder when they got too old and sick to cope anymore.”
“My husband said that if he ever got so senile that he’s incoherent then we should go out and have a hunting accident.”
“Yeah, and then you’d go to jail for shooting him.”
“Our laws aren’t too keen on assisted suicide, are they?”
“You know, in Oregon, they’re more lenient and understanding about it. And they are a lot more generous with the drugs for palliative care.”
“Boy, I can’t wait to tell my husband what we talked about today!”
We all laughed as a light breeze rustled through the trees above. The trickling water from the two fountains helped to camouflage the time of year, but still the temperature was pleasant. A dove landed on a branch overhead and called several times.
The month of August was too difficult for most of us to commit to Wednesdays, with work or trips, so we took a hiatus until mid September when we agreed to try to get together once a month during the school year. This last Wednesday was our selected day – right at the tail end of a triple digit heat wave. I wondered if we’d have to cancel since I have no air conditioning in the house and the coolest place actually is out front under the oaks. This could be disastrous for a bunch of menopausal women. We persevered.
My sister and I set up two standing misters that attach to hoses and even though we got a little wet it was better than nothing. Thankfully, when 4:00 rolled around it was already a bit cooler than it had been. We all seem to look forward to these ‘mini vacations’ to stop a while and enjoy each other’s company. None of us drink that much at all. It’s more about the label on the bottle. Is it interesting or pretty? I guess we just need an excuse to get together and connect, in an old-fashioned, real sort of way. Not texting, emailing or tweeting. There’s no cell phone service here anyway.
I told them about my substitute teaching job on Monday when it was too hot for the middle schoolers to go outside for PE. So each class of fifty or more students came into my classroom, which was only equipped for about thirty, for an hour with no lesson plan. Another PE teacher brought me a sports video, but there was no DVD player in the room. A lot of good that was. So, I got to wing it. I knew I had to keep them occupied or complete chaos would reign. Luckily, after taking roll some ideas came to me.
“How many of you want to go to college?” I asked. A show of hands.
“How many of you don’t want to go to college?”
“Who will probably go to college only because your parents want you to?”
Then I asked them what they might want to major in: PE? Science? History?
“Now,” I said. “Each table and the surrounding students sitting on the floor is a company. I’d like you to come up with an idea or a product and select a spokesperson for your group to sell it to the rest of us. You’ve got five minutes. Go.”
The decibels in the room grew substantially. Each table gave their spiel. Then after hearing all the groups I gave them two minutes to either improve their idea or pick a new one. Then we all listened again. Lots of students had questions about the products or “what if” scenarios so we spent the rest of the time fielding these inquiries. I told them that this was most likely how they’d have to think or work no matter what they ended up doing as a career. They were jazzed.
M said, “I’ll bet they’ll want you to sub at that school a lot in the future.”
“I doubt it,” I said. “I’m only available on some Mondays and Fridays since I’m busy at the studio on the other days. Besides, they’ll probably never even hear about it.”
“Hmm,” said R. “That’s probably true. A big institution like that. The kids, most likely, won’t talk to their parents at that age and everyone is so caught up in their own thing. Nobody really cares anyway.”
D began sharing about the trip she’d be taking with a friend in June. It was going to be to the south of France.
“Can you take me with you?” I asked. We all drooled over travel, especially to there or Italy.
She told us about other adventures she’d been on with her life-long friend. One of them had included meeting some people who were instrumental in re-populating Trumpeter Swans in Canada.
As our second hour wound down we each carried armloads into the house. Coming back outside, we paused under the oaks.
“You know,” S said. “The south of France doesn’t have anything on this place.”
“Really? You think so?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’m sure of it.”
It makes me happy that my friends like being here. I like sharing the canyon with them. Perhaps this is my true purpose. It feels right being a steward for this special place in nature, and providing a time and place for others to find respite from the onslaught of modern life.

Chi Varnado is a contributing writer for The San Diego Reader. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.