The creation of penjing landscapes for meditational purposes is a practice that goes back to ancient times, and if the display captured the feeling or intangible aura of a sacred place, then it brought peace to the viewers as well as the landscaper.
Vineyards take grapevines, vines that the ancients used to drape over delimbed oaks, and now drape them over wires and poles. The grapevines of today are more diminutive than the great vines of ancient times.
If a skilled vineyardist, a vigneron by the French job title, can sculpt the vines onto the wires, thinning canes and pulling leaves and tucking them all under the wires so that the fruit gets sun-dried, then the vines will return to the vineyardist good wine grapes, a sense of peace and a miniature landscape forest to dwell within, much like shrinking to fit into a living penjing display. If done perfectly, the vineyard will capture the essence of a sacred meditational place for both themselves, viewers and tasters of the wine.
Remove any element from the experience, and the sacred aura is broken. The wine becomes mundane; the sanctuary a bar; the terroir merely a field that exists somewhere else, remote and distant. The longer the spoon, the harder it is to use an oar to stir a soul.
I have always had a deep affection for trees, and a green thumb for plants.
When in my more impertinent youth a mean neighbor failed to return my brother’s borrowed 12-string guitar, I took from his moving van a great Schefflera arboricola in its pen as recompense. I used my fish tank cleanings to provide it with food and water and gave the plant the name “Sigma” after the 12-string dreadnought that had been stolen. Blue discus under duckweed under a dwarf umbrella tree became a theme for much of my young adult life.
Late in the 1990s, I met my wife, and her family owned a vineyard. I did not drink wine or any alcohol, but the charm of the vineyard was a siren song to me. After we were married, I apprenticed seven years with my mother-in-law Judy, as my wife studied wine-making with her father Roger and they opened the winery.
I have been a vigneron ever since, secluded away in a small vineyard like an island, working mostly alone amongst the vines as if transported down into a penjing of wine life.