...there is a place called Linden Vineyards. If you begin in Charlottesville, Virginia and drive along Rte. 29, it will take you about an hour and a half to arrive at the Top of the World, located, unexpectedly,on Rattle Snake Mountain...(why not Sparrow Mountain or Rainbow Range...etc, but I'll get to the 'why' questions later). En route to the Top of the World, you will pass through a series of small towns situated along the Shenandoah Valley. For example Madison and Sperryville, the apparent home of one of the biggest "slow-food" movements in the country, and mile after breathtaking green mile later, you will arrive at a gravel road. It is my opinion that this road was left unpaved to challenge the people who don't really care about wine. Or cheddar cheese which burns the roof of your mouth with its local sharpness. Or being so close to God you could almost ask him a question. Or three.
For the determined oenophile, however, there is no path too treacherous. No matter how wooded or narrow. How full of ruts like gaping jaws for gulping down little red cars.
This end-of-summer trip actually began in Washington D.C. There we visited the Holocaust Museum and the White House. Julia Child's kitchen and a statue of Andrew Jackson. We also stopped in at a place called "Busboys and Poets" named in honor of Langston Hughes and enjoyed a "Poet Pizza". Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel and passed a church with the following bible verse posted on its marquis: Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed. (Proverbs 3:18.) Go ahead and chew on that for a minute while I sew this up.
History is full of contradictions. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence - decrying that all men are created equal - but over the course of his lifetime, some 600 slaves lived and worked on his Virginia plantation. During WWI, allied troops dropped leaflets from their planes onto the Germans - words written in their native language advising them to give up hope. That the U.S. and other armed forces were too great in numbers and prowess to be defeated and surrender was the only option. This tactic inspired a young German soldier. A frustrated artist named Adolph Hitler who tweaked the concept to sell anti-semitism to his citizens through one of the most effective propaganda campaigns ever created.
What else? About five blocks from the Holocaust Museum stands the statue of Andrew Jackson - the author of the "Indian Removal Act". By the end of his tenure, 46,000 Native Americans had been exiled from their homeland. He was, however, the only U.S. President to pay-off the National Debt. I suppose that's what's up with the statue. And it's funny (not ha-ha) how much of what I heard during my educational field-trip smacked of deja-vu. Not allowing German refugees into the U.S. because they might take 'our' jobs sounded strangely familiar, as a for instance. Why did the U.S. bomb the German factories first? Apparently they were afraid to raid the death camps because it might have pissed Hitler off and provoked him to do something really bad. Why oust Saddam Hussein and not the gang of misfit boys holding eastern Africa hostage? And what of the other nations of the world - where do they stand on genocide while wagging their fingers in our direction?
At the top of the world there is a place called Linden Vineyards. It is a place where you can drink some of the finest red wine being produced in this country in between bites of warm baguette and sharp cheese. You can say to yourself: I am blessed. I am lucky to be here - to have seen these mountains. Despite this, you find yourself wanting more. Wondering if you were granted an audience, invited to ask of God three questions - what would they be? Why me? maybe? But a why question runs the risk of soliciting the dreaded: "Because I said so". How is trickier to answer. How can we make things right for the homeless who sleep beneath the opulent buildings in our Nation's Capitol? How can we use our words as a force for good? How do we climb the tree of life, to embrace wisdom in the here and now, rather than when it's too late?