Maynard James Keenan: Villagers

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"Wine makes everyone hopeful."

These are the inspirational words that appear on a sign that our friend Topper's mother bought for our tasting room. The sign showed up on "one of those days," and I promptly displayed it. This subject came up this past weekend while celebrating a respectable showing at our Arizona Wine Growers Association wine competition, and at dinner the evening prior to the Festival at the Farm. I don't quite recall who got the ball rolling, but one of us made a thankful statement about the tenacity our little gang of vintners has demonstrated over the years.

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The rewards of our patience and focused efforts haven't gone unnoticed by others outside our little state bubble. I'm not talking about attention. Anyone can posture and hoot their empty claims of grandeur loudly enough to draw a few eyes. I'm referring more to recognition. Recognition takes time. Recognition is awarded to the diligent by those who were at first doubtful. And generally, recognition wasn't the goal to begin with. It's just the cherry on top of consistent, thorough efforts. We still have much to learn. But it's encouraging to know we've done a few things correctly along the way. So in this respect, the recognition gives me not only hope, but drive.

It reminded me of a comment I'd read a few months back after I'd described all the positive forward movements we've been making in our region. The person said something like, "Wow. The way you're describing your so-called accomplishments, one would think you'd discovered a cure for cancer." Uh, no. We make no such claim. But because I love to take on the role of devil's advocate, I decided to ponder that one a bit more and formulate a position.

I'm not an M.D. and couldn't even begin to list the top 10 carcinogens, their attacks, or their treatments. I am however a storyteller. And as such, I will make my case from an uninformed romantic's point of view. I will attempt to demonstrate hope and drive as possible "C word" deterrents. Wish me luck. First, a story of purpose. They say it takes a village to raise a child. In some cases, it's simply an extended family. In the case of my friend, it was her great aunt. Mom and Dad had to work to support their large family, so it was the aunt who held down the daily responsibilities of effectively raising several strong-willed children, one of whom went on to graduate from West Point. When I met the aunt, the children were long grown and graduated, and she had slipped into a form of dementia. It was almost impossible to communicate with her, although she was spry enough to slip into my room undetected to swipe my socks. It wasn't until the children had children of their own that something changed. Almost overnight she was her old self again. The dementia had all but vanished and she was back to raising the grandchildren as if she had dreamt the interim. It appeared to me that purpose had provided a reason for her to return. I think a similar formula can be applied to the self-destructive behavior perpetrated by our wayward citizens. For most of us growing up in the past several decades, there seems to be a lack of villages responsible for the raising of our youth. We see Mom or Dad going to this thing they refer to as "work." We're not certain what work they do. All we know is that they hate it. And this is what we have to look forward to. So given these bleak circumstances, why wouldn't one check out? Of course, meth is a problem these days; With no past by which to be inspired, and no future toward which to drive, we simply self-medicate and mark time.

As I've visited unique grape-growing regions around the world, I've witnessed a spider web of interconnected community support and sustainable small family businesses. They all seem to have as their foundation a craft perfected over generations. There's the family raising goats and producing cheese, the wheat farmer providing flour to the local mill that in turn provides flour to the chefs, who then make pastas and breads for the local farmers markets, tasting rooms, and local restaurants. There's the backyard family garden that grows herbs for pesto, fruit for preserves. They all seem to have a healthy lifestyle and a healthy sense of where they're going. They also seem to have their senses tuned to the subtle changes all around us and are able to adjust to the climatic chaos. They seem to know how small they are compared with Mother Nature, but are aware of her tricks and work together to weather her storms. Their connection and commitment to community and quality of life and their sense of direction based on where they've come from seems to instill a solid sense of self, hope, and purpose. If that's not a firm start for keeping the dreaded "C word" at bay, then I don't know what is.

Chicken Little out.

P.S. Just a few of the lifesaving items our brothers and sisters on the East Coast are in dire need of: flashlights, batteries, warm blankets, warm socks. If you have family on the East Coast who can hand-deliver these items to the right locations, it would be much appreciated. Postal services are still operating in most of these areas. Thank you.

Follow Maynard James Keenan on Twitter: @caduceuscellars, @mjkeenan, @puscifer. Read more of Maynard James Keenan's columns at Up on the Sun.

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