The best thing about cheap wine is that you can drink more. The worst thing about cheap wine is that you can drink more. However, it's rarely obvious when the first ends and the latter begins.

The cabin was my favorite. The drive was delicious, full of laughter and wanting and anticipation. There was a hunger in our eyes and a feeling that it was us against the world. Not even the ticket dampened our mood, it seemed cheap in comparison to what we would pay for this experience. That night we sat, together with our wine on the deck. It was perfect, the wine, the trees and our love. The next day we discovered that a flat tire can be the highlight of a trip, so drunk on each other that even such a nuisance could not bring us down. We saw no shooting stars that weekend however, the trees blocked our view and our eyes were drawn only to each other.

The beach was wonderful. I remember your speech on the way, don't think I could forget. Your cautious approach, telling me that you didn't expect a response but you had to say it anyway, pleased me more than you could know. I was overcome, on the verge of tears, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. In the hotel we could not keep our hands off each other, except for brief moments to venture out, and we liked it that way. We had too much wine at dinner and sat, holding each other, on the beach that night. There were no shooting stars that night either, perhaps because we could not be bothered to look for them.

The bay was beautiful. You arranged it, simply because I said it was something I had always wanted to try. The wine was good, but the memories were better. Our near moment of weakness, almost caught by the patrol boat. Our picnic on the beach, hoping we weren't visible from the road. There was laughter and passion and love. It was the moment I knew, without a doubt, that I would spend the rest of my life with you. There were still no shooting stars for us, but perhaps this time they were there, hidden by the brightness of the sun and sky.

There have been so many more moments with cheap wine lately, but most of them haven't involved me. They should, I look back on it now and it's so painfully obvious that I should have been there, enjoying the wine not for it's quality or for my love of wine, but for the company. In the course of life you will forget who you are, what is important and ultimately who you must strive to be. What determines your true nature is not how you end up in such a situation, however, but how you choose to react to the reality you suddenly find yourself in.

Words offer little I know, I wish they could offer more. The only course now is action and patience. I strive, every day, to remember the person I want to be, to tell myself that it's not a matter of transforming into that person, but simply a matter of knowing that I already am. I can only hope that I have the strength to overcome the fear that binds me, that prevents me from being who I am, who you need me to be. I have spent so much time trapped, a slave to my emotions and fears, and I have promised myself to break free and end the cycle that has held me for so long.

Yet as I examine myself, I find the greatest fear I have the most difficult to overcome. The fear of failure. Failure to live as the person I know I can be, failure to live as the person you desperately need me to be. Fear does not attack you in obvious ways, often it sneaks in, undetected while life otherwise goes on as normal. It picks the little things to sneak into your mind, always seeming like a justified and rational choice. It hides behind jealousy, anger and resentment. It sneaks in and colors your world, causing a change in the reality which you perceive. It forces you to build walls, to withdrawl, often without even allowing you to realize what you are doing. More than anything, I'm afraid that one day it will happen again, and it will be one time too many. Like cheap wine, it seems harmless until the time arrives when it's painfully obvious that it's long past the time to let it go.

How does one overcome the fear of not being able to overcome your fear? This is the sort of question that brings on an instant headache. However, I belive the answer lies in awareness and reminding yourself that in any instant you have a choice. Choose love. Choose peace. Choose to forgive. Choose to see the positive. Choose to dance. Choose to sing. Choose to live. Sometimes you may be wrong, but even then you will be at peace.

Every day I must remind myself to enjoy the cheap wine and to keep looking for the shooting stars. We may never find the shooting stars, although I like to think that someday we will, but we can enjoy the wine and enjoy the search together, knowing that regardless the moment is perfect as it is.

Cheap wine requires yeast.

No yeast, no wine. See the fuzzy stuff on grapes still hanging on the vine? The blush of yeast. Alive. Ubiquitous. Cheap.

To make a fancy wine, the yeast on the grapes must be killed. Millions of the critters are poisoned by sulfite. A particular strain of yeast is then introduced. A truly fancy wine has elite grapes and cultivated yeast. To be fair, the tongue appreciates the effort.

A cheap homemade wine can be made by just leaving squashed grapes in a barrel. No sulfites. No killing. Worst that happens is you end up with a decent vinegar.

A shooting star lights up the midnight sky. A child makes a wish. A woman not sure of the man she's with sees a sign of love, a mistake rectified in court 12 years later. An older gentleman dying of prostate cancer marvels at the glow.

On any given clear night, I can see a shooting star graze the sky 2 or 3 times an hour. One magical morning I saw hundreds sparkle over me with my youngest at my side.

Still as magical as it was, should I collect a few grams of shooting star dust and sprinkle it into grape juice, nothing happens. The grape juice still tastes like grape juice. It's not that difficult to collect shooting star dust*; collecting yeast, however, is easier. The stuff is everywhere. Most Americans spend more money buying drugs to eliminate yeast than buying yeast itself.

Every day a grape vine outside my window converts water to grapes; a year or two later, yeast converts the same grapes into wine.

I have lived with the same woman for more than a quarter century. Years before she cradled my daughter in her womb, we watched a summer shower of shooting stars in the Catskills. We marveled at the eerie midnight streaks. Still, stardust and water make only mud.

If you collect rainwater in a bucket, let it set a bit, then drag a magnet through it, you will capture some micrometeorites. If you look at them under a microscope, you can see the pits of their journey inscribed in the particles.

If you spent any time outside today, you may well have a particle or two in your hair, descended from the heavens. 40,000 tons of cosmic dust settle on our planet in a year. A few micrometeorites settled on the roof above you while you slept last night. Comet dust, cosmic spherules, shattered asteroids, moon and Mars dust.

Leslie and I lay on a grassy hill in the mountains, before our children had names. If we drank any wine that night, we could not have told you much about it beyond its color.

We have since seen hundreds of meteors, perhaps one for every streak of gray hair we share. Still we smile at the unexpected midnight flash. We have become sophisticated enough to know premier grand cru classé from the screwcap pink stuff.

Seeing Leslie after just a few hours apart still startles me like a shooting star. An unexpected, undeserved pleasure.

This world rewards those who pay attention. I have wasted warm, clear nights staring at this monitor; bunches and bunches of grapes fall unharvested at the end of every summer.

Still, as we grow older, the sky and the grapes return over and over again. Good, cheap wine needs more time than energy, and I am still young enough to have both.

When things go bad (and all things that breathe eventually rot), things become difficult. My father lies trapped in a body only partially his now. My mother died a grotesque death, her moth-eaten brain reducing her gracefulness to that of an awkward marionette. Our turn awaits.

Still, as our bodies fail, we'll drink cheap wine and watch for shooting stars. It was enough when we started, more than enough now.

*"Collecting Micrometeorites"

Happy Anniversary!

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