Illustration by Judith R. Robinson
“I know, right? But then, you are easily amused.” I take my eyes off the road and glance to where she sits in the passenger seat.
That sentiment, of being easily amused, goes back more than fifty years. First as teenagers, then roomies and drinking buddies, and now as mothers and grandmothers, the two of us find joy in simply hanging out. No lavish spa days, jam-packed cruises, or cross-country concerts are necessary. A glass of wine, a People magazine, and we’re good to go.
Today, we head to one of the many small wineries near where we live.
I watch the road. Semi-rural, it winds, rises, and falls like a kiddie park roller-coaster. Warmth beams through the windshield, tossing a virtual blanket around our shoulders. Cows and llamas and sheep voice what seems to be pastoral glee. Oak trees bud, showing off tiny bright green growth. Emerald grasses, thick before summer’s inevitable scorch, remind me that, perhaps, life will prevail.
It’s February. For most of our long friendship, Cindy and I would have encountered cool and foggy conditions on such a day. But today is very different. Gradually over the last decade, we’ve come to expect and curse the mild, springlike conditions in the middle of winter.
Each hot dry year brings a new and unexpected consequence. This year, temperatures never drop far enough or long enough to kill off mosquito larvae. As a result, we now swat at insects that should be relegated to late-summer cookouts.
Fewer trees are planted and more are removed. Gardens become rock and wood chips. This isn’t the end of it either. Our town, our county, the entire planet has changed. And not for the better.
I almost say, “Wow. It shouldn’t be this warm.” But I’m tired of stating the obvious, and with Cindy, I don’t have to. She knows.
“There it is.” She points across the steering wheel to the winery’s driveway. I turn left, my car tires crunching on the gravel lot. Snug between a Toyota and a beat-up truck, I brake to a stop.
The moment I open the door, I’m greeted by the holy trinity of amusements: food, wine, and music.
Smokey barbacoa and sizzling onions coalesce to invoke deep memories of hot summer days. A warm rush lifts my hair, and I want to be happy.
Spicy beef and blackened veggies soak my plate. Bluesy notes set my toes to tapping. Local Zinfandel fills my glass.
We move to a grassy hill that overlooks a gazebo.
While we set up lawn chairs, the Conger Ice Shelf melts. In the time it takes to smile at a trio of toddlers, wildfires rip through Colorado. And as we sip red wine, drought locks wild salmon in a death grip.
I want to believe all is well on this day here at the winery. It’s hard, but I make up my mind, in this moment, to set aside harsh reality. And I, too, am easily amused.