The Beauty of Adversity

The Stressed Vine Makes the Best Wine

– Unknown

This wise old saying of unknown origin has been resounding in my mind for the past 12 days. I kept repeating it to treasured friends and clients as they were evacuated from Sonoma and Napa due to the raging firestorms in Northern California that destroyed or threatened their homes and businesses these past two weeks.

I first heard these words several decades ago when I moved to the West Coast from Texas and found work at a public relations firm in San Francisco. I was assigned to the Groth Vineyards account which remains one of the premier wineries in the heart of Napa Valley.

Lesson from Nature

I will never forget the important lesson I learned from owner Dennis Groth who said “There’s a saying in the wine industry – the stressed vine makes the best wine”. “What does it mean,” I asked. “The vine that has survived the most adversity – fierce winds, rampant fire, excessive rain, destructive droughts, extreme heat or freezing temperatures – makes the richest wines with the most depth and character,” he passionately explained.

I loved this lesson from nature and decided this saying not only applied to grape vines but to people as well. Those in my life who have suffered and prevailed over adversity are my most treasured friends and family as they too, like the vines, have enormous depth and richness of character that I love and admire.

Smoke-Filled air over San Francisco
Smoke-Filled air over San Francisco last week

Love and Smoke

My best friend Stuart, who was forced from his newly remodeled home and beautiful barn he recently built in Sonoma with two horses, two cats and his partner Carlos in tow, texted me the image of a sign – The Love In The Air Is Thicker Than The Smoke.

Since then I have seen this sign throughout the Bay Area:  in fields, on roadsides, at intersections, in store windows, in vineyards, on bike paths, beside mountain trails, at the beach, and embedded in emails, that testify to the beauty in and resilience of those of us, who despite living in toxic smoke-filled air, know that love prevails over adversity. This sign has served as a statement of the bond of strength and endurance over the adversity we have all witnessed and faced together.

I first heard these words several decades ago when I moved to the West Coast from Texas and found work at a public relations firm in San Francisco. I was assigned to the Groth Vineyards account which remains one of the premier wineries in the heart of Napa Valley.

Our Heroes

Gordon Huether Studio
Gordon Huether Studio on Monday. It miraculously remained unscathed.

Many are heroes who have opened their hearts and homes to care for family, friends, strangers and the many in need. Thousands of fire fighters, police and first responders have flocked to Northern California fighting valiantly to save people, homes, buildings, studios, wineries, animals, trees and vines.

These brave men and women have also become our highly revered heroes who have risked their lives for the safety and beauty of our communities.  We are forever grateful and indebted, not only to them, but to the many citizens of the Bay Area who are continuing to help the over 20,000 people who have lost their homes.

In Appreciation

My friends Torild and Earnest and their cat Chloe just returned to an ash-covered and smoke-filled home on the Calistoga river after a week’s evacuation with no idea if the cottage was still standing. My life is also filled with grace as my funky old home in Marin County was completely untouched by the fires.

But the experiences of friends and clients who have lost everything except the clothes on their backs has given all of us a new appreciation of where we sleep at night. One of the many gifts from the adversity around us is that we realize now more than ever the importance of people we love and the true value of the homes we love. I thank all of you who have sent loving words of support through the internet to all of us in Northern California.

Linda Applewhite
Torild, Stuart, Carlos and Ernest who are now safely back in their homes with their 2 horses and 3 cats.

In an Instant

It’s so easy to take our home for granted and expect that it will always be there. But these past weeks have shown that life can change in an instant and that we should never take anything for granted including the graciousness of the structure that protects and provides our family, friends and animals a safe place to sleep, eat and love each other.

I bow to the beauty and safety of my home in appreciation of the twenty years of days and nights it has stood steadfast for me, my husband, and cats and dogs as a stage for the expression of our lives and the memories we share. I hope you will pause for a moment to do the same for your beautiful home, condo, apartment or trailer and the treasured friends, family and animals that color your life.

Gifts from Adversity

And I wish for you that when you encounter adversity, you will look for the gifts that it presents to you. Gifts that might be remembered and treasured for the rest of your life.  And like the stressed vines that make the best wines, my hope is that you too will grow in depth and richness from the experience as many of us have in Northern California.

Love & Blessings,

Showing 9 comments
  • Liz Nichols

    There’s a movie called Collateral Beauty. I won’t divulge the story (good film) except to say the wonderful Helen Mirren plays death and counsels someone in grief to look for the collateral beauty in difficult times. It’s a good way to cope.

  • Kirby

    Thank you Linda for the heart-warming stories of the people affected by the Northern CA fires. You really brought home a lovely perspective on this horrendous event.

  • Cynthia

    During the past few weeks I thought of you, the residents and business owners of Northern California affected by the fires.
    Wish all well.

  • Joan

    I cherish your thoughts on this…

  • Ernest

    You eloquently express the beauty that is within you. — Ernest

  • Lynn

    Linda, thank you for speaking about this so eloquently.

  • Helene K.

    Your expression of strength, courage and faith, removes the heaviness from my heart , and replaces it with reverence for the human spirit!

  • Marla

    As bad as the fires were in Orange County we all knew how much worse it was up north. You are all remarkable folks. God bless you.

  • Nyla P.

    Beautiful,sensative thoughts are expressed by you, Linda.
    I hope I have the opportunity to meet you some day soon.

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