The Growing Season, by Nelson Boschman. Pub 2022
I find myself in contemplative mood a lot these days, and in recent months feeling drawn to consider some spiritual additions to my daily life. Perhaps for the ritual, but more I think for answers to “why” and “what else” questions. Reading The Madness of Grief was perhaps a start of it, continued with Rosary Made of Air, and now this book that is a delicious meritage of, as the cover promises, “contemplations on Wine and the Soul.” While this is not a book I’d be likely to read in past circumstances, my pensive frame of mind and familiarity with the author led me to give this book a try.
Neslon Boschman is known to me through my beloved Pacific Theatre. As a wonderful musician, Boschman is a regular part of performances that include live music, especially the must-see-for-me Christmas Presence. His renditions of both familiar and new songs are now a holiday tradition for me, one that often leads me to discover new music and reflect on the connections between music and the spiritual sides of life. Unbeknownst to me until I saw it on his social media, Nelson is also an oenophile, and his book brings together his thoughts and discoveries about the connections in his own world between wine and spiritual life.
From the first sentence, where he presents his quest to learn more “…what it means to live well, to flourish as humans, here and now”, I was interested in his explorations and meditations on finding joy and connection in the present. What followed was a journey through the full passage of the seasons in a vineyard, and well-aligned discussion and reflection about interior and spiritual seasons, beginning and returning to the soil (earth to earth). This could easily have become very tiresome or overwhelmingly sermon-ish, but Boschman does an excellent job of weaving the pastoral elements together, both natural and spiritual, in ways that allow space for contemplation while proceeding through the seasons at a gentle pace. The connections between vineyard management and wine production are linked easily and clearly to scripture passages and to his own spiritual journeys, allowing the reader to think and breathe and discover on their own, and learn a little bit about wine-making and -tasting.
My favourite sections were those on cellar maintenance and on bottles. In maintenance, Boschman presents a strong case for the need for quiet and rest as an essential part of development – of topping-up, preservation, nurturing, and patience. In the sections on bottles, he makes clear the benefits of sharing and generosity to both the enjoyment of wine and the boosting of spirit – how the experience of abundance is made true with the sharing of abundance with others. Just like one does with wine tasting and appreciation, he encourages deliberate and thoughtful seeing and tasting as essential elements of true experience.
The book is much more about philosophy and spirituality than about wine, but the trip through the seasons in a vineyard – from soil through the growing season to harvest, cellaring, and then drinking – provides a great framework for the promised contemplations. The metaphor of wine as spirit could very easily get tired or start to feel contrived or clunky, but Boschman masterfully keeps everything balanced and interesting and moving. His delight for all things wine, and his enthusiasm at wanting to share the enjoyment of wine and the enrichment of soul that he has found, are presented here with obvious love and a generosity of spirit that make this book an enjoyable, refreshing, and reflective experience.
Fate: I’ll be keeping this one, as I’d like to return to some of the text and lessons in the future. There are many passages that I’ve marked as meaningful, and those are worthy of return and reflection.
4 – a book published in 2021/2022
7 – an author’s debut book
24 – a book about food (wine is close enough)
25 – a new author to me
30 – a book about philosophy/religion
33 – a book by a Canadian author