“Wake-up. This will be way more fun than service,” I said to my husband at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning. Two mugs of coffee later, we were on our way over the hill to Sonoma, cutting church and leaving the kids on their own for the day. It’s not that we don’t love our children, or even church for that matter. But every once in a while it’s fun, no, exhilarating to abandon responsibilities and just play for the day.
As the golden hills of Sonoma came into view along winding route 12, covered as they were with leafy green vines just starting to turn into beautiful shades of yellow and red, we slowed the car down, and rolled down the windows, breathing in the warm, moist, fragrant air. By 9:30, the sun was already getting warm and church service would be winding down. I felt just a twinge of guilt, then drank in the beauty that surrounded us. There was something of God here. In that moment I thought to myself, ‘how silly that we try to stuff God into a human-made building and understand Her/Him with human-made thoughts and words, when there is a much more powerful presence of God in nature that communicates without words.’ As Pascal once said, ‘There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God…’ I am not planning on becoming a Zorastrian or Pagan any time soon, but, it would be rather unappreciative of us to not once in a while drink in the powerful beauty of nature. As Karen Armstrong points out in her book, A History of God, all religion began with and was inspired by human beings’ awestruck appreciation of the power of nature.
As we drove further into the Russian River region, the forest became denser, with vineyards carved out between large stands of trees. We hopped from one winery to the next, taking our time, asking lots of questions, and sipping the many and varied versions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are the grapes for which Russian River is known, being one of the cooler regions of Sonoma.
Many of the wineries now offer wine club deals, costing nothing to join and offering great discounts on purchases. But it requires a commitment to purchase about a case of wine a year. This didn’t appeal to either my husband nor myself, as to us a great deal of the fun of wine is trying all the different types, so many wines.
My mother is an ordained minister with the UCC church. While she loves her church, one of her philosophies has always been that religion is human-made. We create it in order to understand God. There are many paths to God. We must each find the path that speaks to us. Yesterday, my path was Interstate 80 West.