“We’re going to see Shen Yun,” I told a coworker.
“Oh, that’s part of the cult Falun Dafa. They put on shows to support the cult,” he responded.
“Also, they’re from China, so you might pick up the corona virus while you’re there,” added another coworker.
Comforting myself with the thought that my coworkers are communists and racists, I was determined to enjoy my night out. And I did, mostly.
The performances were magnificent. The show is traditional ancient Chinese dance with both western and Chinese music and instruments. The skill and professionalism of the dancers and the musicians was fantastic. The costumes were stunning. However, my communist coworker was not completely wrong. There was some not so subtle propaganda in the performance.
The stated mission of Falun Dafa is to create art that celebrates nature and the divine. The inspiration of art is drawn from spiritual practice. As cults go, a community of skilled artists is probably one of the least annoying that I’ve encountered. And it did get me thinking about art and religion, two realms that at times have been diametrically opposed. Perhaps it’s religion that has a small, sheltered tolerance for art and spirituality that inspires art. Or perhaps it’s nature that inspires both art and spirituality. Perhaps, nature is the divine. Or perhaps art and nature are both manifestations of the divine as Falun Dafa professes.
Though the evening didn’t help me sort out the relationship between art, nature and the divine, it did get me thinking about it. It was also very entertaining. And, as far as I know, it did not give me corona virus.
“I am trying to master this soil and the crops and animals that spring from it, as I strove to master the sea…” -Jack London
There’s a spot in Glen Ellen California in Sonoma County, in front of the Jack London Saloon the Hotel Chauvet and the London Ranch Road, that feels like an epicenter of quiet perfection in a small town surrounded by natural beauty. This is the saloon where Jack London drank, the road he took to his idyllic ranch. And it’s here up the road on the ranch where there are groves of eucalyptus trees and stands of redwoods, winding paths and magnificent vistas, Jack London’s beloved home over 100 years ago and now a state park; it’s here that one can experience the powerful draw of nature.
Though known for his writing, Jack London also introduced the ideas of organic and sustainable farming to California. His mission was to improve the land, “I am rebuilding worn-out hillside lands that were worked out and destroyed by our wasteful California pioneer farmers. I believe the soil is our one indestructible asset, and by green manures, nitrogen-gathering cover crops, animal manure, rotation of crops, proper tillage and draining, I am getting results which the Chinese have demonstrated for forty centuries.”
Along the Wolf House trail are vistas of vineyards. And just beyond the Beauty Ranch Trail is the Jack London vineyard, now maintained by Kenwood Vineyards. Planted here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah. As is fitting to the name, the Jack London Vineyard is farmed sustainably.
Along with the ripe fruit aromas the volcanic soil of the vineyard lends a vibrancy, a kinetic energy, to the wines that in its own way pays tribute to the driving force that once worked this land.