Buds and Vines
We are married now—although last year at this time, we weren’t. We have a picnic, consisting of North Fork smoked salmon pate, wheat crackers, a jar of pickles, and a container of pasta salad with yellow peppers, grape tomatoes, and a marinade of oil, vinegar, and crushed herbs. We sit at a wooden table, overlooking a vineyard. A guitarist is taking requests.
Two summers ago, we drove to Cooper’s Beach in Southampton for the first time. We did not live together yet, and had been dating for just under a year. Everything between us was still tentative and romantic. We lived blocks from one another in the city. We worked together, at a live music series in Brooklyn. We walked to one another’s apartments for dinner, roasted chicken, simmered beef bourguignon, and grilled tomatoes and sautéed them with tofu and peanut sauce. We visited just for the day though, and returned to the city that same night. I bristled at leaving behind the pastoral landscape and shoreline expanse, feeling we’d failed to recognize something extraordinary ahead of time.
We moved in together a few months later, in October. It was a monumental decision, where I sensed he might like to ride the status quo for a bit longer, while I ached for further definition of our relationship. For sure, my hope slowed time, made each day we did not agree on a course of action feel like a painful indicator our feelings for one another were not the same – it was hard to absorb the notion that we were simply in different stages of readiness, with a different sense of time. This separating of us into two selves is something I still work on, even as we grow closer every year, even as our marriage strengthens.
The following summer, on the Fourth of July weekend, we drove to a hotel in Riverhead. Brown wicker chairs with plush cushions in red, orange, lime, and bright purple arrayed the pool deck. We returned to Cooper’s Beach, and also decided to explore the wineries on the south fork, leaving one with a wine club membership. We learned that every vintage is a manifestation of experimentation with proportions and temperatures and timings — a product born of prolonged investigation, patience, and risk.
We explored the North Fork on our last day. We passed farm stand markets selling corn, tomatoes, peaches, eggs, milk, and blackberry pies. The landscape of lush fields with long grass, brown at the tips and deeply green close to the earth, the parked pickup trucks and tractors, and the broad irrigation systems all reminded us of my husband’s home state of Kansas. We shared a glass of Merlot under a gazebo, overlooking a sunny vineyard. Along with the unknowns, there were recurrent joys in our shared discoveries.
Our wine club shipments began to arrive, two bottles every other month. We delighted in the labels, the constancy and variation in one aesthetic. The substantial descriptions of how each wine was nurtured suggested the great pleasure in experimentation, in working diligently toward an unknown outcome.
Shortly after we became engaged, we drove out to the winery where we were members. The process of planning our wedding was at its most fraught, with finances pressurizing the situation, our desire to have an occasion that would please our families immense, our resources limited. The old fears of whether we felt the same way about “us” had resurfaced for me, as well. When we purchased our wedding bands, fear had momentarily darkened my fiancés features, like stage lights dimming during a protagonist’s moment of isolation, or soliloquy. The moment passed. I worked to focus upon the passage of time, of our years together, and not the fleeting expression of fear.
At the winery, we tasted a new sweet blend, the color of orange blossom honey. We sat side by side on a wooden bench and passed the glass back and forth, comparing it to one we tasted during our very first visit to the winery. We have a bottle from that first visit that we still have not opened. Perhaps it seemed too special to drink casually, or perhaps we silently agreed it should be a memento of our initial explorations, before engagement, when we found a place where ease came to us unbidden. It marks our curiosity and desire, and holds for us the moment in time when we were new.
A family at a picnic table beside ours shares a series of toasts. Several metal buckets containing half empty white wine bottles are on their table, frosty with condensation. They toast the summer, and that they are all together around the table.
We have never brought anyone with us on our journeys to the East End; every visit has belonged to us. On our own, we manage to distill precisely the elements of our union that intersect and spring to life. We now note the wine we have shared, our preferences and favorites, in terms of years, not in terms of summers. We mark our movement through time. We push one another forward without pain.