Several years back, when I first started college, I was required to attend a poetry reading. I thought to myself, this is going to be interesting - I enjoy poetry very much, but this wasn’t a reading of the poets with whose work I was already familiar. No, this was an independent group of locals who fancied themselves poets.
There were a few charlatans reading their work and I wondered how they ever found the courage within themselves to read this nonsense in public. And then there were a few whose work stuck with me - obviously it stuck with me, as none of it is published as far as I know of, and yet four particular poems have stayed in my mind since the poetry reading in early 2002. One was some snarky version of haiku that was quite clever. One was sort of a “wordsmith” approach to poetry, with a political twist. One was written and recited by a mother who thought she lost her son on 9/11, only to learn that he survived the attack (and the incident was still quite fresh in the minds and hearts of us New Yorkers). And the one that left me with a smile was by a lady whose poem I believe was called, “The Man Who Loved Plants.”
Why did “The Man Who Loved Plants” stand out to me? I’m not really sure, except that it just seemed like such an interesting thought pattern in the poem at the time. The lady recounted her days in school as a young woman, and a professor who had his room full of his beloved plants. She described his passion for the plants and how he regarded them and treated them. And all of this was while he graded her term paper in front of her. And her question to herself was, “could he fondle a woman as well as a plant?”
Certainly, a passion can be taken to extremes, even as far as an obsession. I don’t think of obsessions as a particularly healthy thing. But passion? Sometimes I wonder how anyone gets by in life without some kind of passion.
For me, passion is a true love for something and a sort of devotion to it - learning about it, embracing it, taking pleasure in it. And I think of it differently than one person’s relationship with another. Instead, I think of this kind of passion as one person’s relationship with whatever the subject matter may be.
I have an admiration for those in the wine industry who display that passion for wine. I believe it’s that passion that allows the person to connect with the wines and appreciate them for what they are, and clearly it takes the person’s relationship with wine to a level far greater than than the flavor and simply drinking it and digesting it. This passion required knowledge and dedication and an open mind and heart.
I remember my first real experience with wine professionals. There were a few present and I took particular notice of one of them. How he approached the wine as he explained a great deal about tasting, expression, etc., was unlike anyone I’d ever seen - the glass in his hand and how he held the white cloth behind it, how he swirled the wine in the glass, and how he bridged the gap for our class between the wine and its many complexities yet to be understood - he had a different understanding and clearly a different passion for wine than anything I’d ever seen before. I’m guessing this is what’s gotten him to a point of great respect in the wine industry as a sommelier, educator, etc., and each time I’ve heard him present wine since that day, I’ve connected quite well with the wines he’s shown, and while I did learn a great deal from his lecturing and analyses of the wines, their grapes, regions, and styles, I also felt more relaxed even with difficult concepts and relatively unknown grapes and regions - and arriving at this comfort level, I felt again and again that he was helping bridge the gap between the wine and the complexities, making it easier to understand and enjoy.
This is the kind of passion and dedication that I admire.