Sunday, January 10, 2016

Nostalgia and daydreams

Autumn vineyard along Silverado Trail
Have you ever let your mind wander off into thoughts of what you would do with your life if you won the lottery? I mean the Power Ball, not the average state lottery.  At times like this, when the numbers reach so high, I admit that I follow that bit of fantasy for a short while. And if you are honest, I expect most of you have done the same.

What amuses me is how my choices change from one time to the next, as my life changes during the months between the big numbers. That seems to say that even at this advanced age, the lure of seeing and experiencing new things, new parts of the world, is still strong within me. Depending upon what's currently happening in my life, I might choose to simply travel the world, or go live in Thailand for a few years, or maybe Rome, or..... a myriad of things, really.

One thing that never changes is my desire/intention to give large chunks of it to all of the Buddhist monasteries and viharas that have helped me for little or no cost. Places and people where I've made cherished friends, learned much and become a better person. And probably, I'd do the same for countless small one-person viharas scattered across the country, even those presided over by monastics I've never met, or have met only briefly. All struggle, because westerners haven't grown up in a culture where support of the monastics is a part of life, as it is in Asia.

Flowers in shopping district along Napa River
But shoot, I could do all that with a mere $100 million -- ten times that is inconceivable. Still, I let my mind follow where it will and this morning it landed back in my beloved Napa Valley. With even a fraction of a billion, I could go back there and live in paradise once more, in hedonistic luxury, fine weather, consuming fine foods and fine wine. Seems to me that would be a pretty darned good way to live out whatever is left to me in this life. Naturally, that would also leave me plenty of opportunity to explore various parts of the world as the urge arose. Seriously, of course, my future is in an inexpensive apartment here in town, and I'm firmly grounded in that.

My friend's beautiful home high in the Napa hills
Still -- the draw of St. Helena seemed strong this morning, and as I stood in the shower I let the mind wander back to my time there, curious about changes, curious about just what I could buy with that amount of money. So once I finished, I looked at real estate availability down there and found that indeed, I could buy pretty much anything I wanted. Not that I'd want a $22,000,000 estate, or a winery. I have zero interest in the trappings of billionaire life -- the big estate, the private jet, the toys (although I could certainly live happily in my best friends' fabulous estate overlooking the entire valley, so maybe I'm not so immune after all). I'd be happy with a small Victorian or craftsman, close to town but with room for a garden and chickens. That would set me back a mere million or so! And a few simple toys.

Then I hit Google maps and started looking for a place I lived for awhile when I thought I was going to marry the owner. Unfortunately, I discovered that he was a bit more reliant upon the local product that I'm comfortable with, so I gave a pass to that one. He liked to get really drunk. If we were going to a big event for the evening he'd start early, get himself primed so he could enjoy himself all evening without needing a slow start. Not my idea of fun.

But, I digress. I knew where the place was, of course, but didn't remember the name of the cross street and even using Google Earth couldn't spot it. He lived on an estate, and I don't use that word lightly. Big, rambling, beautiful Victorian house on several acres, with a barn, a guesthouse, lots of lawn and gardens, and a bunch of vines at the rear that kept him busy, as he did all the pruning and other care needed, by himself. I knew that it would be next to impossible that the house had been razed -- it was beautifully restored and utterly private. So private, in fact, that it was almost invisible from the city street. Set well back on the property, it was surrounded by lush vegetation, trees and such. I'd passed it many times wondering who lived there, and what was actually back there, before I met him. Even when he told me it was a Victorian across the street from where a mutual friend lived, I never once thought he meant that place! So it was quite a shock when he first drove me under the gate and the full property came into glorious view.

I finally found it this morning, by using street view. The arched gateway is still there, unchanged. So is all the vegetation, so that I really couldn't get a glimpse of the house itself or anything but trees and bushes. Back on Earth, though, it was pinpointed clearly. He once owned much more of the surrounding land, but sold lots off in various chunks when I knew him and apparently, more since.  The vines are gone, but the house, the barn and guesthouse are clear, as is our mutual friend's place across the street (another, less grand, Victorian, also hidden behind vegetation). I don't know if he still owns it -- although I've seen him a few times when I've been in town and it seems he told me some years back that he'd sold it. Wouldn't swear to that, however.

So that was my morning of daydreaming. Good memories, lots of nostalgia. But I'm firmly grounded in the idea that living in even a hovel (if one could be found) in the Napa Valley is not in my realistic future. Especially since I never buy lottery tickets.

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