a Women Writers' Showcase
Into the Vineyard
by Janine Canan

The white puppy jumped in, while the older dog waited to be boosted in. Then Justine climbed in, backed the car out of the narrow driveway, and accelerated toward the Plaza. The light was already fading.

As she reached the square, her eye gravitated toward the woman in magenta tights who was dancing in the street. Thumping rock music blared from the court of the historic stone hall. Large clusters of burgundy balloons hovered over the broad stretch of grass where townspeople sat sipping their supper wine. The Bear Flag of the renegade Republic of California flapped softly in the breeze.

Ah, the lovely carnival of life, Justine sighed as her car purred on, content with its own purpose. Passing the last of the Spanish missions and the vanished village of the natives who had built it, she turned left onto Fourth Street. She passed the old Sebastiani winery and continued on toward the hills. The narrow bumpy road skirting Ravenswood curved through a dense dark bower of tall bay trees—that instantly intoxicated her with their powerful purifying scent. Beyond the trees rose the green terraces. She braked suddenly in front of a large gnarled oak.

The three climbed out of the dusty car, making their way rapidly. The sun was already over the hill. As they passed the roses, Justine bent down to sniff, then kiss their perfumy dark lips. They continued down the rocky road that plowed through the middle of the vineyard. Row after row of lush leafy gnarly old vines, weighted with fat clusters of purple, flashed by as woman and dogs mounted the beautifully terraced hillside. For a moment Justine stopped, looking upward to the rim. The deep blue sky, back-lit by the invisible sun, was glowing. Overhead
hung a white sickle, cupping a velvety black ball. Beyond, beamed Venus, and farther beyond, scattered across the void, the stars. Music floated down from one of the homes wedged in the darkening hills.

It was nearly nine o’clock, the air was cooling, but she still felt warm in her cotton shirt. In the dim light she stepped cautiously now over the stony red earth. The wolf-dogs followed, the younger racing joyfully ahead then anxiously returning, uncertain of their direction, the older dog wobbling forward with experienced enthusiasm. Beyond the vineyard the rolling hills were covered with contorted oaks that were rapidly transforming into black masses. Her gaze rested on a mysterious light atop the highest hill. In the growing dark Justine walked on, unable to see yet one with the ochre soil, thickly caked with the Mother’s blood.

As she moved she became that blood, all the blood that had ever flowed, and was flowing inside her full-bodied now. Entering into the hills, she rose into a golden green light that merged into the Sun, the fire of Creation, that ultimate energy, the shakti. Then slowly she fell back into the moonlit night where a million stars shimmied, everything radiant with its own fire, everything basking in epiphany.

She felt her own glow warming the night, as she walked on.

Janine Canan, poet and psychiatrist, graduate of Stanford and New York University School of Medicine, resides in Sonoma, California. She is the author of a dozen poetry collections, including In the Palace of Creation: Selected Works 1969-1999 and Changing Woman. She translated the German poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler in Star in My Forehead. She edited the award-winning anthology, She Rises like the Sun: Invocations of the Goddess by Contemporary American Women Poets, as well as The Rhyme of the Ag-ed Mariness: Last Poems of Lynn Lonidier, and Messages from Amma: In the Language of the Heart. Janine’s stories, Journeys with Justine, illustrated by Cristina Biaggi, will soon be out. She is currently poetry editor for Awakened Woman, and you may visit her at www.JanineCanan.com.
Contact Janine.