It’s not easy being a rationalist in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. On one side of the imaginary equation you have the incalculable preponderance of churches large and small petitioning for your heart and soul (not to mention a healthy percentage of your take-home pay); on the other side one meets incalculable members of various New Ageist cliques vying for your brain.
Add to this heady mix the planetary bodies, the moon and stars and, well, you get my drift...
There’s something about the moon, especially when it’s full and fecund, ready to explode with the what ifs of life on planet Earth. Some of us notice this lunar pull, as the moon floats gloriously into view over the eastern slopes of the Valley. And in the last few days, we have all witnessed the stunning brilliance of our moody sister above and have loved and laboured under her influence.
Some of your friends may have seemed a little out-of-character during this time. I know from retail’s front-lines that clients were more maniacal than usual. Commuters streaming through town, too, seemed particularly nettlesome and recklessly aggressive. Some of the folks amongst us with divided souls seemed especially tormented by the moon’s magnetic pull, with more than a few table-dancing ninnies making a mockery of themselves in local clubs and beer-parlours.
Which brings me to an unsettling chapter in the life of your favourite monologist, gentle reader.
Shortly before the turn of the present century, I was new to the Valley and desperately casting about for gainful employment. As Fate would have it, I cozied up to Stephen Cipes, the founder/proprietor at the World-renowned Summerhill Pyramid Winery, and thus began a brief consultancy gig that enlarged my life in more ways than I could imagine.
For those of you unfamiliar with Summerhill and its fabulous wines (their Ehrenfelser being one of my perennial favorites), you have to understand that Stephen is not your run-of-the-mill winemaker. The former Brooklyner had a vision when he arrived on our shores, spotted the perfect terroir for what would become Canada’s first organic winery, and erected a pyramid on the property in which to store and age his wines. Not just any pyramid, mind you. In Stephen’s words: “The Summerhill Pyramid is second only to the Great Pyramid of Egypt for alignment and precision.”
Now why would a guy go to the trouble that Stephen Cipes did, for a winery? Well, as Stephen explained to me, the pyramid has powers. Enter the pyramid and one would feel a distinct difference from the air outside; razor blades and knives, used over and over again would remain razor-sharp; and storing wines inside the cavernous pyramid would bring out the varietal character of the precious organic grapes to produce elixirs like the aforementioned Ehrenfelser and their award-winning sparkling wines.
Bollocks, I thought in confidence; but, damn it, I was in the presence of Stephen Cipes, and if you know Stephen only slightly, you know that he is a man with vision, conviction, and something not that common in these parts: Charisma.
“Listen, Jeffrey,” Stephen confided to me one afternoon in his office, “You’ve absolutely got to come to the next meditation in the pyramid. It’s gonna’ be great! And you’ll begin to understand what we’re up to here at Summerhill.” The capper was: “And it’s taking place on a full moon night when the planets are in alignment!”
On the night of the full moon and the meditation, I was ready. Having heard that precious metals are transmuted under the pyramid’s influence, I had along with me a bunch of rings, including the sad reminder of my first failed marriage and the hope that event might augur in a new, happier chapter in my life.
Padding into the great pyramid in our socks (shoes to be left at the door), we took our places seated on the floor of the candle-lit space. A Rubenesque medium standing behind an immense brass singing bowl with a wooden dowel instructed those present to remove their jewelry and place it beneath the pyramid’s apex. We all did as we were bid.
What followed was your standard meditation, Oms intoned to the continuous mellifluous drone of the singing bowl and a desired feeling of well-being conferred upon all assembled. What followed the meditation, however, was quite unexpected.
Leaving the pyramid in quiet single-file, I began to return my rings to their respective digits when I realized that there was no way in heaven or hell that my wedding ring would ever fit again. Leaning into my companion at the time, I whispered: “That’s weird. This thing doesn’t fit anymore. What should I do?”
My companion was as gob-smacked as I was when we heard a Voice from somewhere well behind us, a Voice that couldn’t possibly have heard my whisper: “Throw it into the vineyard!”
Quickly turning around to find the source of the Voice, no one seemed to take up the mantle of responsibility. And with that, I threw the ring full-throttle into the vineyard before us, just like that.
Around me I heard other voices: “Did you see that? ‘Dude threw a ring into the vineyard!” “See that lunatic -- he just threw away a gold ring!”
I felt immediately relieved once the bearer of such a grim past was disappeared from my possession. Totally irrational, I know; but I was at Summerhill. After the ring-toss, we assembled on the patio for an al fresco vegetarian buffet and forgot about our quotidian cares for awhile.
Until three weeks later.
Finding myself on the roof of a local law firm for one of those odious business-bob meet-and-greets, the host ran out of wine. As Fate would have it, I happened to have a bottle of Ehrenfelser in my car, and raced out to fetch it to keep the party going.
When I returned, a cooly elegant gal approached and requested a glass. I complied happily, and we drifted off to a corner to chat. As one does in these circumstances we chatted about our lives and recent doings and I launched into my recent pyramid experience at the winery. And at that exact moment when I was about to mention the Voice’s instructions, the gal grabbed my arm excitedly, almost jumping up and down, and admitted, “And you heard someone tell you to throw the ring in the vineyard!”
I was floored, of course. She continued, “I don’t know where I got the urge to say what I did, Jeffrey. It was like the words were simply pulled out of my soul.”
Fifteen years have passed since those events, and that gal happens to be Wendy, my constant companion through the intervening years. We haven’t left one another’s sides since.
So rationalism aside, know that with an open heart and an open mind, sometimes it’s amazing what a little moonlight can do. And to this day, I owe Stephen an immense debt of gratitude for opening my mind to the subtleties that a reasoning mind can simply not comprehend.
— Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com