Cherry Wine

January in Ohio is about as different from India as you can get.  I’ve recovered enough from jet lag to dive into tasks put on hold to prepare for Kerala.   Time to bottle up some wine!


5 Gallons Ready to Go.

This job requires many steps.  In the hopes someone out there is interested in how it is done, here goes.

First, wash all the wine bottles you’ve been collecting from friends over the last few months.


Wine Bottles in Sink

Next, sterilize them.  I use Campden tablets.


Sterilzed Wine Bottles

Set up your work station with a siphon tube and get ready to suck.


Siphon Tube With Empty Bottle

Once all the bottles are full to the bottom of the neck, prepare for corking.


Corking wine

Although I’m the one who actually makes the wine,  hipster-hubby Joel traditionally does all the sucking and corking.    Division of labor arises naturally over the course of a long marriage, I guess.  I usually soak the corks for 24 hours in boiling water and Campden tablets.  This makes driving the corks home a lot easier.


Testing For Leaks

 Once corked, it’s a good idea to lay all the bottles on their sides to check for leaks.  These sealed perfectly.

It’s our habit to only make wine from fruit we’ve either foraged or grown ourselves.  This often means availing ourselves of fruit which would otherwise go to waste in other people’s yards.  This year, we were lucky enough to procure a decent amount of cherries and peaches.


Cherry and Peach Wine Gift Bottles

We’ll be dropping these off as a thank you to our generous donors some time this week.  There’s a profound sense of prosperity when you’ve got a wine rack full of home brew in the basement.  Like Gurudeva said, “Life is meant to be lived joyously!”


Enstasy Retreat: Kerala, India

After six immensely full, dense days, I have returned from the Enstasy Retreat held at the Karakom Lakeside Resort in Kerala, India.

To say that our accommodations were luxurious is an understatement.

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Room interior

The bedroom was air-conditioned and supremely comfortable.

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Outdoor shower, Kumarakom Lake Resort, Kerla, India

There was an lovely outdoor shower….

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Back door in wash room.

…and a back door mysteriously labeled “do not open.”

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South Indian bedroom mural

Art was everywhere, including this lovely mural, full of various deities.

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Brass locking mechanism.

A hand-made brass locking mechanism operated via an old-fashioned key graced the front door.   Having visited manufacturing operations in India in the past, I can say that this literally may been made in someone’s backyard.  It was highly effective, whatever the source, as I managed to accidentally imprison my roommate with it.  Lucky for me, Mary Hill is a plucky, resourceful soul who managed to free herself with a bit of luck and an adventurous crawl through the bushes.  Forgive me, Mary!

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Yoga mat and bag

Every morning gifts mysteriously appeared on our beds.

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View through back door to swimming pool/canal

A great attraction was back door access to a lovely tiled pool which snaked throughout the complex.  I managed to get away for a peaceful solitary swim at least once.

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Boat, canal and seating

There were places to sit and enjoy the view literally everywhere.  Many sweet moments were spent meeting new people and experiencing oneself in a new way.

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Ladies applying henna designs

The first day offered many delights, including a pop-up market and the opportunity to acquire a temporary henna tattoo.  I declined but most of the ladies went for it.

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Wooden Boat

In our rare moments of free time it was possible to meander through a fairy tale landscape of old wooden boats….

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Wooden bridge with waterway

slow-moving streams…..

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Hanging flower lamps with luggage

…and hanging floral lamps.

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Instruction Tent

Most teaching occurred in a tent set up especially for us.

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Instruction Tent Break Time

Breaks were few but welcome when they came.

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Dandapani with Chrissie

Dandapani made himself available for one-on-one interaction and instruction, but I mostly left him alone.

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Aurun Satgunasingam with Fiance, Becky Sterrett

One of the sweetest parts of the trip was spending time with Arun and Becky.  Becky Sterrett is like a daughter to us.  It was so good to see her!

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Nirmala, also known as “Ma”

Another highlight was spending time with Becky’s soon-to-be Mother-in-law, Nirmala Satgunasingam.  Nirmala’s life spans the time of riding bullock carts and grinding grain by hand to the modern world of Perth, Australia.  She is a highly educated lady, a living link to traditional Hindu life and a sweet, generous soul.   How lucky I am to have been in her company!

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Reed-mat roofed boat

There was a lot of fun to be had along with the instruction.  One day we took a boat ride on this woven-palm-leafed-covered boat.

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Boat Ride With Moustaches

Dandapani required us to wear fake moustaches during the ride.  It made him look like Gandhi….

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Auntie Bhakti With Moustache

…but the rest of us just looked silly.

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Lakeside Kerala Restaurant

We were taken to this traditional restaurant nestled beside the water-hyacinth-covered lake….

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Restaurant Roof

…and treated to a wonderful South Indian meal eaten, as per custom, with our fingers.  The food was served on a banana leaf and was, of course, delicious.

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Puja Room

One of the highlights of the trip was instruction on how to properly do a simple puja.  Priest Janahan was a good, down-to-earth teacher with a hearty laugh and a friendly manner.   I adored him.

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Gurudeva in Puja Room

Overlooking it all was Gurudeva, Dandapani’s guru.

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Stone Lamp and Bridge

The entire experience was simply marvelous.

Much more took place on the retreat than was photographed here, notably a powerful puja performed by a group of priests from the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.  The puja made use of a Kumba, the coconut-in-clay-pot symbol of the individual ego self which we energized with Janahan’s assistance.  The priests took each of our coconuts in turn, blessed them and returned them to us.  We then took our pots to the river and offered the scented, blessed water contained within to the lake.  I walked away with a profound feeling of effervescence throughout the body.  My entire interior morphed into a gently moving stream of impossibly refined, subtle bubbles which swirled in soft eddies of living mist.

Intuition was sharpened during the retreat.  I generally knew what to do, how to do it and when.  This ranged from properly reading the room and choosing the right chants, to remaining social and open to other participants (this seldom happens in “real life”), to quickly disappearing and softening the pain of leaving Becky, to arriving early to reception for the airport shuttle (the driver was already there).  Strange things continued to happen on the way home.  My seat was the only one in which the movie screen didn’t work on the long flight from Dubai to JFK, (it began to work just as we touched down in New York), which helped preserve the Shakti of the retreat.  I also received the message that I should take a taxi rather than wait for Joel to pick me up, an intuition I didn’t follow.   As we had arranged, I phoned from New York at least a dozen times to signal I was on my way, but the line was always busy.  When I arrived in Columbus, he was not there.  Confused, angry and definitely tired, I finally connected via our ancient cell phone only to discover that I had told him to pick me up on the wrong day, Friday rather than Thursday!  He had an elaborate plan to greet me but, unfortunately, none of it came to pass.

I was destined to do this trip entirely by myself.