Image by BL1961 via Flickr

As I drove through the Silverado Trail of Napa Valley on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I couldn’t help but reflect on the history that I’ve witnessed on this long trail to freedom. This quiet drive, through a landscape abundant with vibrant yellow mustard, inspired a toast within me to newly elected President Barack Obama…

As you read this, it may not have happened, yet; but by early Tuesday morning, the swearing in of Barack Obama, our forty-fourth President of the United States of America, will have happened.  (As I write this, it’s Monday afternoon. I’m just back from Napa, after visiting with Petite Sirah icon Carl Domani of Quixote Winery.)

As I headed toward Carl’s Hundertwasser-style winery, my thoughts drifted back to November 22, 1963. On that fateful day, I walked from high school to my grandfather’s office. Pipi (a childhood mispronunciation for Père, that I never outgrew) mournfully greeted me with the news that President John F. Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas. I was overwhelmed with grief, but that couldn’t even begin to compare to the next stunning event of my life, only 12 days later. My grandfather, the most important figure in my life at the time, suffered a massive coronary and passed away on December 3, 1963.

[The above photo is of Carl Domain’s Quixote Winery, one of the most delightful gems of Napa Valley; which gave my spirit more elevation, as I reached for my true thoughts on MLK Day 2009.]

With my grandfather’s passing, all of my youth drained from my spirit in the blink of an eye. As our nation continued to mourn for JFK, my life became suspended in time with an overwhelming reshuffling and scrambling of all that I had known. My grandfather was gone; and the problems of our nation were no longer mine, as I had my own cross to bear.

The Counter Culture, seemingly led by the Beatles, took us all in a new direction. This was along with Dr. King’s civil rights, peaceful demonstration movement, set against a backdrop of the Black Panthers’ clenched fists.  The Hells Angels were tearing it up, while the flower children were living and loving it up. Feminists all wanted to be heard and seen, so they were burning their bras. (How liberating was that!) The Vietnam War was making no sense at all playing out on the nightly news, while Janis Joplin wailed on “Cry, Cry, Baby.” And, Mick Jagger’s lips… Oh those lips… Good enough to become an icon, of sorts.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray, as he (and those behind him yet to be revealed) tried to snuff out the dream of freedom through integration for us all. The dream had to become part of our fabric, not just rhetoric, anymore. We now all had to put reaction into action, by telling our children about some of the most high-minded people in the history of our nation during our lifetime… Important people who gave their lives advocating for good, moral principles. (And, our children obviously listened.)

Then, on June 6, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy gave us all one more reason to grieve and mourn in ways none of us thought possible… But, we all moved through it.

Hope seemed to go out the window for about 40 years for me. Presidents have come and gone during that time. I’ve not had much hope, though, given the hsitroy… Just someone else in the position to get the job done (or not). In that time, I’ve not wanted to watch one more inauguration… And I haven’t. For me, it was all just blah, blah, blah. There’s not been anything even close to those times of magical, Counter Culture escapades.

When Barack Obama began to speak, however, I began to listen closely. His words, based on solid, grounded ethics, began to resonate on a familial vibration for me. I asked myself, “Is he for real?” As Obama continued to talk, and I continued to listen. Then, he went  on to become President-Elect Barack Obama.

What a great day for us all… All people of all races, creeds, diversity of every kind imaginable… What a great day for the world.

To President Obama, I toast you with my 2004 Carl Domani Quixote Petite Syrah by saying (and know that I’m toasting you with the best of the best for the best!):

My Dear President Obama,

Here’s to your health. We need you to remain as stress-free as possible; so, hug your children daily, get in some yoga, don’t forget to pat the dog, and love Michelle like crazy.

Here’s to your safety.  Your ideologies are so high-minded that I can only wish you the absolute best security… Not just for you and your family, but for all of us on this planet, as we face global warming, world hunger, world war, and world greed.

Here’s to you finding the exact kind of diplomacy that will diffuse religious fanatics, who justify their need to kill or be killed in the name of God. (Can God really be that radical in the way He handles his problems? I thought it was Mother Nature who welded the heavy sword.)

May you not get a full head of white hair in your journey, and may you land on your feet!

God bless you and your family.

Congratulations. It’s been a long time coming!