This is the Life: Five days in September

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A friend who regularly takes in garage sales told me recently he always asks people who are obviously moving away why they are leaving. One answer that stuck out in his memory, he said, was a fellow who told him there isn’t enough going on here. Huh?

I heard that story on day three of a stretch of five evenings that took us out of our house. I’m a stay-at-home kind of guy, so to get me out the house for that many nights takes a lot.

The streak began on Thursday evening with a very intimate, and quite wonderful, concert at the Creston zendo on Regina Street. Those who don’t know better probably assume the building constructed in the last year is a garage. It is, in fact, a Zen meditation centre, complete with basement accommodation for visiting students. The resident monk, Kuya Minogue, and her partner, Rita Scott, are two extraordinarily committed Crestonites — they volunteer their time, energy and expertise to numerous organizations and they are also eager to see the zendo used for more than its intended purpose.

About 40 people (Creston’s “A-list”, Kuya joked the next day) took their seats Thursday evening for a concert presented by pianist Audrey Johnston and cellist Sophia Smith. The two have been performing together for a while and, with the opportunity to play in an acoustically beautiful and intimate room, skipped their usual Prince Charles Theatre venue. Their concert was one that left those in attendance smiling. When Kuya and Rita were in the planning and construction stages of the zendo — it is based on traditional Japanese building methods — they surely couldn’t have foreseen that the building would be put to such a different, and very satisfying use.

On Friday night we savoured a meal we had been dreaming of for several weeks, ever since Kootenay Thai Restaurant owner Anthony Kwan announced a special tasting menu that features eight different Thai dishes and four Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery selections. We enjoy choosing wine that will enhance the meals we prepare at home but it was a real treat to just sit back and leave the driving to Anthony and his staff. Each of the four wines — Pinot Gris, Gewurz-traminer, Rose and Pinot Noir — worked beautifully with the dishes they accompanied and we left feeling like we had been transported to another land for a couple of hours.

Saturday night belonged to the Kings of Kitchener, the popular musical trio that has been wowing audiences at the Wynndel Coffee House and other venues for the last few years. On the occasion of the release of their first compact disk, Mike Mitchell, Neil Ostafichuk and Ted Bryant, scheduled a party in the curling lounge at the community complex. The sold-out venue was abuzz with anticipation. The Kings play an eclectic and highly energetic style of music that ranges from bluegrass to blues to rock and roll. And the group did not disappoint. After a rousing warm-up set by a pair of friends, the trio took to the stage and tore the place apart for the next 90 minutes, keeping toes tapping and bodies swaying for the entire time. Those who attended won’t soon forget the concert.

Since Baillie-Grohman winery started construction, we have got to know owners Bob Johnson and Petra Flaa, and to admire the dedication with which they have shown in their desire to create the best wines possible in their Erickson winery. A large part of the winery’s early success can be attributed to winemaker Dan Barker, who arrived late last week to supervise Baillie-Grohman’s third harvest and vintage. Barker runs his own business, Moana Park Winery, in New Zealand and has earned a stellar reputation, winning awards in competitions around the world. We visited the Johnson and Flaa home on Sunday night to welcome Barker back to Creston, where he will be busy in the vineyard and winery for the next three months. Dan’s wife, Kaylea, accompanied him on this trip so she could enjoy a bit of a holiday with Dan before she returns home and he gets down to work. Dan’s a giant of a man, very genial and incredibly knowledgeable, and we are lucky to have him ply his trade in Creston for a few months each year.

Our five remarkable evenings wrapped up on Monday night, when we attended the first of eight movie presentations by the Friends of the Cinema, a group I helped found several years ago. Our first selection for the 2011-2012 season was Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary by Werner Herzog. Herzog was allowed to film in the rarely opened caves because he has a reputation as one of the world’s great filmmakers. The film allowed his audience to experience the Chaudet Cave and its 30,000-year-old artwork, presented with all of the depth of thought which Herzog fans now take for granted. “To call the movie fascinating is akin to calling the Grand Canyon large,” said one reviewer.

Our five-evening odyssey into food, wine, friendship, music and art was satisfying, stimulating, edifying. Not enough going on in Creston? Harrumph.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.