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Lessons learned

We humans tend to be slow learners.

All of us have stories about what and when we’ve learned something — maybe it was when we learned elementary math, a historical story, not to walk on thin ice or, perhaps, most importantly, what kind of person we are. We learn these lessons of life and they guide us forever.

What puzzles many of us is why those other people are such darn slow learners! Right? We learn lessons fast so why doesn’t everyone else learn at our pace? What saves us from being self righteous stinkers is a walk through our life and how and when we learned something. For instance…

While in college (good old Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD — yep, I’m an Augie Doggie!), I took enough biology classes to earn a minor in the discipline. Do I know a lot about biology after a half dozen college classes? No! But, I learned a few things about the human anatomy and nature to guide me along the way. But, there’s so much to learn about the things of life that might tell us a college minor means … nothing.

I am a bit informed about trees and, as I walked along a street, I noticed an interesting looking tree and stopped to investigate — that, I learned in biology classes. The tree wasn’t very tall, had longish thin leaves but something else caught my eye. Were they hops hanging on the limbs?

The seed pods looked like hops, but they weren’t hops. I didn’t recognize the bark of the tree and had to know. Fortunately, I know someone who is a horticulturalist and I was soon in conversation with her. I described the tree to her and sent her a picture of it. She said she would investigate — there’s that biology training kicking in again — and get back to me.

While waiting for her response, I realized the hop looking seed pod on the tree got me to thinking about a nice beer. Well, it’s fall and that means it’s time for an Octoberfest Märzen from Schell’s Brewing. I pulled the cap and poured the light aromatic German Festbier into my glass.

I try very hard to remember the organoleptic qualities of a beer and this particular beer took me back to my time in Germany and the spectacular brews I tasted there. This Märzen is light on the taste, nicely sweet with a bit of hops at the finish. A perfect beer during this fall season.

But those hop looking seed pods kept popping up in my head and it wasn’t long before my knowledgeable friend gave the results of her research.

The tree is an Eastern Hophornbeam tree. Hophornbeam? Never heard of it and I was thrilled to know the tree’s identity and to realize my minimal training at least got the hops part of it right. A little knowledge goes a long way.

Learning is like walking along the path of life. As a child, you know nothing and rely on others to teach and save you. As a teenager, life gets murkier and, although you think you know more (especially than your parents), you are caught in the in-between years of knowing. Then, young adulthood appears and you know your stuff, right? Then, maybe marriage and parenthood, and good Lord, what’s going on?

After those exciting adventures, you enter your mature years and, although you can draw upon your experiences, you realize there’s still a lot to learn — that’s called wisdom. I ran into that phase with a bottle of Bootlegger White Wine from Big House Wine Company. I liked the light tartness of the wine and how it lingers on your tongue. According to the label, the wine is a blend of non-traditional varieties but what are those non-traditional varieties?

I searched and couldn’t find them so I just enjoyed the tasty and citrus tasting wine. Perhaps the wine company is hiding their sources because, after all, it is a bootlegger wine!

Learning came again to me in a bottle of Prairie Star Table Wine from Falconer Vineyards. The label has minimal information but said it was made in the “Chardonnay style.” Hmmm…

It was a white wine so I chilled it a bit. That was a mistake. It tasted weak and thin with very little flavor. Learning from my mistake, I left the bottle out overnight and tasted it 24 hours later. It was a different wine!

Suddenly there was the chardonnay aroma and creamy taste. It is now a favorite of mine and I wish it could be shared with you.

As a number of folks have told me over the years, never stop learning.

Words to live by…

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