Food and Coffins

There are a variety of different schools of thought when it comes to feng shui.  I practice Compass School Feng Shui, which is directly connected to the compass directions of the earth.  Under the Compass School, there are two kinds of feng shui.  I am certified in Yang House Feng Shui, which is feng shui for the living.  But there is also what is known as Yin House Feng Shui; feng shui for the deceased.   Consultants certified in Yin House work primarily with funeral homes and cemeteries in planning the ideal environment for rest of the dead, as well as creating a serene place for the living to deal with the departure and separation of loved ones. This also includes finding the right coffin for the individual, as this is the main environment for the deceased’s body.

There are many cultures and individuals who have very distinct plans for the type of coffin they would like.  On my recent trip to San Francisco, I visited the De Young Museum and was astounded by what I saw around a corner:  A coffin in the shape of a cocoa pod.   Beginning in the 1950’s in the Accra section of Ghana, an artist and craftsman by the name of Seth Kane Kwei began making custom coffins, each specified to the wishes of its future occupant.  The cocoa pod below was commissioned from Kwei in 1970, when Ghana was one of the world’s leading cocoa distributors.   The one pictured below is on permanent display at the De Young.

Each one is made using various soft woods native to Ghana, and then formed into a cylinder-canoe shape.  Artisans then craft the vessel using European furniture construction techniques to the client’s specifications, taking sometimes three months to complete.  Each coffin is upholstered inside, usually with satin or velvet.  And many of these coffins are food or food-related items, the most popular being onions, cocoa pods, fish, chickens and boats.   The Southbank Centre in London has many of these unique coffins on display, although some are of British origin.   On display is a replica of a yet-to-be-used coffin, commissioned by a woman who wants to spend eternity inside an egg.   I love the symbolism of rebirth and purity that both the egg and the cocoa pod represent.   Unlike most of its counterparts, this one is made of elm.

Below is another version of the cocoa pod coffin, but in shades of yellow and green.  I love the symbolism that each of these caskets offers.  For example, the onion (pictured at top) was revered by the ancient Egyptians.  They believed that the various layers of the onion symbolized eternal life, sometimes burying Pharaohs and other royals with the revered vegetable.

Photos Courtesy of the Southbank Centre, London

For the wine connoisseur, this a large cork coffin, complete with a wine opener sticking out.  This was commissioned by the County of  Cork in Ireland.

This next  model looks pretty traditional from the outside, but it was the inside that moved me.  While I do not condone having coffins in one’s home under normal feng shui guidelines, I couldn’t help but be enamored with the Vinters Vessel.  Made by The Old Pine Box Company of Edgewood, New Mexico, they offer a beautiful all pine coffin with a wine rack inside.  The lower two-thirds of the box houses nineteen bottles of wine, and top third used as storage space for glasses.  When needed as a funerary box, the inside framework can be removed to create a free standing wine rack, so that one’s wine collection may be displayed.  Each casket comes with a hand-painted emblem with grapes and the Latin phrase  Sono Meus Vita, meaning Celebrate My Life.  This coffin retails for about $1400.00.   For more information, please check out their website   If  one wants to place this beautiful box inside their home, I suggest either a wine cellar or library, but make sure that it’s always filled with wine, and kept free of dust.

The Vinter’s Vessel.  Photo Courtesy of The Old Pine Box Company

As for myself, I’m not sure what kind of coffin – if any – I’ll be acquiring yet.  But if I had to select a food-shaped one, I would probably go with a man-sized bottle of Louis Jadot Beaujolais,  mostly due to the delicious taste of the wine and the prettiness of the label.

Victorian Los Olivos

The 1880s were a time of tremendous growth in California, with people immigrating here from the East, as well as various parts of Europe.  One Easterner who believed his future was in California was Alden March Boyd.  Due to health issues, he was forced to drop out of college.  He visited Europe, as well as various locales in The Sunshine State before purchasing a small ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Wishing to improve the quality and landscape of his home, he planted an estimated five thousand olive trees, calling his estate Rancho de Los Olivos.  The name had a nice sound to it, and when the Pacific Coast Railway completed their line extension through the area in 1887, they decided to call the town Los Olivos.  Although more commonly known nowadays for its wineries rather than olives, the picturesque town is thriving with tourists and elegant architecture.  Most Victorian dwellings have high ceilings – usually around 9′ to 10 tall’.  The added ceiling height helps to regulate indoor temperatures.  It also, from a feng shui standpoint, helps to better circulate the flow of chi (energy) within the indoor environment.   Many of the new condo and apartment buildings being constructed today have returned to using historic design elements – including 9′ ceilings.   Those Victorians knew what they were doing.   Most modern ceiling heights are 8″, which is not bad.  But 9″ is more optimal for chi flow.

On my recent trip to Los Olivos, I visited the Qupe/Verdad/ Ethan Tasting Room.  Housed in a beautiful Victorian style building (above), the wines here were rich and luscious. This is a family business, with the patriarch of the family, Bob Linquist, as creator of Qupe Vineyards (pronounced cue-pay), while his wife Lousia makes the Verdad label, and his son Ethan makes – you guessed it – the Ethan label.   As impressed with the wine as I was, I was really taken with the layout of the tasting room.  They use a variety of vintage design styles here, especially focusing on that of Gustave Stickley.   A furniture designer, Stickley visited Europe in 1898, where he was introduced to the Arts and Crafts movement of the era.  The Arts and Crafts movement was somewhat of a rebellion against mass production, focusing more on products that were hand constructed by small groups or individuals rather than in factories.  The design style features simplistic lines and influences from natural surroundings.  Here at Qupe, it can be seen in many ways, from the classic mission style furniture, to the elegant Qupe motif of a poppy.   As you can see, wood and fire are the dominate elements used in the tasting room decor.  Nostalgic reproduction lamps act as a perfect example of fire energy, with the light green walls representing wood.  The wood furniture and bar are beautiful to behold.  I also really liked the carved front door, and the side table that uses a wine barrel end as its top surface.

As I meandered through the space, enjoying the tastings of the select wines I sampled, I noticed a bookshelf of wine.  I immediately felt comfortable and at home.  Of the wines I had, my two favorites were the Verdad 2009 Tempranillo, and the Verdad 2007 Tempranillo.  Both held a mellow and spicy appeal that warmed my soul.   A bottle of the latter came home with me.  The Qupe 2010 Viognier was also intriguing.

A private  chamber in the back provides more intimate tastings on the weekends.  Keeping true to the Arts and Crafts theme, I noticed a cunning wine rack made from barrel slates and reclaimed wood.  Not only it is green in its design, I’m guessing it’s also handcrafted locally, and fits in perfectly with the Stickley style.  I would have this in my home.

In feng shui folklore, the poppy is a symbol of romance and loyalty between lovers.   Displaying two together, especially in hues of red or orange, can help to draw romance to an area.  Poppies also symbolize sleep and rest.  Upon the suggestion of wine connoisseur Ann Johnson, Bob Linquist settled on the poppy motif in the window above to symbolize Qupe Wines.  Found in a vintage design book of the Stickley School of Design, the motif was meant to be embroidered on bed linens to help one sleep.   And Qupe is the Chumash word for poppy.    The elegant poppy motif is also on their over-sized wine glasses, which are available for purchase, or as a gift with a new wine club membership.

If you happen to be in the Los Olivos area, I highly suggest visiting the white Victorian house of Qupe/Verdad/Ethan Wines.  Unlike poppies, their wine will not put you to sleep – but could help to transport you to a more nostalgic time.

Qupe /Verdad / Ethan Tasting Room

2963 Grand Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441

805 686-4200

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 5:00