Dandelion Wine

I used to eat wild berries. This is the kind of statement that gets folks today squeezy. Were you really okay after eating wild berries? Yes. You sample one and then another if the first felt okay. Leave it at that and then a few days later, if you haven’t spent the preceding few days heaving up your insides, go for it again. Yet, every time I try to eat one, the husband grabs my arm and looks at me accusingly. The daughter twirls her eyes at the rebellious mother and berry eating becomes another adventure that is reflective of my wild youth.

In other news, I read an excellent book, Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury. Dandelion Wine is essentially a book of a boy’s summer in a small sized town. The first time he realizes that he is alive. Alive in a way he can observe the smells of summer, relate to the activities the hot sun brings with it, deduce what relationships mean, deal with the pain of seeing a childhood friend move, and how we need a sense of community. In this short book of related short stories, there emerges a brilliant, simple narrative of a 12 year old boy, Douglas Spaulding.

In one story, Grandpa Spaulding realizes that Bill Forrester, their young gardener, who is training up to be a journalist one day, buys a particular variety of grass that only grows to a certain height and then stops, thereby making a lawn mower redundant. (Luckily, no such grass exists to this day.) It is just a pretty lawn requiring very low maintenance. Grandpa is shocked at Bill for considering buying something that inches out the clovers and dandelions which means there will be no bees or butterflies in the garden. He goes on a tirade saying that this is the problem with the younger generation.

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He tells a stunned Bill that he wants nothing to do with the grass till he dies, for he likes mowing the grass. He likes the joy in small things. The problem with the younger generation, he says, is that they hop from one big thing to another and find methods to get rid of all the small things that fill the day. He tries to explain to him that one day he would go crazy trying to find little things to fill his day.

“Lilacs on a bush are better than orchids. And dandelions and devil grass are better! Why? Because they bend you over and turn you away from all the people and the town for a little while and sweat you and get you down where you remember you got a nose again. And when you’re all to yourself that way, you’re really yourself for a little while; you get to thinking things through, alone. Gardening is the best excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are. Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is akin to Atlas letting the world spin easy on his shoulder. As Samuel Spaulding, Esquire, once said, ‘Dig in the earth, delve in the soul’. Spin those mower blades, Bill, and walk in the spray of the Fountain of Youth. End of lecture. Besides, a mess of dandelion greens is good eating once in a while.”

I haven’t eaten Dandelion stems though – time to try some freshly washed ones from the backyard. I like the way Grandpa Spaulding thinks.

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I just need to remind myself of Grandpa Spaulding’s wise words when I am moaning in the kitchen doing the after dinner cleanup.

Published in 1957, this story’s theme resonates on multiple levels. Today, we find other distractions to fill our day. We graze on Facebook, we try the pulse of Twitter, we farm with the flick of a finger on Farmville. Which brings me to the next lovely topic on The Happiness Machine in Dandelion Wine.

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