I have a blogging friend who is feeling just plain lousy from a cold or the flu - sniffling, sneezing, stuffy, achy, feverish, the works.
I told her I was sending some scent molecules of dandelion wine her way via cyberspace. In fact, I think we all could use some dandelion wine about now. Here in North Dakota, we are only 2/3 through winter. We desperately need a pick me up - an elixir or tonic, as it were.
I first learned about dandelion wine in Ray Bradbury's book by the same name.
"Dandelion wine", he wrote, "The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered."
Young Doug Spaulding, the book's main character, envisions, while helping pick and press the dandelions on a June day, that a precious bottle would be opened many months later on a day "with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks or months. " (That's what the winter of 2008-2009 has been for us!)
Anyone going down to his grandparents' cellar, thought Doug, would see the dandelion wine bottles on the shelves, "row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opening at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust." You could take a bottle and "Peer through it at the wintry day - the snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabitated (sic) with bird, leaf and blossom like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind. And peering through, color sky from iron to blue.
You could "Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in."
"Even Grandma," mused Doug, "when the snow was whirling fast, dizzying the world, blinding windows, stealing breath from gasping mouths, even Grandma, one day in February, would vanish to the cellar.
"Above, in the vast house, there would be coughings, sneezings, wheezings and groans, childish fevers, throats as raw as butcher's meat, noses like bottled cherries, the stealthy microbes everywhere.
"Then, rising from the cellar like a June goddess, Grandma would come, something hidden but obvious under her knitted shawl. This, carried to every miserable room upstairs-and-down, would be dispensed with aroma and clarity into neat glasses to be swigged neatly. The medicines of another time, the balm of sun and idle August afternoons, the faintly heard sounds of ice wagons passing on brick avenues, the rush of silver skyrockets and the fountaining of lawn mowers moving through ant countries, all these, all these in a glass.
"Yes," Doug imagined, "even Grandma, drawn to the cellar of a winter for a June adventure, might stand alone and quietly, in secret conclave of her own soul and spirit, as did Grandfather and Father and Uncle Bert, or some of the boarders, communing with a last touch of a calendar long departed, with the picnics and warm rains and the smell of fields of wheat and new popcorn and bending hay. Even Grandma, repeating the fine and golden words, even as they were said now in this moment when the flowers were dropped into the press, as they would be repeated every winter for all the white winters in time. Saying them over and over on the lips, like a smile, like a sudden patch of sunlight on the dark.
"Dandelion wine. Dandelion wine. Dandelion wine."
Don't those words make you wish you had a half dozen bottles of dandelion wine in your cellar? I hope that by printing these paragraphs, I have give you a whiff of summer, a sudden patch of sunlight. I hope I "changed the season in your veins" for just a moment.
I've actually tasted dandelion wine. While we were living in Langdon Dan and I and a friend took a Saturday afternoon road trip. Sitting at the bar in a tiny tavern in Wales, ND, we somehow got to talking about the book "Dandelion Wine."
The bartender perked up. "Dandelion wine?"he asked. "Wait right here." He went back to a storeroom and returned with a dusty bottle of dandelion wine which he opened and we sampled. Maybe it was because I had so loved Ray Bradbury's book, but that dandelion wine had a touch of magic to it.
While looking for images for this post, I learned that a winery right here in North Dakota makes dandelion wine:
The website says, "Just the yellow dandelion flowers are hand picked for this signature Midwestern prairie wine. A taste like a cross between a light chardonnay and corn on the cob, this wine has become a delicacy across the United States."
Hmm, like corn on the cob? I don't know if I'd like that in a wine. I think I'd rather try their Dakota Pear wine, or their Lilac wine - only if because of the Jeff Buckley song:
"I lost myself on a cool damp night
I Gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Under a lilac tree
I made wine from the lilac tree
Put my heart in its recipe
It makes me see what I want to see
and be what I want to be."
Getting back to "Dandelion Wine," the book, if reading these words didn't make you want to go out and borrow or buy this book, I don't know what will. Except maybe printing the first paragraph. Remember in my last post I spoke of memorable first lines? Well, here's a memorable first paragraph from a memorable book set in Green Town, Illinois, in 1928:
"It was a quiet morning, the town covered with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was warm and long and low. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer."