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Dandelion Wine Rewound

Dandelion Wine
Dandelion Wine
Dandelion Wine

KPCC's Molly Peterson, assigned to test Kindle, rediscovers a classic of summer.

Molly Peterson, KPCC's Environment Reporter, writes:

I owe John a debt of thanks this week.

I'm reviewing the KindleDX for CyberFrequencies. Adrift in the sea of Amazon's Kindle store, I Tweeted for help. The float John tossed me was Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine." Queena Kim (Off-Ramp and CF producer) tells me he re-reads it every year.* (An aside: I approve wholeheartedly of re-reading things every year; mine is "Harriet the Spy," "Hamlet," "The Odyssey," Julian Barnes' "A History of the World in 10½ Chapters," and Gatsby. Rereading helps me mark my own changes. You should try it, too.)

Anyway, I hadn't read "Dandelion Wine" in a dozen years, a dozen and a half.

I DO remember balefully looking out my suburban window and wishing it were a cupola, once I looked that word up, and wishing the world would do what I told it to, like Douglas Spaulding. I've never forgotten Mr. Sanderson and the Royal Crown Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Tennis Shoes. But it was Off-Ramp, and Rabe, who taught me to claim Ray Bradbury for Los Angeles. (I'm getting an education in the library here, like Bradbury did, though far less diligently, and probably with more late fees.) And it is in Los Angeles, this year, that I did a story about TreePeople's demonstration cistern, and the idea that people should have rain barrels. So this passage struck a different chord this time 'round:

"Ready now, the rain barrel!"

Nothing else in the world would do but the pure waters which had been summoned from the lakes far away and the sweet fields of grassy dew on early morning, lifted to the open sky, carried in laundered clusters nine hundred miles, brushed with wind, electrified with high voltage, and condensed upon cool air. This water, falling, raining, gathered yet more of the heavens in its crystals. Taking something of the east wind and the west wind and the north wind and the south, the water made rain and the rain, within this hour of rituals, would be well on its way to wine.

Douglas ran with the dipper. He plunged it deep in the rain barrel. "Here we go!"

The water was silk in the cup; clear, faintly blue silk. It softened the lip and the throat and the heart, if drunk. This water must be carried in dipper and bucket to the cellar, there to be leavened in freshets, in mountain streams, upon the dandelion harvest.


I wondered, as I read it, what else would fall from the sky now in Los Angeles. Our rain picks up nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide before making its way into the barrels (and I'll be visiting some barrels in Mar Vista later this month, I hope). Those nasty gases are in the atmosphere courtesy my car, and yours, and other polluters regulated by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. I'm conscious of that now in a way I wasn't last time. Does it wreck the book? Nope. Bradbury's vivid writing lets me imagine my way into the skies, where the east wind and the west wind and the north and south give something to the blue-silk water that will be leavened in freshets (a wonderful word, freshets). And my imagination gives life to that water; makes it true, if only for an instant, if only in my mind. But something that feels that true, that way, might become true, for more than a minute, another way. Maybe that's why Dandelion Wine seems less sad, this time. (And dandelion wine seems more drinkable.) Maybe this is how I'm different THIS rereading.

I've got no cream-sponge tennis shoes. But as I thought about rain barrels, and Los Angeles, and Bradbury, my feet rocked back and forth in my sandals.

"Tom...does everyone in the world...know he's alive?" "Sure. Heck, yes!" The leopards trotted soundlessly off through darker lands where eyeballs could not turn to follow. "I hope they do," whispered Douglas. "Oh I sure hope they know."

So: thanks Rabe. And, Ray B.

*Note: I TRY to re-read it every summer, on advice from my old friend Bob. I'd be a better person if I did. -- John


Ray Bradbury giving a talk before Saturday's performance of his three-act play, "Yestermorrows," taken from three short stories: A Device Out of Time, The Cistern, and The Meadow. It's at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena until September 5th.

Before the talk, they showed a video from July 20, 1969 in which Walter Cronkite introduced Mike Wallace, who interviewed Ray the evening Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

(Note to sensitive persons: Bradbury is a little salty in the video, but he's in great form.)

Thanks to John King Tarpinian who sent us the video link.