“Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher.”–Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine)
I picked up a copy of Dandelion Wine the day I heard Ray Bradbury died. How fitting he should leave us on a day early in June.
I love Fahrenheit 451, and read it every ten or fifteen years to see how many more things from his imagination have come to pass, but I’d never read Dandelion Wine. In truth, I was searching for the Martian Chronicles, which I’d had a vague recollection of reading in junior high.
But what I got was Dandelion Wine. That evening I sat in my white wicker rocking chair, surrounded by red geraniums on my front porch, a glass of iced tea beside me and read:
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.
And then, four short chapters later, the setting up of the front porch:
On the third day of summer in the late afternoon Grandfather reappeared from the front door to gaze serenely at the two empty rings in the ceiling of the porch. Moving to the geranium-pot-lined rail like Ahab surveying the mild mild day and mild-looking sky, he wet his finger to test the wind, and shucked his coat to see how shirt sleeves felt in the westering hours. He acknowledged the salutes of other captains on yet other flowered porches, out themselves to discern the gentle ground swell of weather, oblivious to their wives chirping or snapping like fuzzball hand dogs hidden behind black porch screens. . . Sitting on the summer-night porch was so good, so easy and so reassuring that it could never be done away with.
There are more like this, a chapter on the sound and smell of the first grass being cut, exploits of the children running through the late summer nights. I’m not finished reading it yet, as I tend to start a lot of books at once :), but I’m loving the wonderful sensory descriptions of early summer. There’s nothing like sitting on your front porch or backyard in June, and reading about a front porch or backyard in June.
And so, one more, a toast to June on this last day:
It was a day in June, all lawn and sky,
the kind that gives you no choice
but to unbutton your shirt
and sit outside in a rough wooden chair.
And if a glass of ice tea and an anthology
of seventeenth-century devotional poetry
with a dark blue cover are available,
then the picture can hardly be improved.
I remember a fly kept landing on my wrist,
and two black butterflies
with white and red wing-dots
bobbed around my head in the bright air.
I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more
than to be in the moment–but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one,
or any of those that were scuttling by
seemed perfectly right for me.
Plus, I was too knotted up with questions
about the past and his tall, evasive sister, the future.
What churchyard held the bones of George Herbert?
Why did John Donne’s wife die so young?
And more pressingly,
what could we serve the vegetarian twins
we had invited for dinner that evening
not knowing then that they travel with their own grapes?
And who was the driver of that pickup
flying down the road toward the single railroad track?
And so the priceless moments of the day
were squandered one by one–
or more likely several thousand at a time–
with quandary and pointless interrogation.
All I wanted was to be a pea of being
at rest inside the pod of time,
but that was not going to happen today,
I had to admit to myself
as I closed the blue book on the face
of Thomas Traherne and returned to the house
where I lit a flame under a pot
full of water where some eggs were afloat,
and, while they were cooking,
stared into a little oval mirror by the sink
just to see if that crazy glass
had anything particular to say to me today.
In the Moment–Billy Collins