A dandelion

By Mary Bok | Aug 04, 2010

A dandelion in full seed, ready to let go and let God into the warmth and moisture of this glorious day. A hundred or more seeds to each bloom, all ripe, dry and ready to go, each one equipped with a tiny set of perfect wings and an inner knowing that will navigate the seed to its own wherever. Perhaps a spot of moisture will receive the little thing and invite it to embed its roots into the thick black soil already rich with the wisdom of the years, the growth of summers gone, and the hope of a spring to come. This tiny thing will have grown through all its stages by then and will be ready to push up through the darkness of the early spring and spread out its delicious green leaves to bask in the sun. The brilliant yellow blooming will come later, if the old neighbor lady doesn't get there first with her sharp paring knife and wicker basket. She gathers those green leaves for her family's dinner, all cooked up with a slab of salt pork or a few slices of bacon. Some of her kids think they are pretty disgusting, all greasy and bitter, not fit for man nor beast, but she is from another place and another time and she knows a spring tonic when she sees one. Dandelions bring to her health a deep, seasonal joy.

My dear Ada used to gather the blossoms, a little later in the summer, and when she had enough to fill a large ceramic crock, which we kept on a shelf in our cellar, she would add a certain amount of sugar and some fresh water and who knows what else. Then she'd cover the crock with a clean, linen cloth and carry the whole thing back down to the cellar.

There, in the damp, still and holy darkness, the mixture would sit for many weeks, and, at an appropriate time, Ada would go down to inspect her brew and give it a little stir. If she were in a very friendly mood, she might take one of us with her, and once she even let me do the stirring. I'll never forget it. The thick concoction smelled sweetly, the way dandelions smell when you wear a chain of them around your neck, but there was a strong overtone of something I much later learned was alcohol. Ada was making dandelion wine. Nobody ever told us exactly what she was doing, because they didn't want us telling our friends and letting the secret out into the community that had its own rules and regulations about things like that.

Well, anyway, when Ada was satisfied that her wine had worked long enough in the lonely dark, she brought it back up to the kitchen and got her husband, Howard, to help her strain the brew through four or five layers of fresh cheesecloth, which we could buy at any fabric store.

A nasty, brownish goo collected on the surface of the cloth, but the liquid that poured through a funnel and into a large glass jug was a magical gold color and looked like bottled up sunshine. Or, perhaps, the nectar of the gods, if gods ever drank wine, that is. I never really knew for sure, but everyone agreed that Ada's wine was fit for the very best of them.

My dad was usually the first to taste the year's finished product. Ada respected his judgment and she knew he loved wine more than just about anything, so, of course, she asked him to do the honors -- to take the first sip, so to speak -- and he was pleased to oblige her, whenever the spirit moved him to do so, even in the middle of the night when he assumed everyone else in the family was sound asleep, he was still wide awake and might get to thinking about the great treasure in his own cellar. He probably never guessed that often I, too, was awake and could hear him tiptoeing down the back stairs on his way to visit the wine in the cellar.

So, now, all these years later, I look at this little dandelion blossom and its seeds that will soon be growing in the fields near to our house, and remember my father and Ada, who did her best to take care of us all. They have both died now and are most certainly in another realm, a place of everlasting green fields, blue skies and gentle breezes. I dream sometimes that Ada gathers dandelion blossoms and greens in that place and continues to do what she did on this earth and I hope my dear, old dad is close enough by to enjoy the celestial fruits of her labor.

May they both rest in peace.

 

 

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