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Wine is Bottled Poetry, Said RL Stevenson. But When Did it Become Bottled Summer?

Reading Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion Wine’, you’d fall in love with dandelions and their distilled essence. A word of warning: Any imitation of this wine outside the fictional world could only be a pale imitation of the original in the novel.

Manu Remakant |

Updated:December 24, 2017, 12:52 PM IST
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Wine is Bottled Poetry, Said RL Stevenson. But When Did it Become Bottled Summer?
Wine is bottled poetry, said R.L Stevenson. But when did it become bottled summer? (Photo courtesy: AFP)
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Take a swig of this wine on a cold January morning. The wine — made out of thousands of golden yellow petals of dandelions that bloomed in summer — must be savoured only in the cold, if you want to know her well.

“Dandelion wine.”

“The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered.”

Reading Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion Wine’, you’d fall in love with dandelions and their distilled essence. A word of warning: Any imitation of this wine outside the fictional world could only be a pale imitation of the original in the novel.

Ray takes us on a nostalgic trip to a childhood filled with the heady world of dandelion flowers in his novel.

For most wines, there is a season to gather the flowers of fruits, another to distil, and yet another to break the seal of the bottle and savour the drink. Ray’s special vintage day for opening the sealed dandelion bottle is already scheduled on a January day “with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks or months”.

Wine is bottled poetry, said R.L. Stevenson. But when did it become bottled summer?

Take a swig of this wine on a cold January morning. The wine — distilled from thousands of golden yellow petals of dandelion, bloomed in summer — must be savoured in the cold if you want to know her well.

“Dandelion wine.”

“The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered.”

Read Ray Bradbury’s novel, ‘Dandelion Wine’ and you’d fall in love with dandelions and their distilled essence. A word of warning: Any imitation of this wine outside the fictional world could only be a pale imitation of the original in the novel.

Ray takes us on a nostalgic trip into a childhood filled with the heady world of dandelion flowers in his novel.

For most wines, there must be a season to gather the flowers of fruits, another to distill, and yet another to break the seal of the bottle and savour the drink. Ray’s special vintage day for opening the sealed dandelion bottle is already scheduled on a January day “with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks or months”.

Why winter? Dandelion is distilled summer. So.

Douglas, the child who is also the hero of the story, has only distant memories of summer. But he knows that the bottle in the cellar contains “a summer of unguessed wonders.” In this freezing cold, he only has to tiptoe down in this dank twilight and reach up his fingertips to touch the warm season.

There sits in the cellar, row upon row, “with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of June sun glowing through the faint dust of skin,” the dandelion wine.

Dandelion wine.

“The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered.”

Ray insists that before you touch it, you must peer through a bottle of dandelion on a wintry day to enjoy the warm season inside. You will see “snow melted to grass, the trees were re-inhabited with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind. The sky will change from iron to blue.”

Summer is back! Right in winter.

“Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass,” Ray says you can change the season in your veins by raising the glass to your lips and tilting summer in. You’ll feel the sun trickling down your throat, and falling deep into the pit of your stomach with a burn.

Ray then muses over the kind of water that must flow into dandelion wine. Nothing else would do, but the crystal clear waters summoned from faraway lakes and “sweet fields of grassy dew,” lifted to the sky, charged with high voltage, condensed upon cool air and later rained down upon, carrying with them heavens in their crystals.

Use a dipper and gather water from a rain barrel for the making dandelion wine.

The water which has heavens locked in their crystals would become ‘silk in the cup, silk in the mouth – a clear faintly blue silk’. It is this water which is carried down to the cellar to be leaven in freshets.

Winter becomes too unbearable at times.

On one such night, when snow whirls fast, dizzying the world, stealing breath from gasping mouths, the grandma would disappear into the cellar to unseal a bottle of dandelion. Above her, there could be sneezings, wheezings, coughings, childish fevers and other ailments related to winter. But the grandma knows what to do to keep her little world warm and cozy.

She would then rise from the cellar “like a June goddess” holding something under her knitted shawl. With a bottle of dandelion wine she would visit every miserable room. “It was the medicine of another time.” She would pass the ailing rooms like an ice wagon trundling through avenues teemed with thirsty children.

Dandelion wine. Dandelion wine. Dandelion wine.

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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