October has long been my favorite month of the year, but August is a close second. It’s the month of my birthday, my dad’s birthday, and my parents’ anniversary. It’s the month in which the cicadas, crickets, and katydids practically scream their songs day and night. It’s a month full of steamy, hot days that force me to be still, conserve my energy, and just observe the world. August is a month of endings (summer vacation) and new beginnings (a chance for me to start another trip around the sun).
Every August since I was first introduced to the book in high school, I’ve read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine”. With every read, I glean something new from it. The story, if you don’t know it, is one in which a young boy (Douglas Spaulding) learns through the course of a summer that he is mortal. As he deals with the enormity of that realization — first with denial and anger, later with bargaining and depression, and ultimately with acceptance — life happens around him, including the daily pressing of dandelions into wine. The final full paragraph of the book is one of the most beautiful and symbolic endings I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read the book and don’t want to spoil it, skip ahead. Otherwise…
“June dawns, July noons, August evenings over, finished, done, and gone forever with only the sense of it all left here in his head. Now, a whole autumn, a white winter, a cool and greening spring to figure sums and totals of summer past. And if he should forget, the dandelion wine stood in the cellar, numbered huge for each and every day. He would go there often, stare straight into the sun until he could stare no more, then close his eyes and consider the burned spots, the fleeting scars left dancing on his warm eyelids; arranging, rearranging each fire and reflection until the pattern was clear…”
As Douglas realizes that his past remains alive in his memories, ready to be called back to mind by a simple glance at something tangible and present, he is comforted. I, too, am comforted by this thought. Ten years ago, I wrote a letter to Ray Bradbury in which I shared my love of his book and was delighted when he wrote back to me saying that it was one of his favorites, too. Now, several years after his death, I look at that letter and still arrange and rearrange “each fire and reflection” of him in my mind, grateful for the fleeting connection we shared.
Tonight I attended a memorial service for a relatively new friend of mine. Pam and her husband, Jerry, began attending my church just a few years ago and although I only knew her a short time before her death two weeks ago from cancer, she was a bright light in my life. Speaking with her was like staring “straight into the sun”. It was fitting, then, that there were sunflowers on the altar and printed on the mass cards at her service tonight. I will never look at a sunflower now without thinking of Pam, just like I can never see or read about dandelion wine without thinking of Bradbury’s character, Douglas.
August is a time of endings, but with every ending comes a new beginning. I’m sad that my brief time with Pam has ended, but so grateful that her new life has begun.
Peace, joy, and love,