Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: Chapter 21

OH!  To have had an audio tape!  I used to make my own tapes.  I read aloud late at night, staying slightly ahead of the students.  Dandelion Wine is my favourite book.  Take a listen, if you have 9 hours to spend, just sitting still, or while you’re working in your studio, just listen.  You will learn to take pause, if you let this book’s lessons sink through the tough shell that has become your busy life and settle on your heart.

This post is about Chapter 21 and Douglas’s loss of his dear friend, John Huff.  I guess if you are the daughter of a military man, this might even mean more.

Taking your time and noticing is what this post is all about.  As one pours on the years, one realizes that in order to slow things down, one needs to start noticing.

I was hot and sweaty and cleaning out the paint buckets that I had used with grade ones, painting that day, when I heard my cell phone ding.

IMG_7742Painting Kites

My friend, Michael, had sent a text that he’d like to drop by.  I thought immediately that we might go to the pond, with Max, and enjoy what was left of the beautiful day.  I rushed, swirling the pink water out of brushes and buckets, returned my tools to the storage closet and was out and on my way.

Mike was sitting on the steps when I arrived and Max’s nose was lifted, sniffing against the window.

A quick change into play clothes and we were off to the pond!  Michael patiently observed the life and light of the water, the clouds and the life surrounding this special place.  It was so nice to have a witness to Frank’s Flats and the place that I know so well.


Michael is always taking amazing photographs, but rarely appears in any of them.  I like that he looks out at the world!  No selfies for this guy!  So, on this outing, I would be witness to his life!

We enjoyed the explorations of baby coots. I took my photo of the bush. And then we were on our way for the next adventure.  Some time ago, I had seen one remarkable photograph on Michael’s social media archive.  He told me that it was taken at McKinnon’s Flats.  I asked if ever he went back, would I be able to join him?  This was the day.  Here’s the photograph that inspired the request!

Michael Collette Mackinnon's flats

Photo Credit: Michael Colette

I didn’t stay left on 22X and so we ended up going north on Stoney Trail.  That was okay!  Meant to be!  We began our slow enjoyable zig zag across the rural landscape, making our way, with ease, back south to McKinnon’s Flats.  I saw a bird I had never seen!  And the light and wonder of it all was very enjoyable.

The sandpiper…



Michael’s photograph….from this location…truly captured the magic!

Michael Collette 2

Photo Credit: Michael Collette

The panorama view that opened up as we began our descent into the valley, at river’s edge, was spectacular.  Next time, I will document that.  It took my breath away.

Once at the river’s edge, Michael pulled out our picnic food.  A refreshing potato salad filled with the flavours of fresh veg and lovely dressing…and an icy cold hibiscus drink, so refreshing!  Max observed, but was hungry to be free of his leash and to explore the water’s edge.  It wasn’t long until I did just that.


The stretch of walk we took, saw zillions of little moths lighting up the already-electric air.  We chatted about photography and light and the sky the entire way.  Out of nowhere about 75 striking white pelicans, hung on the air just above our heads.  I grabbed my camera and snapped this wee instant as a documentation of the memory, that in no way, captures the intensity of the moment.  We decided, standing still above the river, that this moment was meant just for the two of us…two good friends enjoying evening light.


In order to really gather up my life, I need to do this.  Slow down.  Watch light.  Treasure friendship, my children, my family.  Listen to music.  Make art. Write.

I am grateful for the inspired invitation to go for a Sunday drive on Friday.  Everything that I had planned for the evening, went out the window.  And it was exactly as it should be.  My life is a blessed life.

Slow down


I Don’t Know When I Became a Reader: A Post Written for Ray Bradbury

Ok…so…with the news of your lossRay Bradbury, I took pause.  I decided not to post right away because there was just so much that I wanted to say.  I hope that all of my former students will return, once again, to your masterpiece entitled Dandelion Wine.  It was when I read this book for the very first time that I think I became a reader.  I had read many books before this one.  In fact, I had first picked up The Illustrated Man, a compilation of eighteen short stories, tattoos that came to life on your character’s back.

For years, I have read your stories with my students.  The Lake was one of them and here is the story’s introduction.

The wave shut me off from the world, from the birds in the sky, the children on the beach,my mother on the shore. There was a moment of green silence. Then the wave gave me back to the sky, the sand, the children yelling. I came out of the lake and the world was waiting for me, having hardly moved since I went away.”

Of this story, Andrew Tolson of Maclean’s magazine writes,

“There’s no doubt that Bradbury fans, of which there are legions, all have a favourite short story. Mine is The Lake, a piece that oozes with sentimentality, rather than martians, about the heartbreaking realities that adulthood often holds.  It made me cry the first time I read it 20 years ago when I was in Grade 8, and the last time, too, a few years ago.”

I used several of your stories, over the years, to motivate the non-readers…to reach into the boys who just couldn’t stand to read…to appeal to the young ladies who were romantics and who valued your rich description.  Your works were as much psychological as science-fiction, causing us to think deeply about moral choices and to wonder what we might do in the case that we were ever confronted with the same dilemmas as you gave to your characters.

Douglas Spaulding, the protagonist in Dandelion Wine, created a philosophy of living that I have held onto faithfully since first reading the book.  I make daily observations of my life…and find the extraordinary in the ordinary.  For years, with kids, I called this ‘magic’.  When Douglas first took out his Ticonderoga pencil and a tablet, I invited my students to do the same.  Dated, front and back, the students kept a daily log of their ‘magic’.  I know that some of them cursed me that…I know for some, the magic was pure invention…but, in truth, I hope that something of that process appealed to them along the way.  I also hope that they will revisit Douglas’s summer as they begin their own summers, this year.

It very well could be a Ray Bradbury summer, this year!  Your books are now more than classics and they leave us with a huge message about both life and invention.  Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for writing persistently.

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.
— Tennessee Williams

The Box Garden by Carol Shields

There was a patter of rain on the roof late last night after I had turned in.  It has rained every night since coming to the cottage, but contrary to what one might think, it has become a welcome and calming sound…the rain and wind. By morning the sea breezes have dried the generous circle of deck and I step out, with arms wide open, thinking that yet again, I am queen for the day!

I pull the three homemade quilts up close to my chest.  I fluff and organize against the wooden headboard, my four pillows, their covers neatly edged with stitchery of one kind or another.  The sheets and pillows both feel like cool soft butter.

There is a warm light emitted from the lamp at my bedside and I read until I finish A Box Garden by Carol Shields.  Charleen is not the best of protagonists for me.  Carol Shields was a master of character-writing, but I fall in love with Charleen’s mother.  There is nothing better for women-readers than a Shields novel, even when less-widely read.  Given my present setting, the feeling of this place and the fact that I was holding in my hands a yellowed second hand book…and read it in one evening, just contributes to how well I will remember and love the book.  Sometimes what makes a book glorious is as much the experience of the book-reading as the story itself.

I love Brother Adam of the Priory…the one who writes the letters to Charleen.  I like that he writes to her and I like that he sends her the box garden.  I don’t like him so much for who he has been or becomes, but because of his love for grass growing, the great and wondrous expanse of green and what it does for the spirit.  Grass is used also in Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.  I remember and continue to treasure those chapters.  Shield’s book brings that back for me.