5/02/2012

Book Look - Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury


I first read Ray Bradbury's miracle of a book, Dandelion Wine, when I was 16, and I have read it every year since. Over time I continue to gain a deeper appreciation for these lovely, strange, often magical vignettes (more properly parables, each one with a little implied moral) that explore the nature of happiness, the magic of love and, above all, what it means to be alive. To me, the overarching intent of the book is to remind all us adults that:

* Being alive means maintaining a balance between Discoveries & Revelations and Ceremonies & Rites. Though the latter are important, binding us to our family & our community, our future & our past, it is Discoveries & Revelations that make us think, experience, change, and grow.

* Being alive means living in the present. Even if this means giving away the tokens of a beloved past, as happens in one particularly poignant tale.

* Being alive means being connected with the world - with family, neighbors, your community, the earth. It's no coincidence that the mysterious murderer haunting Douglas Spaulding's Childhood is called The Lonely One.

* Being alive means being able to experience happiness ... not only understanding the nature of happiness, but possessing the wisdom not to let yourself be tricked into pursuing something that can't/won't make you happy.

* Being alive means recognizing the presence of magic in our everyday lives. Because magic is out there ... in the spring of a new pair of tennis shoes, in the mysteries of love, in the essence of Dandelion Wine.

Contrary to popular opinion, I do not believe Bradbury intended this to be a book about childhood. In fact, his 12yr old narrator, Douglas Spaulding, does not appear in many of the parables. I do think that Bradbury intentionally chose a child as his narrator, however, because children are inherently alive -- always discovering, always filled with wonder, connected to their family and the world and the present in ways that we begin gradually to forget as adults. Dandelion Wine is both nostalgia and a cautionary tale, challenging us to remember what it felt like to be alive and reminding us adults that - unless we take care - we may become so consumed by life that we forget to be alive.

As far as I am concerned, this book is a little bit of magic in and of itself: part essence of childhood, part elixir of wisdom. Believe and partake!

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