A retired chemistry professor– by way of an old homeland thirty years ago and more recently, Chapel Hill, North Carolina– uprooted his life and wife and planted them in a bed of lavender in Washington state, 3,000 miles away.
The farm, promptly named the “Purple Turtle Farm” by the professor’s daughter, was an exhausting hobby the pair launched themselves into– specifically, into the act of growing lavender, to care for it, feed it, shelter it, only to then pick it and dry it. After the drying process, the wife, who was intense in the calmest of ways, like the eye of a storm– sewed little dolls and cloth packages with the minty-smelling flower inside. The smell, was not like an ordinary flower’s smell, but so intense, I thought of Vicks.
“When you are stressed, breathe the lavender,” she instructed me. “I just went to a dried flowers store, and i smelled their lavender. There was hardly any smell; it was dead,” she deliberately described.
“Did you show her yours?” I asked.
“No, i didn’t want to be rude.”
“Then she could have bought them from you,”
I kept on. She didn’t say anything.
There were two kinds of lavender on the farm: Lavandula dentata, French lavender, that grew to impressive heights, and Lavandula stoechas, Italian, which grew to only half the French size, but were deeply colored purple, the kind associated with the color. Like a true academic, the retired professor experimented with hybrids.
At the family event that led them away from the smell of lavender closer to the smell of oranges, and closer still– pollution, they brought the lavender with them. During the wedding, they presented a bottle of wine they had made on their new farm. It was another hobby they began, wine-making. The bottle, with its own label, italicized: Purple Turtle Farm Dandelion Wine, 2004.
The dandelion: visibly beautiful, a straight stem leading to the heavens and at the end journey, bursting into a perfectly round sphere, with airy lightness but heavy in its perfect conception. Like the intensely calm wife. Was the dandelion ever an inspiration to medieval painters who placed those heavenly halos on maternal madonnas?
The perfection of dandelions attracts many that make love to it, pollinating, and floating away. There are approximately 93 different species of bugs that love the dandelion so much, they procreate just to produce more of themselves to flock to and make love to over again. But this love– it’s a nuisance, a weed.
How perfectly light it is yet holds itself together. Then I blow and it falls apart. Another one. The round beauty, the softness! Blow. It’s gone, there’s a stem left. I tear it from the roots, and I bite on the stem, little by little, until it’s just a crumpled mess, a zig-zagged stem.
Dandelion wine– let’s destroy magnificence, with grace. Let’s toast to the loveliness, then swallow it into our bowels. Let’s strike the expected hard blow with fate and let beauty dissipate aimlessly…