A Recipe For Good Medicine



A good night sleep, or a ten minute bawl, or a pint of chocolate ice cream, or all three together, is good medicine.
~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine

Most days in clinic we see tears, lots of them.  We keep boxes of tissues strategically placed in the exam and consult rooms,  as well as the waiting room.  Life can seem overwhelming, fear and worry proliferate unchecked and floodgates spillover occurs when just one more thing happens — maybe a failed test, a fight with a family member, a lingering fatigue that just might be some dread disease.

We underestimate how therapeutic a good cry can be, almost as helpful as deep and heart felt laughter.  Stress and tension is dissipated, endorphins are released, muscles relax.  Holding back tears, like trying not to laugh (think Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown’s funeral service) is hard work and cab only make things worse.

So I hand out kleenex like candy and tell my patients to just let it go and flow.  I’m an easy crier myself, and will cry at the drop of a hat with very little provocation — a certain hymn in church, a beautiful word picture, a poignant memory, or sometimes in exhaustion and frustration.  Tears are a visible tangible connection with what is happening to us and around us and to others.   They can be more honest than what we say and do.

When the weeping wanes,   I always recommend a good night’s sleep.

And chocolate.

Good medicine without a pharmacist.


The Last Apple


And then there is that day when all around,
all around you hear the dropping of the apples, one
by one, from the trees. At first it is one here and one there,
and then it is three and then it is four and then nine and
twenty, until the apples plummet like rain, fall like horse hoofs
in the soft, darkening grass, and you are the last apple on the
tree; and you wait for the wind to work you slowly free from
your hold upon the sky, and drop you down and down. Long
before you hit the grass you will have forgotten there ever
was a tree, or other apples, or a summer, or green grass below,
You will fall in darkness…
~Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine


When Flowers Were Suns


The world slipped bright over the glassy round of his eyeballs like images sparked in a crystal sphere. Flowers were suns and fiery spots of sky strewn throughout the woodland. Birds flickered like skipped stones across the cast inverted pond of heaven. His breath raked over his teeth, going in ice, coming out fire.
~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine

Caught and Stoppered

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

“Dandelion wine.
The words were summer on the tongue.
The wine was summer caught and stoppered…
sealed away for opening on a January day
with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks…”
~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine

Now is mid-January:

Summer is found in our dark root cellar–
in rows of canned fruit and
a pile of potatoes

Summer is found in our freezer–
containers of berries and dehydrated pears
alongside bags of pea pods, corn and beans.

Summer is found in our barn–
piles of hay bales to be opened
to release the smell, the sun, the sweat of a midsummer evening’s harvest.


The Sun Behind You



… if you ran, time ran. You yelled and screamed and raced and rolled and tumbled and all of a sudden the sun was gone and the whistle was blowing and you were on your long way home to supper. When you weren’t looking, the sun got around behind you! The only way to keep things slow was to watch everything and do nothing! You could stretch a day to three days, sure, just by watching!
~Ray Bradbury from Dandelion Wine

This is a time to slow down and just watch, in order to stretch the days out as long as possible.  I have a tendency to race through the hours given to me, heedless of the sun settling low behind me surrendering the day to the advancing march of darkness.

So I choose for now to be observer and recorder rather than runner and racer, each moment preserved like so many jars of sweet jam on a pantry shelf.   The sun may be setting, but it is taking its time.




Clover Breath

 “It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath.
Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes.
To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early,
and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow
that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night.
And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic
is chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second;
this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers.”
Ray Bradbury in Dandelion Wine

Every autumn my father, an agriculture teacher by training, brought home gunny sacks of grass seed from the feed and seed store.  He would start up his 1954 Farmall Cub tractor, proceed to disc and harrow an acre of bare ground in our field, and then fill the seeder, distributing seed on the soil for his annual agronomy cover crop over winter growing experiment.  The little sprouts would wait to appear in the warming spring weather, an initial green haziness spread over the brown dirt, almost like damp green mold.  Within days they would form a plush and inviting velveteen green cushion, substantial enough for a little wiggle of blades in the breezes.  A few weeks later the cover would be a full fledged head of waving green hair, the wind blowing it wantonly, bending the stems to its will.  It was botanical pasture magic, renewable and marvelous,  only to be mowed and stubble turned over with the plow back into the soil as nutrition for the summer planting to come.  It was the sacrificial nature of cover crops to be briefly beautiful on top of the ground, but the foundational nurture once underground.

One spring the expected grassy carpet growth didn’t look quite the same after germination–the sprouts were little round leaves, not sharp edged blades.  Instead of identical uniform upright stems, the field was producing curly chaotic ovoid and spherical shapes and sizes. Clover didn’t abide by the same rules as grasses.  It had a mind of its own with a burgeoning and bumpy napped surface that didn’t bend with breezes, all its effort invested instead in producing blossoms.

A hint of pink one morning was so subtle it was almost hallucinatory.  Within a day it was unmistakeably reddening and real.  Within a week the green sea flowed with bobbing crimson heads. We had never seen such vibrancy spring from our soil before.  It exuded scented clover breath, the fragrance calling honey bees far and near.  True reverie.

The field of crimson dreams and sated honey bees lasted several weeks before my father headed back out on the Farmall to turn it under with the plow, burying the fading blossoms into the ground.  Their sacrifice bled red into the soil, their fragrant breath halted, their memory barely recognizable in the next summer crop germination.   Yet the crimson heads were there, feeding the growth of the next generation, deepening the green as it reached to the sun.

Such a sweet thing, alive a thousand summers hence in the soil.

What a beautiful feeling.

Crimson and clover, over and over.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Emily Dickinson

Waiting With Great Grandma

Waiting Together–Great Grandma Emma, granddaughter Andrea, great-grandson Zealand

Emma Gibson–December 28, 1927- May 20,2012


All are not taken; there are left behind
Living Belovèds, tender looks to bring
And make the daylight still a happy thing,
And tender voices, to make soft the wind:
But if it were not so—if I could find
No love in all this world for comforting,
Nor any path but hollowly did ring
Where ‘dust to dust’ the love from life disjoin’d;
And if, before those sepulchres unmoving
I stood alone (as some forsaken lamb
Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth)
Crying ‘Where are ye, O my loved and loving?’—
I know a voice would sound, ‘Daughter, I AM.
Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?’

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


At last the entire family stood, like people seeing someone off at the rail station, waiting in the room…

…”So don’t you worry over me. Now, all of you go, and let me find my sleep….”

Somewhere a door closed quietly…

…Deeper in the warm snow hill she turned her head upon her pillow. That was better.  Now, yes, now she saw it shaping in her mind quietly, and with serenity like a sea moving along an endless and self-refreshing shore.  Now she let the old dream touch and lift her from the snow and drift her above the scarce-remembered bed…

Downstairs, she thought, they are polishing the silver, and rummaging the cellar, and dusting in the halls. She could hear them living all through the house.

“It’s all right.” Whispered Great-grandma, as the dream floated her. “Like everything else in this life, it’s fitting.”

And the sea moved her back down the shore.

~excerpts from Ray Bradbury’s “Death of Great-Grandma” in “Dandelion Wine”