A Pandemic Project: Dandelion Wine


Homemade Wine

“What did you do during the pandemic?”

As an artist, the expected answer was that I had plenty of time to create new art. Or work on my film.

I did neither. Instead, I made wine.

Most will agree that 2020 was the year from hell for everyone except Jeff Bezos. Mine actually started just before the pandemic hit New York State. Just one day after ringing in the 2020 New Year, I rushed my 93-year-old mother to the hospital. Thus began a long road that involved my moving back into the family home in upstate New York for what eventually became full-time caretaking in the middle of a raging pandemic.

“Overwhelming” and “terrifying” doesn’t even begin to explain the range of emotions that passed through me in wave after wave. To compensate and survive, I went into a full-blown “organize-mode” for everything from meals to meds to managing nurses and calls to the insurance company.

There was no time for art.

But I knew I could only stay in left-brain mode for so long without burning out. I needed to create so I could get grounded again and continue my caretaking role.

So I did what my mom always did when she needed to fill her soul – I grabbed a shovel, went outside and started a garden. As I turned the soil and planted seeds in the warm, moist earth my creative mind rose from its slumber and nudged me softly with a whisper…

“Make dandelion wine.”

It wasn’t a new thought. Every spring, my friend and fellow creative explorer Mary Holland and I would make plans to pick dandelions and try out an old recipe she had for making homemade wine. But by the time we finally carved out some time from our busy schedules, the dandelions would be gone.

2020 would be the year we’d finally give it a try, although with a lockdown and social distancing in place, we decided we’d each do a batch ourselves and share notes. I couldn’t leave Mom to go in search of dandelions, but there were enough right in my back yard.

The project eventually turned into a full-scale odyssey into nature and alchemy – the very exploration that prompted me to quit my day job over two decades ago to create fine art out of gourds grown in the garden.

Mom passed away peacefully at home in May. I would feel her spirit in the garden many times, content among the tomatoes and the wildflowers and the bustling bees.

A month later, Mary and I got together in the outdoor “she shed” she had built and tasted our very first batches of dandelion wine.

A new creative voyage had begun.

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