June 5, 2013

Summer Nostalgia: Concord Grapes, Cicadas & Things. ~ Dusty Ranft


Summer time has a sound.

In the summer of ’87, I was 11 years old. Summer nights became nature’s orchestra—cicadas played percussion amongst the branches of the trees. The only evidence of their existence, a paper thin shelled replica—carcasses they left behind. Their delicate legs clung to the trees, frozen in time. I would carefully pluck them—one by one, from their resting spot amongst the branches. Holding them carefully in my palm, I would investigate what was shed: the old left behind.

Summer nights were filled with lemonade and fresh iced tea. We would lounge around on my grandma’s concrete patio; laughter and the usual stories of days long past filled the air. All of this played out while the cicadas sang their song—at times a very low hum, a buzzing, a vibration that could be felt and heard. Other times we simply closed our eyes, lounging in our chairs, the cicadas demanded our attention—their encore: a high-pitched shrill, an overwhelming cry from deep within the tree tops. The bright-eyed, winged creatures from the ground had risen: their music—our summer soundtrack.

Summertime has a taste.

Along a quiet road in a southern, sleepy Indiana town, my grandma’s house was the family hub.  She was the iconic matriarch and the glue that held us all together.

Her cooking was legendary: homemade noodles, biscuits, cakes and breads…you name it. Our family dinners were feasts of food made with love.

For as long as I can remember, a single stretch of fencing ran alongside her small white cottage home—a Concord grape vine weaved in and out, strong and prolific. The purple bounty provided the base for my grandma’s magic culinary concoctions: fresh jarred jellies and homemade pies, all made possible because of that vine. There is no delight like a fresh concord grape.

Together we would harvest these plump, purple juicy marbles (the ones that actually made their way to the basket). She would scold me with a smirk, “Save some for the pies!” But as the next grape was picked, we would laugh wildly, as it found it’s end inside our mouths. One for me, one for the basket…and on and on we would go. The taste so distinct, so reminiscent of summers past: a concord grape is nature’s memory box.

Summertime has a feeling.

No bell sounded sweeter than the last one of the school year. It’s ringing signified another grade under your belt and three months of freedom. Our days were filled with tree climbing, bike rides, chocolate malts and bug repellent. Summer nights were spent running through the yard—barefoot and carefree: lighting bugs filled mason jars and became the lanterns of our youth.

I grew up across the street from a public park called Ellenberger. Summer’s heat was squelched within the blue water of the swimming pool: fear was conquered on the edge of the high-dive. With your heart racing (multiple trips back to the ladder) and screams of encouragement from down below, you were sent leaping to your destiny. When you broke the surface, wild and confident—air gracing your lungs, you were different than before. Fear had lost again to a child’s indomitable spirit.

As I grow older, each summer comes and goes. No more school bells or days spent climbing trees. The carefree nature of my youth seems distant. Work and worldly obligations dominate the days I used to fill with exploration and uninterrupted amazement for the world around me.

And yet, when I remember…when a warm summer breeze blows my hair and fills my lungs, I am reminded of the days long past: the summers of my youth. These memories—sounds, tastes and feelings, are right there waiting. I go to my local farmers market, Concord grapes abound, and I look up at the sky. I smile and I close my eyes.

I see her—my grandma, in her house dress and apron waving from her sliding glass window. She is holding a basket. It is time to harvest.


Dusty Ranft (RYT-500, RN) is a wild one.  A writer, yoga teacher, studio owner (in the making), runner, foodie leanin’ vegan, Mommy to Big Doggie (a Pit bull rescue), (retired) nurse, health nut, smoothie drinkin’— juice makin’ lover of life.  She has beat the holy hell out of Cancer, ran two marathons, won many games of thumb wars, read thousands of amazing books, and lives trying to answer the universal questions:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Dusty has decided to turn pro in life.  She believes that all of life is practice and pumps her fist in the air every time she reads these words by Steven Pressfield, “Once we turn pro, we’re like sharks who have tasted blood, or renunciants who have glimpsed the face of God.  For us, there is no finish line.  No bell ends the bout.  Life is the pursuit.  Life is the hunt.  When our hearts burst…then we’ll go out, and no sooner.”  You can find her practicing handstands every chance she gets, teaching what she learns in her yoga classes, laughing really hard, pleading with the muse to shine inspiration on her writings, and sharing gritty realism with her closest companions.  If that isn’t enough, look on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramPinterest and follow the growth of Tree House Yoga (a soon to be brick and mortar replica of her heart).


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