Thursday, April 1, 2010

Just Dandy!

To be certain that we are aware of spring's arrival, our grass is the greenest of greens and these are popping up throughout our yard. They stand so brilliantly luminous on their lush green canvas and I can't help but love them.

I know how most people feel about dandelions. They ravage them at the root, pummel them with pesticide, do everything short of setting off a minor nuclear explosion to rid their lawns of this horrid weed. And while I know it is a weed, to me it is a lovely flower, bright and beautiful and full of the promise that the earth is awakening once again.

That is until they look like this

and stand proud and tall on your recently mowed lawn. It seems that even cutting them with swiftly spinning blades can't keep them down for more than a few hours at best. Mow in the evening and by morning you have them reaching for the skies, a good 4" above the tips of the neatly trimmed blades of grass. I'll admit that does annoy even me.

This is an essay I wrote a couple of years ago for a local publication. I hope you enjoy it and that the next time you see those little yellow sunshine blooms in your yard, you won't be quite so anxious to grab your trowel.

Dandelion Memories

My first real memories of them are from my fourth Easter. There was always a new outfit bought to wear to church on Easter Sunday and that year mine was a bright and beautiful sunshine yellow. The details of the dress have since faded from memory, but I can still see the dress coat and bonnet as if they were right here in front of me.

The morning air was cool but the day had dawned sunny and bright, as Easter should. I was allowed to walk around on the front porch and in the side yard while waiting for my parents to get ready to leave. And that is when I discovered them, in all their glorious beauty, glistening with morning dew. I stepped off the porch and into that golden sea, feeling as if I were stepping into some magical world. All around me those flowers shone and danced in the breeze and, for just a little while, I was a yellow fairy princess dancing around our little yellow lawn.

Yes, they were dandelions, one of those first harbingers of spring. To my four year old eyes, that tiny postage-stamp yard was the most beautiful place in the whole world. Of course I had picked my share of pretty bouquets for display in jelly jars prior to that morning, but something about that Easter Sunday, the absolute perfection of it, has been held tight in my memory all these years.

Somehow I have managed to hold onto my love of those little yellow beauties and all the promise they hold. I hear people complain about them and their struggles to keep them from taking over the lawn. I see them down on hands and knees, digging them out by the roots in order to prevent their return. I watch them buy bags and bottles of expensive treatments to spread over their lawns in hopes of eradicating the nuisance. Then I watch those bright little blooms pop up overnight in spite of it all. And I smile. Some things are just meant to be.

As I am constantly reminded by those who are less fond of them, dandelions are weeds. They are flowering weeds, but nevertheless they are a scourge. I wholeheartedly agree that once the pretty yellow blooms are spent and turned to skeletal white puffballs sitting atop the ugly green spikes that tower over the rest of your well-manicured lawn, they aren’t the most appealing things. But can you honestly resist plucking one of them, puffing up your cheeks like you did as a child, and sending their downy puffs floating through the breeze?

For once in your adult life, live a little. I know, I know…that only spreads their seeds. But come on! Stop being so practical and just enjoy the moment!

Now that I am grown and have children of my own, we live in the country and enjoy a much larger yard than the one I had growing up. I will admit to being particular about my lawn, mowing it often and doing my best to keep it looking nice. But I can honestly say we have never tried to rid it of the dandelions that are so plentiful come spring. I will dig out the occasional stray that manages to find its way into my flower bed, but I never bother the ones in the yard. After a long and dreary winter, I look forward to clear and breezy spring days. I’ll help my son string up his kite and we’ll run through the dandelion-yellow field next to our house as the wind lifts it high into a bright blue sky. My daughter and I will string together chains of bright yellow blooms, the daintiest and best of spring jewelry. And between the yellow of the field, the blue of the sky, and the brightness of their smiles, I know that they are making their very own dandelion memories to treasure forever and always.