Take an inkblot in the shape of a dandelion and watch what words spring to mind. Problems. Seed machines. Lawn hooligans. At least for me, that’s how it goes.
The bad feelings sprouted years ago as a kid watching my parents wage war against the spoilers of spotless green. My mother religiously spread fertilizers on the lawn every summer like benedictions to bless the good grasses, and discourage the weeds. My father preferred the instant satisfaction of a rusty kitchen paring knife to get the job done. Back then a telltale trail of missing divots said the dandelion executioner had just been by.
It was never quite clear why dandelions were so despised. They just were. No trial by jury. No votes were taken. It was just assumed that if you were one of us, then you must be against them. So I sided with the humans, and began hating the little lawn invaders. And for most of my life, I have kept the hate going and been true to the team.
But growing older has a way of causing a person to reflect, to soften sharp edges, to search for ways of understanding why things are as they are. And dandelions are no exception. Nowadays in moments when I’m not busy feeling annoyed at the dandelions for spamming the yard with seeds, I find it hard not to be impressed by the poetry of their magical transformations. What other flower in the garden deftly pulls orbs of stars from yellow suns, finishing in a flourish of a thousand white parachutes? And during breaks from believing dandelions are on a mission to wreck the lawn, I admire their many honorable attributes: persistence, tenacity, eternal optimism. Even on a bad day, I’ll admit they’re troopers.
If you let them, dandelions can open the mind to many insights. Their presence in the yard illuminates the incessant human craving to categorize things as either good or evil, and mocks the insatiable appetite for perfection. They highlight the human habit of judging others based on superficialities, and showcase the disconnect between ideals and behavior. They beg the question why beauty is as narrowly defined as it is, and demonstrate the human fondness for the familiar. Dandelions challenge the heart and soul to expand toward loving the unloved, or at least to grow in tolerance and respect. And they are perpetual reminders that the universe unfolds as it will, despite the use of chemicals and paring knives.
And so while I remain in the green lawn camp, I believe in reflecting on dandelions. To ponder the yellow flowers springing up all around and appreciate them, at least momentarily, as more than just “the enemy.” They are like little windows to the rest of the garden and all the living things within it, including oneself. That being so, dandelions are a worthwhile meditation, if only to tend the garden that is the mind.