Dandelions and the Persistence of Life
Quite suddenly last week, there were dandelions everywhere. It was as if we were paying attention to other trivial matters when the little yellow flowers just popped into existence. They covered open fields by the thousands and small patches on city boulevards. It was the official sign that spring is here in Wisconsin, and a subconscious switch in the brain that life is still happening despite our best efforts. So let’s talk about our love/hate relationship with a bitter flower.
What is considered a weed by many lawn owners, a brilliant bouquet to a child, a wine source to a few (recipe), and scientifically known as the flowering plant Taraxacum to horticulturalists often takes on a certain low-culture status when compared to roses and garlic mustard alike. Its scent is earthy, attractive only attractive to the bees. It’s an invasive species more prevalent than kudzu, yet milder and easier to get rid of, making it low on the daisy chain of pests to obliterate.
But it’s also a symbol of true freedom. It can grow almost anywhere, from a bed of silt loam to a crack in the sidewalk. You can step on it, but it will keep going. It comes in only one color – joy – with intricate little petals. When the flower dies, those petals become ghostly parachutes and fly away. Its spirit is at once indomitable and transitory.
There is already a canon of books devoted to ridding a prized lawn of dandelions, but there could also be a library dedicated to our sublime relationship to this temperate climate bloom, filled with philosophy and analogies to love, life, the recession, childhood, politics and so forth.
The dandelion might be perceived as innocuous and trifling in the detailed scope of daily life. It is persistent, it comes back in cycles, and the petals stain the skin. The bitter greens can be used in salads, but they also have a diuretic effect. The flower once picked for mother as a sign of love will quickly wilt and smell. It is something that we are aware of once seen, but quickly forgotten once gone until we encounter them again with spring anew.
So what seems like something that is beneath us – not just beneath our feet – is the ultimate persistent advertising the world has to offer. The world cannot reason with us, but it can make us feel.