Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass — innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.
“The First Dandelion.” by Walt Whitman – first printed in New York Herald: March 12, 1888
On the way to our favorite megastore is a sizable corner lot that has remained empty for years to the common passerby. A field of weeds and brush is all that remains until periodically someone mows them down to the city-ordained height.
There are countless joys of having children, but one of my favorites is how they often take you down memory lane to a time when life was simpler. Flickers of childhood memories pop out of your heavily scheduled head and direct your attention to things in the world you otherwise might gloss over.
On a spring day last year, an older couple in their 70s was in that field of weeds, each squatting with their own plastic grocery sack. I know many quirky people, so seeing they didn’t appear to be in any distress and they were clothed, I drove past not thinking much of it. My daughters and I finished our shopping and returned down the same road. To our surprise, the couple was still there — just further into the field.
My youngest girl, who doesn’t miss a thing said, “Mom, did those people lose something? They’re still there.”
This is usually when I start paying attention to my surroundings or make up a quick answer that will satisfy the curiosity of my monkeys. I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see the man and woman picking dandelion greens and storing them away.
An educational moment for sharing my limited knowledge of dandelions had come upon us. They are edible, potable and medicinal for the adventurous minded. However, I reminded my girls it was a poor choice to nosh on the ones in our yard for you never know who has “fertilized” the flower first — dog, bird or the “Roundup” man.
The next week, however, that same couple was picking dandelions from that corner lot. Either we had some strange connection to these people or they are spending an inordinate amount of time in this field. I believe it was the latter, but it wasn’t my issue. Some people like Facebook, others trespass and extricate weeds.
This time all three of us were amazed that couple had returned. For what were they using the dandelions? A green salad? Dandelion wine? Curing scurvy? Perhaps they were starting a grass roots music festival.
Then it hit me. Why is it that a child looks at a dandelion and sees a stunning, yellow flower and most adults in our country see a weed? At what point in our lives does our thinking cross over from being delighted in a flower that children make wishes on and whose seeds they chase, to fervently trying to eliminate those pesky weeds by any means?
I believe the loss of our childhood innocence must occur when we walk past a field of these vibrant yellow beauties and think, “Boy, I hope those seeds don’t blow into my yard.” I’m not starting a Save the Dandelion campaign or singing Kumbaya in my front yard with a wreath of dandelions adorning my head (even though that would be pretty). Don’t worry, neighbors, we will be keeping up with the Joneses!
But one of these days on the way to the store, if that couple isn’t doing whatever they are doing, I just might take the girls and go chase some dandelions. This year the field is full of them and it is a sea of yellow just inviting us to play.