May 22, 2016

Life Lessons from a Dandelion.

dandelion sunset goodbye seed nature

“Most of the dandelions had changed from suns into moons.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov

The contest was simple: collect as many dandelions at recess as possible.

The winner not only earned bragging rights for the remainder of the school day but the admiration of every other kid when they laid eyes on the massive yellow-green bouquet of weeds. Then, as the victor approached the school door, the recess lady would motion for the winning collection to be tossed in the big black trash can beside the door. Every winner obeyed that nod.

The dandelion flower is a circular pan of gold, a miniature sun. It opens to meet our sun each morning and folds to slumber when the sun slides down the horizon. Sun greets sun. Sun bids farewell to sun. I hope to blaze when I should and fold when it is right.

In our forward-motion crazed world, the message is clear: blaze all the time.

Maximum effort well beyond any finish line is praised. Those among us who grind-grind-grind at the grindstone receive accolades and applause. Phooey, I say. The dandelion teaches an alternate lesson; blaze when it is time to blaze and rest when it is time to rest. To overturn this is blasphemy against what we are.

My little bare feet raced out the back door into the wild. Mother’s Day had arrived. And the only gift of value was a bouquet of dandelions. Every boy knows the process. We look like a whirlwind of ripping and gathering, but inside the furious picking, we have a process. The stem lengths needed to match. Too long and it wouldn’t stand properly when placed in the mayo jar vase. Too short and it would fall out. Crowns needed to match too. Big crowns overpowered smaller ones. No leaves. No grass. No insects. No wilted crowns. No puffballs. The result was the perfect bouquet and we offered it with a side of our brilliant smile.

The dandelion puffball is a silver orb, a miniature moon. It is a gentle weave of chutes anchored to the head by a single seed. The web can balance drops of dew and wave in a summer wind. It is the end for the dandelion. Despite being topped with silver, it thrives. It is beautiful in a new way. To say it doesn’t compare to the golden crown is lazy. They share a root and stem but are as distinct as they are similar. The sun blazes. The moon thrives. The crown is not vain and the moon is not ashamed.

I admire them. I love my younger self and I hope to keep him from getting tangled in my mature self. They are both wonderful in their own right. It is only when I force them to battle that they lose their power.

“Last summer I spent almost an hour blowing dandelions off their stems towards him, so that he had a chance to wish for everything he wanted.” ~ Helen Oyeyemi

I wanted to kiss that girl. She was pretty and smart and funny and smelled like clean sheets dried by summer sun and a southern wind. Once, she even let me drink out of her water glass. I memorized where her lips touched the rim and put mine there. Best drink ever. Her dad moved her to Nebraska and broke my heart. The day she left found me on my back in a field. I picked dandelion puffballs one-by-one and blew on them. A thousand wishes later, I stood and walked home.

The dandelion seed is a head with a silver tail, a shooting star. We wish upon them. When they float out into this big world they take our hopes and dreams and fears and secrets and all of it. They fail to fulfill these wishes but do a better thing. They protect them, keep them alive and aloft.

And so I aim to do the same for those who speak to me. I listen. I protect what they give me. I keep you aloft.

The natural world is where we find our genesis. Look to it for guidance. The dandelion preaches a powerful sermon.

But we must be willing to receive the message. We have been trained to receive through “being told.” Every institution we have created has a speaker and listener. I fear we have done it wrong.

Not so with the dandelion. We are beckoned close to observe. To be still. To ponder in patience. To revere what is unfolded before our eyes.

We are invited to blaze and rest and thrive and listen and…make our wishes.


Author: John Geers

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: le vent le cri/Flickr 

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