Friday, May 30, 2008

Like a Weed

Dandelions are the oddest of things.

They're kind of magical in and of themselves.

Flowers aren't all that magical, really. I mean, they grow in your garden, and they look nice, and usually smell nice. But then they die, and leave an ugly, twisted thing on top of a green stalk, and that's it.

Dandelions, on the other hand, seem to start off like a flower. They've got a bunch of leaves, and they're a bright, cheery, yellow. And then, poof, one night they close up, and when they open, they're this little puffball of seeds, that you can pluck, and blow, and watch sail off on the lightest of breezes.

They undergo another transformation as well.

When you're little, they're flowers. Your parents tell you as much. After all, they're all yellow and lovely, and if you pick a bunch of them and give them to your mom or dad, they'll tell you thank you and stick them into a glass with some water.

That makes them flowers.

And then one day, they aren't flowers any more. Someone tells you that they are actually weeds, a hideous pest that must be destroyed, and that you have to wipe them out. At all costs.

Once you're in school, of course, you also learn that they have these huge root systems, which is what makes them so hard to get rid of. If you pluck them, or cut them down with a mower, well, they'll just come back three days later.

Those things are deep underground.

So people pull them out, or mow them, or just in general do anything to get rid of them... and yet...

The other day, I took Mihret out on the lawn. My lawn is kind of bad, really. It's patchy, with spots where grass has just decided it doesn't really want to grow.

In other places, I've been overtaken by this short little weed that has pushed the grass away, and generally just taken over the lawn.

And here and there, but especially near the curb, I've got a bunch of dandelions.

At the moment, most of them aren't yellow. They're white and puffy and ready to go out into the world, and burrow into the earth, and make more dandelions.

Mihret was fascinated by them. She'd walk from dandelion to dandelion, holding out her hand, looking at the fuzz on them.

I plucked one, and blew on it, and watched as the seeds floated away. Mihret blinked in surprise, then made little blowing motions at the last few seeds on the stem.

I grabbed another one and tried to get her to blow the seeds off, but she didn't quite seem to get it. She just kept holding out her hand. So, finally, I just handed the dandelion to her.

She grabbed the fuzz and plucked it off the top. Ran the fuzz through her fingers. And then dropped the seeds on the ground.

Now she was on a mission.

She walked from one dandelion to the next, pointing at them, looking at them, having me pluck them from the ground so that she could carry them around while pulling the seeds from them, and throwing them to the ground.

Eventually, she grew bold enough to pluck them from the ground herself, without my help.

It was clear that she wanted to understand them. Being a good dad, I did try to explain that the white fuzz were seeds, and that if they flew through the air, they would go make more dandelions. I even tried to show her that the yellow dandelions and the white puffy things were the same thing, but she didn't really get that.

And no, I didn't really expect her to.

It was only recently that I learned that a "weed" is a generic term used for anything in your garden that you don't want there. And I've grown to think that dandelions shouldn't be classified that way.

Because in a lot of ways, dandelions are kind of like kids. They start of as this amazing thing, small and pretty and with so much under the surface.

And then one day, they're something else, something they became when you weren't looking.

And then one day, they blow away, out into the world, taking their roots with them, and spreading themselves out, and creating the next generation.

It's baby science on a whole new level.


1 comment:

Murph said...

Hi, I was looking to see if dandelions grow in ethiopia because the roots are used for medicine and my husband is in Ethiopia and needs some medicine. Came across your blog, read your story and wanted to pass on this info. Have been using the root powder for years.