Back in the days when a house with a yard was part of my life, my dad – who prided himself on a dandelion-free lawn – would enlist my sisters and I to run around and remove all the bright yellow intruders. We would yank the dandelions out by their stems and collect them in a paper bag. After the majority had been beheaded, we’d toss them in the field behind our house.
I never understood my dad’s antipathy toward the dandelion, especially given his propensity to leave other stray bits untouched in order to protect a wild mint plant or wayward bachelor button. Then again, I didn’t have to mow it, either. At least, I avoided the job as much as possible.
After several spring and summer seasons spent plucking dandelions, I identified them as weeds – easy to identify and pull, hard to get rid of in the long run. Nobody’s going to win the local Yard of the Month prize with a bunch of dandelions shooting up wherever they want to interrupt a manicured swath of green.
I headed off to college and left yard life behind. I stopped pondering the aesthetic impact of dandelions in homeowners’ yards. After I began bike commuting year round in Washington D.C., I became more aware of the blooms of spring, but apathetic about the arrival of dandelions. Unlike the azaleas and cherry blossoms that burst in front of you like a big hair band demanding attention, dandelions ask for nothing. They hover close to the ground, bright and optimistic, unaware that the lawnmower is getting fired up to take their sunshine away.
Recently I was out running around near Hains Point, a part of the town that has been closed to residents for a couple of weeks now because the big hair concert put on by the cherry blossoms prompted many locals to flock to East Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin, casting all social distancing cares to the wind.
Fortunately for all of us, I suppose, most of the cherry blossoms have lost their petals and the trees are morphing into their green uniforms of summer. The big show is over, until next year.
My run took me past a large grassy area with a few trees, and several picnic tables distributed about. It’s an ideal space for a family gathering or just hanging out and reading a book. Since D.C. is under a stay at home order that has closed recreational spaces and limited social gatherings, no one was there.
The dandelion’s cheerful flowers smiled at me, and I paused, making my way over to them for a closer look. Peppered about the small field under the crystal blue sky, they dazzled me. Sunshine tickled my shoulders, sunshine sprouted under my feet. All around me, spring was coming alive.
The lawn care crew will be out soon to crop the grass and everything else it can lay its blade on. No matter how well they mow, they’re bound to miss a few. We can watch them morph from sprightly flower to puffy seedlings. They’ll return to the grass next year, and I will welcome them as much as the big hair band blossoms.