My yard is dotted with miniature white pouf balls that flake apart and float around my legs as I slaughter them row by row with my lawn mower. They disperse even before I reach them, as though they sense the end is coming and abandon ship. It’s a defense mechanism; these dandelions give their life today but their drifting seeds ensure that the species lives on. Live on, they will. Tomorrow twice as many will pop up in my freshly-mowed lawn. Tiny yellow circles will emerge through the tall grass stalks, polka-dotting my otherwise uniform yard, starting the whole process over again. I’m fighting a battle I cannot win.
How times have changed.
Dandelion warfare used to mean hiding in the bushes around our brick house in the country, waiting for the neighbor girl to come find me. When she got close enough, I jumped out from the shadows and wrestled her to the ground. Armed with a bunch of yellow blossoms, I sat on her chest and mercilessly rubbed the flower heads against her cheek, painting her face a bright gold. Standing victoriously above my victim, I’d let out a long laugh. She rolled over and plucked a nearby dandelion; as she rose to her feet, I retreated. She chased after me with hopes to repay the favor.
I spent whole afternoons outside collecting dandelions. Those that weren’t used as ammunition made a lovely bouquet that I could present to my mother. And she’d take out a small shot glass and fill it with water, displaying the weeds proudly on the kitchen counter.
Back then, we laid in the grass, looked up at the clouds, and picked white pouf balls out of my mother’s lawn. The milky fluid inside the stem seeped out onto my hand and arm, leaving me sticky. We closed our eyes and made a wish. Then we took in a deep breath and blew off the seeds, impregnating the grass with more dandelions to come. My mother must have hated it, just as I now hate to see the seeds whirl around and settle elsewhere in the yard.
In my youth, dandelions were synonymous with play, dreams, and love. Now in my adulthood, dandelions are synonymous with work, reality, and hate. They infiltrate the landscaping and the grass. They are unsightly and embarrassing. I spend hours bending over, attempting to pull them up, only to have their stems break off; their roots, their life force, are left behind to grow new flowers. They mock me with their resilience.
For what reason do I hate them? It would seem that vanity is to blame. Homeowners are expected to keep their yard clean, their landscape immaculate, their sidewalks edged from meandering grass. It’s not proper to let things get wild and unkempt. Tidiness and order are valued most. Says who? I have no idea. It’s an unspoken rule that becomes evident the minute you sign the mortgage.
So we waste our weekends and our evenings mowing down those yellow blooms and or plucking out white poufs, even though they’ll come right back.
As I get older, I feel like I’m expected be tidy and have order. And sure, that can be good. It promotes reliability, security, comfort. But it can also promote predictability and monotony. There is little time for dreams when there’s so much work to do.
But dreams, I find, like dandelions, always come back the next day. And I have been mowing down my dreams lately, telling myself that I’m not good enough, that I’ll never make it. Yet the next day, they pop back up like tiny yellow circles through the tall grass stalks.
Those little yellow blossoms are a reminder for me—a reminder to be wild and unkempt sometimes. They make me want to forget work every once in a while, and instead run through grass, paint my skin, and make wishes.
I think I will leave the lawn mower in the garage, pluck a white pouf from the yard, close my eyes, make a wish, and blow.