I watched a man attemping to murder dandelions yesterday with calculated precision, holding a canister of weed killer and soaking each yellow flower on his otherwise perfectly manicured lawn.
I know people like lush lawns, and dandelions are considered weeds. I know some look down upon front yards like mine, with clumpy grass mixed with patches of moss and clover and plenty of puffy, sunny blossoms. I know dandelions grow taller and faster than grass, which exasperates those who like the outdoors to be tidy and trimmed, fastidious homeowners who spend time worrying about whether or not their neighbors think it’s time for them to mow.
I know in many yards dandelions are routinely yanked out, cut down or drenched in chemicals until they succumb to the bullying – for a time. But only for a time.
Because dandelions are nature’s survivors. And resilience is a superpower.
Last Saturday I stood in a room full of survivors – dozens and dozens of people who’d suffered unspeakable crimes against them, crimes that were often perpetrated when they were too young to understand or even identify such acts as crimes.
All grown up now, some were still as tentative as children; many were sorrowful, or angry, or awash in the remnants of shame and guilt and confusion that stain the psyche. But they were there. They were there to seek comfort, to find a voice that is no longer muted by fear or insecurities. They were there to begin, or continue, the long task of rising from the wreckage somebody else caused.
But they weren’t just surviving despite all those toxic memories and years of cutting themselves down, decades of trying to blend with the unblemished blades of grass around them. No, they weren’t doing that. They were thriving. They were hopeful and empathetic and could not have been more beautiful. Their courage was majestic, their compassion inspirational. Their resilience was – and is – food for the world’s soul.
Many had come from families where silence is heralded, and from circumstances where justice was never served. They still came. They came despite feeling, sometimes for their whole lives, that they are bad. Wrong. Worthless. Weeds.
But they – we – are none of those things.
Dandelions are magic. Their leaves are among the most nutritious of all greens. Their blossoms are a toddler’s favorite gift to give. Their heads can be made into wine. Their seeds can grant wishes on the wind.
I believe that lawns without a pop of yellow in the springtime are not only soulless and sad, but distortions of the truth. They are carefully constructed cubic yards of overachievement and under-imagination. And as with so much in this life, the illusion of perfection almost always masks something toxic.
But nature knows, and so do I, that survivors can appear to be drowning in the invisible poison of our circumstances, but we will rise, and we will bloom. Again and again. And the world is better for it.
Have you ever seen a field of golden dandelions on a sunny spring day? I saw one last Saturday, and it was breathtaking.