Of Dandelions


Of Dandelions

My father passed away in April of 1984.  He has been gone a long time.  Even though now I am growing old myself with grown children and growing grandchildren of my own I still talk to him often and live my life in such a way that I hope he is proud of.  But there is at least one area where he and I still disagree, and I imagine that he may be disappointed with me.

My father loathed dandelions.  He waged war on them.  He spread bags and bags of weed killer each spring, and then he kept vigil.  Should a dandelion, even a single dandelion, dare to bloom in our lawn he assaulted it with his dandelion digger.  It was hand-to-hand combat, or perhaps more accurately it was hand-to-root combat.   He tried to pass his loathing of dandelions down to me by sending me out to wage the battle, entrusting to me the formidable digger.  It didn’t take.  In reality, I have always despised the digger more than the weed.

Now I live on 5 acres west of Green Bay.  I used to mow more than half of it when the kids were young and they needed a makeshift field for neighborhood baseball and football games.  But now I mow probably only 25% of it.  My lawn is not plush.  It is what I refer to as “country grass”.  If you look out across it, especially from a distance, it is green enough.  But, especially at this time of year, it is obviously carpeted with dandelions.  Unlike my father, I am at peace with that.

I turn to another of my heroes, Aldo Leopold, for comfort.  Leopold is the considered the father of modern conservation.  He didn’t just study nature; he immersed himself in it.  He hunted, he hiked, he planted, he reaped – he plunged into nature like a muskrat into marsh water – right up to his eyeballs!  He had two gifts that I greatly admire.  First, he had the gift of observation.  And second, he communicated his observations in a writing style that sings on the page.  Here’s a timely sampling of both of his gifts: “When dandelions have set the mark of May on Wisconsin pastures, it is time to listen for the final proof of spring.  Sit down on a tussock, cock your ears at the sky, dial out the bedlam of meadowlarks and redwings, and soon you may hear it: the flight song of the upland plover, just now back from the Argentine.”  Leopold not only beheld the dandelion he showed the connection found in creation that is visible to the heart that sees and the ears that hear. 

I had just read that entry from Leopold’s Sand County Almanac the other day before Michelle and I went for a walk.  Several years ago, the town put a nature conservancy on the land adjoining our parcel, laying to final rest any worries we had that someone would someday develop it into hundreds of houses like much of the rest of the “country” that was here when we built our home in 1991.  

As was perfectly fitting, six upland plovers took flight from a grassy area that was covered with dandelions as we passed by.  I’m not sure who “up there” arranged that – Aldo Leopold, or my dad.  

His Peace (to you and to dandelions) <><

Deacon Dan