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June 7, 2018

I’m not sure exactly why I love dandelions so much.

Perhaps it’s because it is my daughter’s favorite flower. The “little sunflower” as she calls it, which she always picks and presents to me with the greatest reverence, like she is proud that such beauty can exist in the same world as she and I. With help from her mom, she knots them together to form a golden crown, and when she places it on my head, I really do feel like the emperor, if not of the world at least of my own little portion of it. I hold my head a little higher, knowing we are surrounded by beauty, and that I’ve done something right, because my daughter is not blind to it as so many others are.

Why do people hate certain flowers, but spend billions of dollars trying to cultivate others? Why do they choose to rob themselves of time with their own families in a futile battle against a small plant that isn’t hurting anyone? I doubt anyone, on their deathbed, ever said: “I wish I’d spent more time trying to rid the world of flowers.”

For this reason, and because they are beautiful, they don’t harm anyone or anything, and because my chickens eat them and they therefore save me money on feed, and because they attract bees that pollinate all the fruit and flowers, dandelions are welcome in my yard. They are the least of my worries, in a world that is admittedly filled with countless much more serious, much more grave things about which to worry.

Yet I regularly encounter seemingly nice people who tell me they “hate” dandelions. This is a word we tell our children not to use unless you are talking about the worst kind of monsters. Yet people fling it around, and sometimes they even do it in front of my four-year-old child, which makes me want to cover her ears.

“I hate dandelions,” they say, and it seems like they might be virtue signaling, as if their hatred of a harmless little yellow flower is an indisputable sign of their good character.

“Why?” I always ask, genuinely curious. No one has ever provided a satisfying response.

“Because they are a weed!” people generally reply. But “weed” is simply a word people use to describe plants they hate. So, what they are really saying is “I hate them because they are something I hate.” It’s maddeningly circular logic. It is hollow and completely devoid of logic, internal or external. Perhaps if you hate something–be it a race of person, or a type of food, or a variety of flower–and your only reason is that it is something you hate, you might be a bit too liberal with your application of hatred.

Does it follow that you love things only because they are things that you love? Nations and political parties and people? Or do you apply your love to things and people who actually deserve it?

I often feel alone, as I push my daughter on her swing-set and wonder if I’m just not seeing something that everyone else in suburban America sees. Is green grass really better than a bright yellow flower? If so, why?

Apparently, I’m not completely alone.

“Let dandelions grow,” reads a headline in the Guardian newspaper. “Bees, beetles and birds need them.”

“Dandelions are demonized as one of the most pernicious weeds but hold back on the mowing and you’ll find a whole range of garden wildlife depends on them for food,” the article goes on to state.

This philosophy is not particularly new, either. Right around the time I was born, which is distressingly close to being synonymous with 40 years ago, the New York Times published the following: “This is the time of the dandelion, when its blossom brightens up or–depending on how one feels about it–messes up the lawn. Most people, who hold to a Calvinist notion that a weed-free lawn is a necessary way to grace, look on the dandelion as a weed to be sternly cast out. Others, who have a let-live philosophy of lawns, find that the happy color it adds to the grass in spring makes up for its shabby look the rest of the year.”

But perhaps my soft spot for this flower lies in the sentence that comes next in the Times article: “The dandelion has many virtues and few defenders, though it has done well enough without them…”

Perhaps that’s why I love the dandelion. Because it thrives, despite people’s animosity toward it. Because it doesn’t seem to care about all the hate in the world, and its little golden flowers, which can adorn the most elegant of crowns, are like little bursts of transcendent laughter in the face of all that is wrong with the world.


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