Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's a flower?


My parents built their own home, a two story cedar shingle on a couple acres of land. They cleared half of it, put in a garden and a greenhouse, a cabin in the back with room for four complete with an extension cord from the house and Chinese lanterns. They planted pine trees and aspen, juniper and rose bushes. Dad dug a pond for his goldfish, not like some might dig a pond for a little water feature, I'm talking like six feet deep with lily pads and wild ducks landing in it, dragonfly pattering the surface on clear days. There were bird feeders and nests throughout the trails behind the gardens, where we built burrows and forts and crawled about on the floor of the fir and spruce forest. In full bloom of summer it was not just something to see, it was something to feel; all the creatures and insects, the sounds of the birds in the trees and the rustle of leaves in the ever present Atlantic winds. As a child it filled me with a sense of the world, a world of many small beauties.

Dad was fairly picky about his lawn. He wasn't too fond of moss or clover or weeds, and he reseeded and laid topsoil in a few patches of the grass to try and get rid of the dandelions. Resilient as they are they just kept coming back, pushing their way to the surface after being sheered and turned over with a pitchfork... they came back after being mowed and rooted out, the delicate air born seeds from that one unseen on the tree line bringing forth a colony of yellow. I don't remember exactly when, but I developed an affinity for the dandelions. I never thought of them as a force to be reckoned with, just flowers that no one liked.

One summer, I'm not sure which, Dad turned to herbicide, a powder he mixed with water and put in a green canister with a hand pump on top to pressurize the contents -- you probably know the kind I mean. He went about spraying the flowers and an idea jumped in my mind. Later that evening I went out to the shed and got the cannister. I poured out all the poison and refilled it with fertilizer and the water he used for the tomatoes. I don't think he knew what to make of the population explosion after he'd sprayed a few more times. He gave up on herbicides after that and still every summer dandelions bloom in the yard, the misunderstood flower.

13 comments:

human being said...

i lived in paradise
far from any evil and vice...
one day, bored with common sense
i was tempted by 'non-sense'
to blow a dandelion clock
and watch the seeds
f
a
l
l
on the earth... and flock
to help and aid
those cherishing them
as gods' deed...
or to sweat and pain
those abhorring them
as a weed...

Fern said...

YES!

Similar scenario from my past. My city-raised father moved us to the grassy, perfect-lawned suburbs. We kids spent our weekends uprooting dandelions by the bucketful. And therefore, I too, developed an afinity for them, those dandelions. I wish I'd thought to replace Dad's herbicide with Miracle Grow, instead I just cried and now let them grow all over my yard.

He'll be here for a visit in a few days and I know it'll drive him nuts seeing my perfectly non-perfect lawn.

Sandpiper said...

This is a great story! If this planet ever meets with catastrophe, the dandelion will be its one survivor.
You have a great blog. I like your writing and was drawn right into the setting.
Thanks for visiting my blog!

Debra Kay said...

I think I blogged about realizing this year that the clover was considered a weed. I've compromised-my front lawn is grass to demonstrate my willingness to be a part of this community (mostly retired, grass kind of folk). My backyard is wilflowers, chickweed and clover for the critters.

I moved back here in part to experience community-and I've had to figure out that that means conforming at times, but only to the degree that is acceptable to me. I'm learning compromise needn't be a dirty word-at least for some things.

Dandelions make a great salad, but I usually just pick them and feed them to the gerbil and the turtle-who eat them with enthusiasm. The turtle also shares in the tomato and pepper crop too-I don't limit her to "just" weeds.

Lynn said...

This is an absollutely delightful story. I LOVE it! And it brought back memories to me from my childhood. I love the garden you described that you could "feel" and play in...we had an empty lot at the end of our neighborhood of homes. The lot was huge (to a kids eye view) and these were the days
(1950's)when it was okay for kids to roam free, play outdoors alone unsupervised till dinner time when mom would stand on the porch and whistle and we knew it had to come to an end for another day. In this lot was a lot of high overgrown grass and weeds and in one area a big hole. We'd take blankets to lay on the bottom of this dug out hole. And that was our fort. We brought a box of HiHo crackers to eat for snack. I guess we were cowboys and indians and it was simply grand.
And on our front lawn we'd pick dandilions and put them under our chins and let the yellow shine there...I think it meant something but I can't remember what now? Oh well. it was fun. Or we made them into rings and wore them as necklaces or crowns. That's when we weren't busy catching lady bugs in a big mason glass jar.
Oh where oh where did that time go?

Lynn said...

This is an absollutely delightful story. I LOVE it! And it brought back memories to me from my childhood. I love the garden you described that you could "feel" and play in...we had an empty lot at the end of our neighborhood of homes. The lot was huge (to a kids eye view) and these were the days
(1950's)when it was okay for kids to roam free, play outdoors alone unsupervised till dinner time when mom would stand on the porch and whistle and we knew it had to come to an end for another day. In this lot was a lot of high overgrown grass and weeds and in one area a big hole. We'd take blankets to lay on the bottom of this dug out hole. And that was our fort. We brought a box of HiHo crackers to eat for snack. I guess we were cowboys and indians and it was simply grand.
And on our front lawn we'd pick dandilions and put them under our chins and let the yellow shine there...I think it meant something but I can't remember what now? Oh well. it was fun. Or we made them into rings and wore them as necklaces or crowns. That's when we weren't busy catching lady bugs in a big mason glass jar.
Oh where oh where did that time go?

Hopper said...

Thank you all very much for your comments... I'm always happy when I'm able to bring back memories for other people... best reason to tell a narrative...

HB... I just love the poem you wrote in your comment... "or to sweat and pain those abhorring them as a weed"... well put...

Fern and Deb... so happy that you both have natural lawns... if I wasn't in a city where everyone's yard is basically concrete I'd have one too... as it stands the only things tough and hardy enough to push their way up through the concrete are what many people call weeds... how funny is that...

Sandpiper... well met... I absolutely love your site and look forward to when you have a chance to continue your walk through your beautiful yard...

Lynn... I think that we did something similar with the sunshine and the yellow under the chin but it was with buttercups... if the color yellow showed up on your chin when you held one close (as it does for everyone) it meant that you liked butter (I mean... who doesn't!)...

Thanks again to all the readers who stop by...

DeLi said...

i love yellow blooms..i feel in their bright colors the vibrance of moment, of life.

Thank you tooo JOn for leaving heartwarming comments in my place....and you are now in my blogroll too :-)

Cestandrea said...

How I love this story:) Thanks for putting fertilizer in that canister! love, Andrea

Mim said...

I grew up in a city and had no idea about dandelions or perfect lawns. I live now in the suburbs, and DH is a lawn guy type and loves that perfect look. I just don't get it! But - I love your herbicide story...and I'm going to sneak out and do the same thing! He'll never know but we'll all be heathier. Thanks for the inspiration.

sukipoet said...

A lovely tale. Except for the weed killer, your family home sounds like heaven. My dad used herbicide or some kind of poison to spray the apple tree. Without this spray you have no apples.

The dandelion, as I wrote on Britt-arnhild's blog, is a wonderful medicinal herb. You can use the root, the leaves (in salad), you can make healing tinctures and tea. Also, wine.

I too had to dig them out of Dad's lawn as a child. And vowed never to have a perfect lawn or any lawn for that matter. I like pine needles for a lawn or moss.

Lydia said...

Hello Hopper,
Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving memorable comments. I love your blog, a real treat. Decided to leave my comments after this particular post because of a scene this week. We were walking our dogs around the neighborhood and were stopped by a group of little guys who always must visit with the pooches. One didn't approach us that day, staying in the yard of the rental where he lives. When we left the others to head on back home we passed by the side-yard where he was and noticed that he was hand-watering. But what? The grass is pitiful there and, as it's used for parking, it's mainly dirt. Ah! He told us. "I couldn't come see you because I'm watering these dandelions." It was precious.

SarahA said...

I am loving this, you. Thank you for linking it in my space. Your words have put a smile on my face which will remain there for the rest of the day or longer.
I have a great fondness for Daisies(flowers of the Soul) myself and when I was a 'wee one' I use to scold my Pa, everytime he cut the grass!