by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. I had been up all night working on an article on global warming. The subject, serious, is draining, demanding, necessarily thought provoking, disturbing. As the sun began to rise, showing its intentions by the first light of a brand-new day, I wrote the last word… and went immediately into the Cambridge Common for air, for light, to be freed from the sobering realities of my midnight researches.
At this early hour, where the vestiges of night still prevailed, as if unwilling to leave, there was no one present… and this distressed me, for I was in need of a smile, a word or two of greeting, and (were I fortunate) a friend. For my night’s work had been long and distressful, spent considering the vulnerabilities of Earth and the growing likelihood that our species, having had our way with this planet, was unwilling, perhaps unable, to do what is necessary to save our only, our collective home. Yes, I needed a friend… and solace.
Then there it was… a sight I had seen for every one of my 65 years… and which was there for me now in the full vibrancy of its joyous yellow. The dandelion. And as if it knew my need, it took me back at once to the springtime of my life when my thoughts were not cosmic or burdensome… but soaring, unfettered, generous, happy. All this one single dandelion, radiant in the mud, delivered to me, glad to be of service. And I smiled, gloom lightened by the dandelion’s undoubted splendor in the grass, gracious gift to me so many times before; gracious gift to me again now bidding me face the world and its daunting troubles with more cheer… and even hope…
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, more sensitive than they might like to show, knew the friendship and power of the dandelion. In 1967 their Rolling Stones sang this:
“Dandelion don’t tell no lies Dandelion will make you wise Tell me if she laughs or cries Blow away dandelion.”
You’ll find this song in any search engine. Go now and listen carefully, to both the version by the Rolling Stones and the unexpected beauty of the one played by the London Symphony Orchestra. And understand this: a plant that can inspire such sentiments can surely be no weed but must be instead a thing of joy and beneficence.
Facts about the dandelion.
Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. They are native to Eurasia and North Africa, and two species, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum are found as weeds worldwide.
The common name dandelion comes from the French, dent-de-lion, meaning lion’s tooth. Like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.
These are the facts and as such are important… but no where near as important as what follows, for the dandelion, remembering me from a lifetime of visits with its ancestors, was candid about its situation and how little the people passing by know of it… and its myriad services to our kind. I listened in the pristine dawn to what he told me… for he needed to tell and I needed to hear…
Poets and dandelions.
Most of the many poets who have written about dandelions are women…. and whilst they undoubtedly mean well… they have grossly misunderstand the dandelion. And here he offered one cogent example after another, starting with these words from Helen Barron Bostwick’s no doubt unintentionally condescending poem “Little dandelion”, irritating the dandelion right from its title and irritating it throughout with its ill-considered aggravating descriptions: “Bright little Dandelion… Wise little Dandelion… True little dandelion” and many similar misunderstandings and provocations.
Dandelions, he told me, are resolute, bold, tenacious, determined pathfinders. How else had they covered the known world in an imperium greater than all the captains general of human history combined?
But there was more, much more to come as the eloquent dandelion warmed to his subject…
In her poem “To a Dandelion” Helen Gray Cone wrote of the “Humble Dandelion” while an equally uncomprehending Hilda Conkling said “Little soldier with the golden helmet.” As he rattled off the evidence so long accumulated and earnestly considered, his dew touched leaves quivered, for this dandelion spoke for all his aggrieved species. But here I, who had needed comfort just a moment ago, was able to give it, the truest measure of empathy and satisfaction.
I did not merely regard but fully perceived this agitated friend. So I whispered these words, to be carried and delivered by the lightest of breezes… “There is more knowledge of you than you may know, more reasons to be of the good cheer you have shared with me than you may have ever known or considered.” And here I recited the always insightful and soothing words of a man who had, like me, truly perceived more in the dandelion than their littleness… This man was the Great Republic’s great poet Walt Whitman. These were his simple, evocative words from his masterpiece “Leaves of Grass” (1855):
“Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging/ As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been/ Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass — innocent, golden, calm as the dawn/ the spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.”
“I remember… yes, I remember.” And tears of remembrance mixed with the dew.. for these generous sentiments, celestial, obliterated an ocean of misstatements and misunderstandings, a single word of generosity and genius providing an infinity of bliss.
And so we understood each other, this bright yellow dandelion accoutered in radiance and I. We had both found a friend and been refreshed, each giving the other what he most needed then, all that was necessary to trek our laborious path. Thus we parted, happy with our chance encounter, our lives enhanced, our burden bearable again:
“Little girls and boys come out to play/ Bring your dandelions to blow away/ Dandelion don’t tell no lies/ Dandelion will make you wise.” And no one knows it better than I…
*** We invite you to post your comments to this article below.
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today at http://www.worldprofit.com