As I pick up my yellow notepad to write this week, I’m pondering two memories from my childhood. As a little girl growing up in a rural Ohio home in the sixties, I would pick little bouquets of wildflowers from our yard and present them to my mom. After thanking me, she would prepare a small glass of water to place them in. The arrangement might contain violets, clover, Queen Anne’s Lace, or, yes, dandelions.
It wasn’t until my husband and I bought our third house that I began eyeing dandelions as an undesirable yard intruder, and then only because I realized that our neighbors were fighting a war against them. During the summers of the early nineties, little flags were popping up along the curbs to advertise and warn that the lawns had been treated with chemicals. My farm-raised husband and I had no interest in spending money on lawn treatments, and I suspected that the sprayed concoction was giving our son headaches as he walked home from school. Our pediatrician could find no other cause and said it was a possibility.
Now there are many on-line warnings of harmful effects of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and gas exhaust on pets, people, water, and the ozone layer. I recommend the interesting (and lighter) Wikipedia article about the history of lawns and how we came to care so much about them.
We’ve made two more moves since dandelions became weeds and now live in a lovely neighborhood filled with friendly people and unassuming homes, most with weed-free lawns. We’ve found that keeping our grass growing has been a challenge here, while weeds of all kinds flourish. When a lawn care specialist knocked on our door a couple of years ago, I admitted that I was not happy with our lawn, but didn’t like the idea of using chemicals. To my surprise, he recommended a natural product made mostly of chicken manure that would (somehow) stimulate the grass roots to grow and to choke out the weeds. In our third year of treatment, we do have more grass, however it seems to be living peacefully with many kinds of weeds including a bumper crop of dandelions. And this spring they got to me.
I could put up with the bright yellow blossoms in our back yard, but seeing our front lawn filled with yellow dandelions almost had me seeing red. Plastic bag in hand, I harvested those heads before they could seed. However, the next day our lawn was again dotted with yellow as well as tall stems loaded with white seed-filled fluff. I told my husband that I’d like to move to the country where it wouldn’t matter what grows in our yard. He bought some weed killer and sprayed the front lawn.
A couple of days later, when our dandelions had shriveled, some beautiful photos taken by my friend, Autumn, showed up on Facebook. With her artistic eye and love of nature, she had captured her little daughter playing in a “field of wish flowers.”
I remembered being that little girl who made a wish and blew on the seeds, sending them into the breeze to find fertile ground. And I felt a twinge of regret for having hated my dandelions and a bit of sadness for how our feelings about simple things change as we get older. Since my posy pondering has filled front and back of my yellow page, I’ll save the other childhood memory for a part two of Seeing Yellow.
photos by Autumn Dimmerling