Dandelions are popping up everywhere right now. I love seeing the bright yellow face of the dandelion flower, creating a cheerful carpet on either side of the Merritt Parkway and on my front yard. I find dandelions enchanting and useful, but I know many people view them as a nuisance, an enemy, a plague that “ruins” their lawns.
As I write this, I can hear the loud roar of lawn mowers and leaf blowers, drowning out the bird song I enjoyed this morning, a form of noise pollution that we somehow accept. There was a time when I just went along with “the system”—working hard, over-scheduled, rushing around, not really thinking much about a greater picture. Then, I was transformed—by a little epiphany to consider the lowly dandelion. I began to see how the “American Dream,” of owning a house surrounded by lawn—our system’s symbol of achievement—comes at a cost.
If we human beings simply leave nature to its own devices, we notice what “wants” to grow here in suburbia: Dandelions, ajuga, wild strawberries, clover, purslane, daisies, violas, and countless other herbs and plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife such as the birds, bees, and butterflies that we need in order for us to also thrive. These wild creatures pollinate our food supply, and yet we disregard their needs and ruin their habitat. And, if we follow our current trajectory without changing course, we will ruin ourselves. Why keep trying to “control” nature when it’s really not possible? Releasing our grasp on controlling nature has freed my husband and me to enjoy life more.
Dandelions are filled with nutrients. My husband and I cultivate our front yard in what we call a “yarden.” We eat dandelion leaves in our salad, sauté them with a little olive oil and garlic, and make a tea that helps reduce water retention during the hot months. We don’t treat our lawn with chemicals, of course. Historically, according to Columbia University, “[In New England], the most intended purposes of the dandelion were for medicine, food and wine. In the 17th century when dandelions were brought to the New World, they were mainly used by the Puritans as a source of medicine, hosting a variety of health benefits.”
No more mowing or watering. At our house, we live more peacefully, without the noise, expense, or pollution of mowing, and we are grateful to conserve precious water.
Allow nature a place to thrive. By thinking differently, you too can eliminate your use of lawn chemicals and fertilizers that poison our soil and groundwater. You can do strategic weed-trimming (electric) instead of mowing, eliminating gas fumes and excess noise.
Give the “lowly” dandelion a second look. As the artist Georgia O’Keeffe said, “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time—like to have a friend takes time.” Befriend your dandelions and stop thinking of them as enemies. Christ said to love your enemies. This is called freedom.
Envision a beautiful garden as nature intends it, and allow a butterfly to alight on your shoulder. Smile at the beauty of a simple yellow dandelion smiling at you and know you are in tune with nature, coexisting peacefully. Imagine yourself in this world.