In Praise of Dandelions

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My neighbors probably hate me. Every summer, white trucks emblazoned with various clever slogans (“Jeff’s Chem Control—We Get the Bugs Out”) make regular visits to their yards. With military precision, lawn tractors, string trimmers, and sprayers seek and destroy any weed so bold as to stick its fuzzy seedhead aboveground. Then they pack up and convoy to the next reconnaissance point.

If we cut our grass before it reaches knee high by the Fourth of July, we pat ourselves on the back. I’m really thinking of just applying for a meadowlands permit and forgetting the whole mowing business. Except it makes for a very challenging game of croquet. Not to mention the occasional toddler who wanders back there and isn’t found until winter.

But the real area of contention, I bet, is those dandelions.

In the back where the grass remains healthy, they’re not too problematic. But in the side and front yards, where grass competes with tree roots, shade, and creeping charlie that could smother Texas? It is quickly losing ground to dandelions.

And I don’t really care. OK, I admit it. I like dandelions. Those seas of yellow shrieking “Spring!” to the world make my heart do a little dance. No subtlety for these tough guys of the plant kingdom. I love to watch little girls squeal with delight as the white fuzzy seeds they just launched with a whoosh of their breath float in the air, or come backward to tickle their noses.

The same girls’ dandelion chains, crowns, and necklaces remind me of a time when creativity was where kids made it, not on an iPad. Not so long ago, I was a total pushover for a small fistful of those bright yellow balls in the hand of one of my daughters, who too soon grew too sophisticated for giving me common weeds as if they were a golden treasure from her heart (which they were).

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But dandelions are bad, right?

I agree that I hate to pull the things out of my garden beds. Kind of like trying to pick up a semi by the antenna. But in my lawn, I’d just as soon leave them alone.

I even have justification.

One morning, as I sat sipping tea at the breakfast table, I noticed a rabbit in the front yard semi-circle. Rabbits are another neighborhood bane. No one’s garden, it seems, remains immune to their appetites for all things green and growing. We see dozens of the cuddly critters around, and we hear tales of their destructive habits.

But as I watched this one, I realized he was in the throes of a gourmet bunny’s delight—eating dandelions. He would pluck one out of the ground, then blissfully chew up the stem as a child would slurp a spaghetti noodle. I swear I spied a smile on his fuzzy little face. Then he’d head to the next one, totally ignoring all the expensive garden center perennials.

I must tell you, bunnies have never eaten a thing in our garden. (We do have a resident woodchuck—that’s another story.) Now I knew why. We graciously and abundantly supplied them with what was obviously a favorite taste treat—why leave the all-you-can-eat buffet for lesser fare? Dandelions, the bane of a lawn care fanatic’s existence, were actually saving our plants.

We never know what unexpected bane will turn out to be be our salvation.

Seventeen years ago, my doctor noticed an enlarged thyroid on the right side of my neck. After unsuccessful treatment, a specialist performed surgery to remove half my thyroid. Surprisingly, she confirmed the next week that it had been a cancerous growth.

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The interesting part of this story is the chain of events that led to the discovery. I had gone to my doctor for a blood pressure check when she discovered the lump. My potential high blood pressure had been discovered under sedation for surgery on my toe. I had sliced a tendon in my right foot in what surely should make insurance record books as a freak accident.

Innocently washing dishes one morning, I stacked a cutting board on top of something else on the counter. A few moments later, the board slipped down, knocking a giant serrated knife off the counter and onto my foot, followed by the cutting board, which drove the knife in. So while the surgeon repaired the tendon, he also discovered my high blood pressure, leading to the discovery of a cancerous thyroid.

You can’t make this stuff up.

While watching blood cover my kitchen floor and screaming for help, I never once thought, “Hey, this is going to turn out to be a great thing!” While eliminating dandelions and cursing bunnies, my neighbors have never once considered how God maybe made these things to work together and serve a tandem purpose.

Time and perspective can change a lot.

“Shall we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10, NLT).

In time, I’m betting God will use our dandelions to make the whole garden glorious.

Just like the lawn care trucks, our attempts to control, sanitize, and tame the stuff of life can eliminate the things that would have made us better in the end. It’s worked well for the dandelions. Now I wonder what eats creeping charlie . . .

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