A man told me a story about his friend, a new homeowner with a yard for the first time. He said his friend called him to ask some help with lawn maintenance. He asked about the yellow flowers popping up throughout the grass. They are dandelions the man told his friend. They chatted about options and pros and cons of not doing anything about them at all. The following week, his friend called again. He tells the man he didn’t do anything and all of the yellow flowers disappeared! But now he says there are white puffball plants all over the place!
I am not sure this isn’t an urban legend being repeated to me, but it is a good story and not completely implausible.
This got me thinking about transformation. In a past post I explored transition, the process of changing, but here I am thinking about the actual change.
“For tomorrow’s class you will have to bring a symbol of your culture and your spirituality” instructs my professor in my first doctorate level course – Spirituality and Culture in Adult Education. Completely at a loss for anything that symbolizes an upbringing with no formalized religion and no specific traditions relating to my cultural heritage I was frantic. What in the world could I bring to class for this show and tell? It was suggested to me that perhaps a dandelion could be my symbol.
Since I can remember I have always enjoyed these little dots of sunshine in great green expanse of lawns. I think part of the appeal to me is that they seem so defiant. Obviously out of place and not trying to blend in at all but sticking their bright yellow heads up high and proudly. I identify with that. I have 5 framed photos of the various stages of a dandelion’s transformation on the wall in my office. Since I began my career teaching anyone who would listen about the wonder of plants, I have emphasized that even a dandelion growing in a crack in the sidewalk is valuable and ‘nature’. This would be my symbol. The lowly ‘weed’, the dandelion.
When I had the opportunity to share my symbol, I explained how the dandelion represents my need to question behaviors and beliefs, to provide alternate information people may not have considered before making decisions. Things like the dandelion provides early season nectar for pollinators when not much else is blooming. So keeping them around helps support the bees that are in peril around the globe. That dandelions were brought here in the first place as food and medicine. They could cure and nourish and now we are killing them by the billions with chemicals to preserve a lawn that will do neither of these things in a time when so many are sick and so many are hungry. So this symbol of dichotomy and human/plant relationships is the representation of the culture and spirituality I have developed over my lifetime. The dandelion is my spirit flower.
Many people correlate transformation to the complete metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly. Though this is amazing and beautiful in its own way, the caterpillar cannot go back to being a caterpillar, it will always be a butterfly. The dandelion transforms over and over again, exposing its different forms at different times for different circumstances and that sounds like my life to me.
Personally, I feel the value of a dandelion goes beyond pollinator support and nutrition and healing. It is a symbol for life itself. It is a living reminder that though we may change, and feel we have changed completely and totally for the better, we have not lost who we were before. That it is okay to go back and forth between who you once were and who you are now and explore everything in between. That change is good and necessary and a reflection of the times and who you are now will not be permanent. Most importantly the dandelion is a reminder that change is beautiful.