Spring is a week from today, and I am so excited! Spring starts me thinking about wild plants to eat and get well with, and the first flush of dandelion greens is seriously right around the corner. I have a love for dandelions, which is something of an irony because I seriously hated dandelions for a long time, and not for yard-related battling.
My sixth-grade English teacher was a character. Her name was Mrs. Blike. "Like 'bike' with an 'L' in it." I remember her being in her 60's so she was probably 47. She wore her hair up in a blond, modern beehive sort of thing, had a certain amount of animal print (it was Jersey, after all) and looked very put together in a early '1960's kind of way. She also had a boyfriend with a motorcycle, if I remember correctly She was a "mean" teacher, strict and had a propensity for teaching us songs about Jesus even though it was a public school. I was the sort of kid that looked slightly neglected to people who had it together, and I was a little obnoxious. I mean, I was a good kid, and always had great grades, but I was disruptive in class. Forever. Seriously into college and I'm pretty sure I'm still disruptive to class now that I homeschool. But I digress. This lady wasn't into me. We got into a fight during class about the virtue of The Simpsons over Roots. (What!? I was 12 and slightly neglected). She even skipped an episode of Roots to see what this show was that all the kids would rather watch that than a gripping and moving show about a painful part of our country's history. She was so dismayed (and I now see why).
Well, one day she was telling us some delightful story about gardens and somehow got to naming all the children after flowers. Everyone was delighted, their eyes sparkling toward the teacher, while she stood there, in her leopard print pencil skirt, using her finger like a wand to anoint the children with their flower names and that flower's qualities. At this point she and I had an established feud going on, but I was taken up with it all as much as the other children. I raised my hand and said, "What about me?"
She looked at me and the lighthearted feeling in the room thinned. She smiled, cocked her head to one side, sizing me up and said, "A Dandelion."
I was humiliated. Class was nearly over and I sat there, silent until the bell rang. When it did, I ran out of the room own the hall to my earth science teacher's classroom. I was in tears, "She called me a weed," I sobbed. She had named me alone for the flower everyone universally wants to eradicate from their yards.
Even through my wounded kid-self could see that she was pissed off in the way grownups get pissed off at each other. When they try to hide it from the kid in front of them. She tired to say she must not have meant it that was, but I could tell by her set jaw that she knew that she did.
Then she said, "I would name you for a Bird of Paradise."
That got my attention. "What is that?" I said through all the tears and snot.
"Well, it's a flower from Hawaii. It's very... flamboyant...and has, uh, loud colors. It's exotic, and colorful and bright."
This was a long time ago, so I had to go to the library and find an encyclopedia to find an image of this flower.
I think she was saying that I'm fabulous, don't you think?
Nothing ever came of it, except that I never forgot the slight or the restoration.
But here's the funny thing, since becoming an herbalist, I've learned some things about Dandelions and you know, Mrs. Blike like Bike was onto something. I am like a dandelion. I am tenacious, I can grow anywhere. I have substance and am nourishing. My roots are strong and run deep. I am highly valued by those who don't seek to rip everything different or unruly out of their sight. I am the bright spot on the forgotten landscape. I am the dandelion, here me roar.
And so it is nearly dandelion season. The jagged greens will shoot up through the barely thawed earth, the buds will form, and the yellow faces will reflect the sun. The kids will delight in their abundance and the fact that no one seems to mind if they're picked, and mothers all around will be delighted with their kids' thoughtfulness and pretend to be delighted with the wilted bouquets. But not me, I will be truly delighted for both.
here are some links for fun dandelion things. Happy (almost)
Great all around tea recipe from my teachers.