Dandelions have become a great source of consternation for me over the past few weeks. As I am adapting to my first Spring as a home owner, dandelions in my yard mean more frequent mowing, more rigorous hoeing in the flower beds as the dandelions sneak through the mulch, and more serious deliberation as I consider what to do with these pesky plants.
I’ve been trying to appreciate them for their inherent value. Their perky little yellow blooms can be cute. LL Barkat is teaching me that the greens can be served in salad, the stems chopped up as a garnish for soup, or the roots brewed into coffee. And dandelions can provide hours of entertainment for children (or am I the only one who, as a child, played “Charity had a baby and it’s head popped off” with dandelions in their white puffball stage?).
But when I drive by lush green lawns without a dandelion in sight or when I think about how the dandelions in my lawn actually are taking advantage of weak grass structure, I cringe. I know the anti-dandelion campaign is the result of group-think (“everybody” hates dandelions), but I can’t help wishing my yard were free of them.
So then my dilemma really begins. If I have my heart set on not having dandelions in my lawn, there are really only two options: spraying the lawn with chemicals or digging up each and every dandelion from the roots.
So for 15-30 minutes a day for three days this past week, I have taken a little gardening shovel, gotten down on my hands and knees, and begun the hard work. Friends have already teased me about this decision, and I have felt a little foolish imagining what the neighbors must think (that’s my suburban sensibility taking root!). But as I root around out in my yard, I am learning a lot about the life structure out there. I am finding areas of my lawn that need a lot of help, and I also am thankful for the areas where the grass already is thriving. And the great thing is, the 45 minutes or so I spent so far on this dandelion project have really made a difference.
My dandelion dilemma has actually become a metaphor for most of the things in my life I really want to do. In each case, there are usually a couple of options: taking the quick, easy way that irritates my conscience and has long-term hidden costs, or doing it the hard way, which seems right, but is going to take a lot of time and will require a lot of patience.
Also, like dandelions, the things in my life which need to be eliminated — everything from bad habits, to character flaws, to sin–are usually thriving in the places of weakness in my life. Just as any good dandelion strategy involves aggressive fertilization and seeding of the grass, so too these other areas of my life. As I put off sin, I need to sow seeds of obedience, creating new habits to replace the bad ones I am ending.
And when I’m out there digging, I can’t help but think about how this very process of slowly working my lawn into a healthy little ecosystem is having the same affect on my own life. In fact, just this evening, my dad was helping me think through a hard decision I had made that has been painfully slow in coming to a resolution. In all my whining, it sounded as if I regretted the decision. So he reminded me, “If it’s the right thing to do, then it’s right no matter how long it takes.”
You can bet that advice was dancing through my head as I dug those stems up from the root.