Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column that kneels, humbled in awe of what must be the most incredible form of plant life in the universe – the mighty dandelion. The dandelion, in fact, could be considered the plant version of Summit Up; resilient, hardy, thriving in nearly every type of soil, any habitat and almost any climate. We think dandelions could grow on the moon. And the kneeling part … well, that has to do with our lusty yet ultimately foolhardy attempts to try and pluck these feisty little sprouts from at least a few square feet of flowerbeds, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one. We are specifically referencing Sisyphus here because we see one guy in our neighborhood who seems totally committed to the task or eradicating dandelions, no matter how hopeless it may be. We see him on his corner lot (maybe he’s got nothing better to do) with his weed-digging stick starting in early spring, when there’s only one or two dandelions sprouting and it seems he may have a chance. Aaaaah, what a hopeful feeling that must be: “THIS is the year I’ll finally get it done,” he may be thinking to himself.
Then, of course, as the weeks progress, the hopelessness of the task becomes ever more apparent as more and more of the bright yellow flowers appear.For those of you who are not down with Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the guy who betrayed some of the secrets of the gods and was punished by having to roll a giant boulder up a steep hill for all eternity, only to have it tumble back down when he reached the top. Ever since then, he’s been the poster boy for futility. He’s not to be confused with Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and was chained to mountaintop where an eagle ate his liver ever day, which would heal again at night so that the eagle could start over again the next morning. They had some fairly grim tales, those ancient Greeks, but it kind of shows that life hasn’t really changed all that much. That’s why they call ’em “the classics,” we suppose. And we take comfort in knowing that, in our battle with dandelions, we still face some of the same basic human questions that bedeviled our favorite Greek all-stars; guys like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – the “A” Team of philosophers, as it were. At any rate, you gotta just LOVE a plant that is so versatile and able to withstand every puny human effort to eradicate it. And lord knows, we’ve tried. It’s not like we’re big fans of poisonous chemicals. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of our Field Agents was sprayed by an errant beetle-killer the other day, and it made his eyes water, his skin sting and his countenance to turn suddenly sour.
But hey, have you ever experienced suburban peer pressure? It’s worse than religion. Any idea what it’s like when your neighbors on either side of you have a perfect swath of manicured green lawn, and you’re stuck in the middle with a raving tangle of dandelions and crabgrass? There’s a whole child-labor industry built upon this pressure – without it, 12 year olds would never be able to work.Anyway, though, back to our fight against the dandelion. We tried the old Weed-N-Feed, conscientiously spreading those nasty little granules all across our half acre … and then we waited … and waited. A few of the scraggliest dandelion leaves did sort of shrivel and turn brown around the edges, but we don’t think any of them actually died, and the following year, they grew back thicker and more healthy than ever. Go figure.The way we heard it is dandelions were intentionally introduced in many parts of this country as a food source by early settlers. Being rich in vitamin C, the idea was to prevent scurvy and to have some fresh and tasty early greens, before the rest of the garden kicked in. Their name, by the way, comes from the French dent-de-lion, or lion’s teeth, for the serrated edges of the leaves.
So we don’t actually feel so bad about letting our dandelions thrive. Actually, we revel in the brightness of their sunny yellow blossoms. We’re going to admit once and for all that we LIKE going out in the backyard and laying down in the middle of our glorious dandelion patch and taking a snooze. We think this beats spraying petroleum-based weed killers into the Soda Creek watershed. We are going with the flow, and like the good people of Carbondale, who have started a festival in honor of dandelions, we are this summer going to make salads and dandelion wine and maybe even silkscreen some dandelion t-shirts to sell at the Dillon Farmer’s Market this summer.We even think some of the answers to life’s great mysteries could be found in the contemplation of the dandelion blossom. When we look closely at the symmetrical pattern of thousands of petals arrayed in a perfect circle, we see not a nuisance but an intricate mandala, manifesting nature’s intricate grace and beauty. Long live the dandelion!***We out, making a dandelion chain!
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