Magnuson Park Dandelions, Seattle, April 2009

Magnuson Park Dandelions, Seattle, April 2009

Spring is fulling, the ground, still moist. Woolens beg for washing to withstand hungry moth larvae soon to invade closets and cupboards. Welcome sunshine emboldens myriad yellow Compositae family Taraxacum officinale flowers that dot garden beds and carpet the lawn. Left to seed, each head can produce hundreds, maybe thousands of offspring. Mulling my computer, the economy, and the dandelions, big numbers engross me.

Determined, I address the task of hand-pulling or dousing them with five percent vinegar. Although in a week, I have spotted only one head gone to seed, time presses. What can one woman do? Purportedly introduced to her medicinal garden by pioneer nurse Catherine Broshears Maynard (1816-1906) in the early days of Seattle Alki, meaning by and by, now they penetrate everywhere. Edible, the young greens can be added to salad, the roots roasted, and the flowers fermented into wine. Still, neither the slow cooking movement nor the pangs of poverty have sparked harvesting them for food or drink.

This week, Seelye is surveying by airplane the ice extent of the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet to assess multiyear and first year ice. As I poke, pry, uproot each plant, I consider its age and extent. Often the wily plant releases its surface green leaves and stems to preserve the root below, like a salamander shedding its tail to escape capture. The older the plant, the more entwined with grass, moss, other plants the roots grow, resembling sexy ginseng or carrots, creatures with fanciful underground legs, some hairy, some smooth. Occasionally, the complete plant yields neatly to my tug. Multi-year dandelions and first-year slim-jims.

Lao Tze asked, “What is the usefulness of the useless?” I ponder. Why do I do this? What can I hope to achieve? Last week I worked so hard, I broke a blood vessel under my wedding ring. My finger and hand numbed and tingled. I ached in my armpit and across my chest. I called the consulting nurse who went into high gear to ensure that I was not having a heart attack. Not breathless, not nauseated, not dizzy. Good. Yes, weary, sore and feeling depleted. Grateful to have health insurance, and embarrassed at the scrutiny, during my wait to see the doctor, I rested! The young doctor validated my reading of my body. Catch and release.

Now in my hunt for these lions, I proceed more mindfully. Shorter sessions, with a new long-handled weeder allow me more angles and exercise, even standing up! I experiment with delivery and quantity of vinegar. I lie down and drink water more consciously. Clever plants – when mowed, they grow back with shorter stems! Tempted to poison them, the view of Lake Washington squelches that thought. I seek help, reinforcements.

Lions’ teeth, they have their place in the universe. I cannot escape their presence. I would miss never seeing a single one. These sun-savvy dancing legions clamor: in my home, garden, neighborhood, in my skin, heart, bones, and in my family, genus, species – how I live matters.

Happy Earth Day!

Northwest Invasives. Horsetail, Dandelion, Ivy, Himalayan Blackberry

Northwest Invasives. Horsetail, Dandelion, Ivy, Himalayan Blackberry


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