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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Consider the Dandelion…

Consider the lowly dandelion. Is there any other plant more detested by gardeners, lawn-lovers, and golf-course keepers? Just search “how to get rid of dandelions” online and dozens of products come up from highly toxic weed killers (one warns that their product, if not used correctly, can kill bushes or even nearby trees!) to the “Garden Guru Dandelion Weeder Tool with Ergonomic Handle.” (Try saying that fast three times!) In short, dandelions are often labeled invasive, unwelcome, intolerable, loathsome. They are a good-for-nothing weed.

Or are they?

If you take the time to look at a dandelion flower up close, you will see it is quite beautiful–especially its bright golden color. And another beautiful thing about the dandelion, is its magical transformation from a silky yellow flower to a round seed head of white fluffy little parachutes—with a single seed attached to each one. When the conditions are right, these parachutes are so highly effective that they can be dispersed by the wind to distances almost a mile away!

The popular name dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (tooth of the lion) which refers to their jagged leaves. As a child, I thought their name was really “dandy lion” because the flower resembled a lion’s mane! Writer Howard Hanger, in his book Drink Deeply with Delight, says this about dandelions: “That lowly, bad-mouthed weed is one of the gutsiest and most amazingly beautiful and prolific plants in all of creation.” No matter what poisons we humans pour on them, no matter how often we mow them down or dig them up, dandelions just seem to keep coming back.

Maybe what dandelions need is a better public relations firm, one that will highlight their good qualities. For example:

1. Dandelions evolved 30 million years ago in Eurasia. Since the entire plant is edible, they have been an important food source for both humans and other animals for thousands of years.

2. Some ancient peoples (such as the Chinese) used dandelions for medicinal purposes.

3. Their raw leaves are high in Vitamin A, C, and K.

4. Some farmers plant fields of dandelions to attract pollinating insects for their crops. Dandelions also release ethylene gas which helps to ripen fruit.

5. Their yellow flowers can be ground into a powder and used as a yellow dye.

6. And folklore tells us if you make a wish while blowing on a dandelion seed head, your wish will come true!

When writing about the dandelion, Howard Hanger makes a good point: maybe we should think of ourselves as dandelions: “imbued with creative power and resilience. Capable of great beauty and magical transformation… Or, if you have trouble with that comparison, simply remember that you’re made by, and of, the same spirit as that magically poetic, courageous and goofy little plant.”

For reflection:

What has been your experience with dandelions? Have you ever waged war against them? Have you ever eaten them or made wine or honey from them? Have you ever put them in a vase in your house?

Have you ever showed the resilience of the dandelion in your life? In other words, have you ever shown courage, gutsiness, or perseverance?

PS: Thank you for your prayers for the retreat I led last week at Villa Marie Pauline Retreat Center in Mendham Borough, NJ. We had about 32 Sisters from various religious communities. How much I enjoyed being with them! I also want to thank Sister Monique, SCC, for taking care of all our needs during the week. She was kind, gentle, and generous to all!

Here is a picture of Villa Marie Pauline sponsored by the Sisters of Christian Charity. It is absolutely beautiful! And the view of the valley from the back porch is awe-inspiring. If you’re looking for a retreat center, you might want to check it out on line.

I have two good videos for you today. The first, using time lapse photography, shows (in1min.) the magical transformation of the dandelion from golden flower to white puffy seed head. The second (9 mins.) is a captivating contemplative video called “The Beauty of an Ordinary Life.” It features a woman in the English countryside, a lover of dandelions, who enjoys making dandelion honey syrup.

Request for prayers: I just received word that four Sisters of Mercy of Rochester, NY, were in a terrible car accident this morning, Sunday. One sister, Audrey, was killed. Another, Joanne, is in critical condition. The other two do not have life-threatening injuries. They were at their community’s vacation house and were on their way to Mass. Please pray for everyone involved in the accident as well as all the Sisters of Mercy. My heart goes out to all their Sisters. You may recall, I gave a retreat to this congregation in April. Both Arlene and Joanne were on that retreat… I thank you for your prayers.

Time lapse photography of a dandelion (1min.)

“Beauty of an ordinary day… making dandelion honey. (9 Mins. with closed captions available)

I would love your comments on this post: the reflection itself, the pictures, the two videos, your additions or insights. Please share some of your thoughts below. My readers (and I!) enjoy reading what you have to say!

15 Responses

  1. When we lived in Michigan, my husband’s grandmother taught me how to dig up dandelions and clean and cook them. They are best before they flower. The greens can be very bitter otherwise. We also would watch out for the flower buds so we could pick them at just the right time, wash them carefully and cook them in a little butter. They actually had the taste of a mushroom. And of course as a child it was fun to blow on them and watch the beautiful white whirly gigs fly all around!

  2. I’ve had a love affair with dandelions since I was a child. I remember my mother tickling my chin with a bloom, and according to her if my chin became yellow, I loved butter! I thought that was an intriguing story she made up, but apparently it’s part of others’ treasured childhood memories too. As I grew older and anticipated the dandelions springing up each April, my mother would laugh lovingly and tell me she hoped that when I had my own home I’d have an abundance of them in my yard. She got her wish, of course, and I confess that I do try to discourage them from taking over the lawn. But like each flower God has made for us to enjoy, I look forward to them every year. Even in the winter months one might pop up on a warmer day, and as I walk by I’ll think of my mother (long since gone to her eternal reward), “Hi, Mom,” I’ll say, “I miss you.”

    1. Dear Barbara, I loved your beautiful description of your “love affair” with dandelions. You’re lucky you had a Mom who shared the ordinary beauties of nature with you. Like you, I am always tickled when I find a dandelion in the middle of a warmer winter day. I applaud its persistence. My Dad loved picking mushrooms. When I spot a mushroom after a rain, I too think of my dear father and say, “Hi, Dad!”… Thanks again for your beautiful comment… Sr. Melannie

  3. Good afternoon, Sr. Melannie…a little poem….

    My hope is the hope of dandelions,
    so long despised by those who try
    to tame their lawns into lockstep
    legions of green blades,
    so long the only yellow in spring
    attacked with tools and poison.
    Once used in salads,
    fermented into wine,
    they eventually trade their yellow petals
    for airy seed spores
    to bid “so long” to the hate;
    seed spores taken by the wind
    to root where they may,
    to be loved by children
    who still see their beauty.

    1. Dear John, Thank you for gracing my blog with your sweet little poem. You’ve captured the essence of this reflection. I loved especially “lockstep legions of green blades”… “seed spores to root where they may”… and “to be loved by children who still see their beauty.” Always good to hear from you… Thanks again. Melannie

      1. Memories of dandelions …
        My mother harvesting the leaves and sautéing them with garlic and oil …
        My sister getting ready to blow on the “wish seed”, inhaling first, and winding up swallowing it! …
        And more recently, my 6 year old grandnephew spotting one popping up in the grass, reaching down to pick it, and handing it to me as we were taking a walk! … More meaningful than receiving a dozen roses!

        1. Dear Mary, Thank you for sharing your memories so beautifully! I enjoyed the details: “sauteing with garlic and oil”… “wish seed”… and your sister inhaling the seeds… and your grandnephew picking a dandelion for you… and your appraisal of his gift… All expressed so poetically… Thanks again! Melannie

  4. Hello Sister,
    As a child, we would pick dandelions and make chains of them by working the stem of one through a small slit in another. As a mom, one day our then 7 yr old daughter excitedly called me to “come see! The dandelions are moving!” A flock of goldfinches were feasting on the insects and flowers that had already gone to seed. Thank you sister for reminding us to see the small miracles of everyday life!

    1. Dear Vicki, I remember making dandelion chains too… they were so abundant! And you daughter’s excitement! You probably encouraged your daughter to notice the “small miracles” of our world. Thanks for sharing your memories with us! Melannie

  5. As an elementary school teacher, I received many dandelion bouquets from my students. Kids love them! They are such a happy sight.

  6. Two random thoughts.

    First, I found an interesting irony in the fact that this blog came in the same week that the Sunday Gospel was the parable of the sower, scattering the seed (apparently) wastefully, extravagantly, anywhere and everywhere, just as the dandelion “seed spores taken by the wind to root where they may”, as John says in his poem. Coincidence? Or a God-wink?

    Second, my mother used to eat dandelions, I think in salads. Can’t remember if she cooked them. I still remember what she called them in Sicilian (her parents’ native land), but I won’t attempt to spell that here. Thank you for that sweet memory, Melannie.

    1. Dear Rose, I looked up dandelion in Sicilian and I found CICORIA which is pronounced SHUH-GO-DEE-UHH or SHE-GO-DEE-UHH. Does that come close to what your mother called them? Just curious… Thanks for connecting this blog with the Sunday Gospel. It was a “God wink”… Melannie

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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