Millet’s pastel drawing of dandelions shows how easy it is to find subject matter for a great work of art. A magnificient subject lies just beyond your toes. What subject could be more commonplace? Well, commonplace in most yards. My father always showed such firm, unrelenting distain for dandelions and has treated them like one treats an invading enemy. His wrath has not abated either. Extreme old age, which makes even walking difficult and makes bending down perilous, is all that prevents him now from still persecuting these happy, ineluctable weeds.
But what is a weed except another name for a hearty native plant, the native who survives all Nature’s moods, and all reckless attacks of predators, and all that ill winds can do? — that has, so to speak, seen everything and prevailed? How does one defend against resilent Success?
He used to have a special long, forked tool whose dedicated purpose was to be stabbed under the intruder’s roots to pull the thing out whole. He would go around the yard, like a soldier on maneuvers, and capture each one he found. And I marveled at the perseverance of his Lost Cause. Dandelions are among the most prolific plants. The dandelion that you see is just the mother of a thousand, thousand offspring napping in the soil, awaiting a drop of rain and a little beam of sun.
The race of dandelions have their whole, bright, earnest life-cycle aimed upon the goal of world domination. After its brilliant, sunlike flowers comes the white, fuzzy globe of seeds that needs only the slightest breeze (or a visiting child) to spread its millions throughout the earth with great alacrity.
Perhaps it’s the tension between generations, the inevitable rebellion, however slight that must sometimes occur between parents and their children, that I in contrast to my father find as much delight in dandelions as he has found menace.
[Top of the post: Dandelions (detail), by Jean-François Millet (French, 1814–1875), Boston Museum of Art]