Madison, looking up at me, her eyes the largest part of her body–those beautiful deep brown eyes so much like her mom’s when her mom was five years old. She holds out a bouquet of beautiful yellow flowers she found growing in the yard.
“Thank you!” I say. “These are beautiful.” And I put them in a miniature jar and set them on the cupboard, where they last about a day before folding up green and soft-tipped, drooping over glass.
Those beautiful yellow wild flowers grow in profusion here in our Wisconsin hay fields–so much so that if you didn’t know better, you’d think the farmers had planted them as a harvest crop instead of clover and alfalfa. They are said to have been first planted in North America by the Pilgrims, who valued them for their beauty and medicinal value, and they have a fancy French name that means “lion’s tooth.”
Ten things I bet you didn’t know about dandelions.
I had a conversation with my brother Jeffrey about these beautiful yellow wild flowers a few weeks ago. “Weeds,” he called them. I tried to argue him out of the notion.
“You only think that because they’re so common,” I said. “What if there were roses growing everywhere in the fields and lawns? You’d probably think they were weeds.”
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“Because they’d be beautiful.”
“But dandelions are beautiful, too. You’re just seeing them wrong.”
Children have no problem seeing the beauty of dandelions. Adult eyes grow jaded, sated with sun and beauty and mirth. Trees, instead of being mysterious and friendly bodies good for climbing and hugging and tree houses, become trees only. Grass is that annoying green stuff that’s always growing and which you continually have to trim, like hair, in order to appear “civilized.” Stars are balls of gas in a distant sky where maybe someone has a better life than we do.
To children, all these things are new: as free and fresh and abundant as air.
Somewhere, maybe, I still have the note my little sister Elizabeth gave me when she was much younger. Something like: Here is a dried flower for you, since you like dried flowers. With a brownish dandelion, its top splayed out as though it had been pressed between the pages of a book, its stem a wilted tendril taped to the page.
It is a definite human tendency to covet that which is rare and unattainable, and to look with glazed, unappreciative eyes at anything easily found and already in hand.
How might it change our world to see as children see? If everything in our environment remained as beautiful and mysterious and endlessly possible as it was on the day we first saw it, what might we do and discover and accomplish? How might it change our level of contentment if we could suddenly step back and see the gift of our life–this living and breathing and bleeding and crying–as strange and wonderful as it would surely appear if we were seeing it for the first time ever?