"What's wrong with dandelions?" began a post I made to Facebook extolling the virtues of this miracle plant. They grow well in most soil types, are drought resistant, have lovely blooms, and are even edible. If I could create a hybrid that did as well as the dandelion, I would be rich.
All of that was intended to be to tongue-in-cheek, yet the photos of yards, white with dandelions gone to seed, explaining, "This is what's wrong with dandelions," let me know my humor had struck some raw nerves.
I understand that no one wants their neighbor’s yard to be filled with those white balls of fluff waiting for the first breeze to spread their seeds across the neighborhood. It might help to know that I grew up in northeastern Colorado, where the arid climate made any hint of green in your lawn during August to be the cause for envy among your neighbors.
It also meant you were probably violating the watering restrictions in the middle of the night. So my standard for lawn care might be a little different. There are two questions I ask: "Is it green?" and "Is it a uniform length?" If the answer to both is yes, I can sit back and relax.
For many people a nicely manicured lawn is a symbol of pride. This originated at a time when wealthy people had animals that grazed in their yards, keeping the vegetation short. A well-trimmed yard meant you could afford plenty of animals. I think the picture of a flock of goats performing my lawn care might be more upsetting to the neighborhood than a good crop of dandelions.
Mortified that my post had stirred up such controversy, I tried to justify my declaration in favor of dandelions with some lame excuse about the effects of herbicides on our waterways. After seeing what the algae bloom did to Toledo's water supply, I do wonder about the effects of all of the chemicals we use on our lawns. However, my initial response was all about saving face. Suddenly I discovered that I was looking for lawns that had lots of dandelions. When I saw a crop of dandelions that had gone to seed, I could feel pride that my yard looked better.
Although I believe it is a desirable thing to try to keep my yard from embarrassing the rest of the neighborhood, I have never seen it as a source of personal pride. It has always been more of a matter of good manners. I realized how quickly I could be made to buy into the values of those around me.
With lawn care, there is not much harm in that, but I had to stop and think about whether the values of our culture may have influenced me in other subtle but truly undesirable ways. I will have to give it more thought next time I mow the lawn.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.