May 15

Yesterday I saw an encouraging number of dandelions in spots here and there on the way in to work. They were a magnificent yellow and in some places formed a gorgeous carpet glowing in the sun.

I have lived in Wisconsin since 1984. At this time of year the weather here can be delightful and usually by this time of month (mid-May) you don't have to worry about snowfall, but there can still be frost if the weather turns on you. Some trees are still bare but many others have their first batch of leaves coming out. The tulips, daffodils, and magnolias are out too. They all are lovely, but really shine if the sun is out.

The warm weather brings out other things as well. After the winter, many folk like to get outside and cook their food on charcoal grills. I remember reading that Wisconsin led the nation in amount of charcoal and beer consumed as well as in having over-weight citizens. It probably wouldn't be too bad in the suburbs or in the country, but often there is stench of burning fat in the air in the city in the evenings. Even if there is no yard, people will often light up that grill on a balcony.


As I said earlier, the blooming dandelions were a welcome sight. There are childhood memories of my parents cutting them from the ground in the spring when they were tender and cooking the greens. Also, my grandfather and great uncle had stories of the delights of dandelion wine that they brewed at home during prohibition. I understand that you can roast the root and grind it for a substitute for chicory for brewing instead or adding to coffee.

I get very alarmed at the violence done against these useful and attractive plants. Not only is the appliation of serious herbicides expensive but of course they will get into the ground water too. The spring air is mild as you would expect, but all too often the odor of lawn treatment chemicals covers up the scent of blosoms and general freshness of the air.

This drive to achieve visual monotony at the expense of the other senses perplexes me. I haven't heard of any cases where the dandelions have provided cover for enemy troop movements, nor are there rumors that they have carried off small children. They seem to be exceptionally hardy and free of disease as well.

The tradeoffs for the chemical lawn are pretty serious, but probably of no short-term economic effect. Rolling in the grass is a pleasure usually reserved for small children, pets, and especially blessed adults. Having to think about it first (look for those little signs saying the lawn has been treated) steals from the spontaneity.

If the lawn has been sprayed, I guess picking the dandelion blossom and sticking your tongue into it to taste the nectar and pollen like a bee would is also out. Of course if you don't notice the stench, the curled and dying plants should be a tip-off that something bad is wrong.

Those little signs that people are required to place on lawns saying that there has been a pesticide application are a nice gesture, but just how effective are they? It almost seems like saying that if you engrave a notice on a bullet that it is dangerous and apologize in advance for any inconvenience, that it OK to shoot someone with it.

I notice things like what is blooming and what the air smells like because I am a pedestrian a lot of the time. Please don't tell me the way to solve the problem is to stay sealed up in a car -- its spring!!

See Suzanne Rosenblatt's Grassroots site including her Denying Dandelion wordrawing from 1992 and her performance poem Wallflower.

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