Finding a Happy Place

Bombs exploded in the streets today.  People died.  Others will bear the scars and disfigurement for a lifetime.  Tonight, the pundits and the muckrakers are all at it; on television, in print, even on the social media.  In times past, I too have attempted to fill the incredible vacuum left by such acts with words of comfort, or explanation, and even accusation.  I have none to offer tonight.  My heart aches and the words won’t come.

I hope that you will pardon a departure from the horror and the recriminations which are flying.  I have a great personal need to escape the barrage of information and speculation for a little while.  With that in mind, I invite you to take a few moments with me to revel in the innocence of youth and nature, with not a shadow of terror, nor a twinge of pain.  Perhaps tomorrow, we’ll take up more serious subjects.  Today, I offer a simple essay, descriptive of simple pleasures.  You may have seen it before.  

Maybe you’ll even take the time to plant a dandelion or two yourself today, just to remember what it was like before…

Of Parachutes and Helicopters

I planted some dandelions today.  Oh, c’mon admit it.  You’ve done it too.  Who can resist the tantalizing wispy white head of a dandelion plant in springtime?  You hold the beautiful stem in your hand, gazing directly at the horde of delicate seeds gathered in a circle around the ovule at the top of the stem.  Their tenuous grip on their life source indicates their readiness to make the trip for which they were designed.  If you examine them closely, you’ll notice that each seed has a tiny, slender stem itself, the bottom of which is attached to the main plant.  At the top of that tiny stem is an umbrella, a parachute of sorts, specifically designed to carry the seed far enough away from its sire to multiply the species.

Careful not to inhale too close to the seed head, you take a deep breath and push it back out again, directing the stream of air right at the puffball.  The resulting explosion of little flying whirligigs is spectacular!  And, if you weren’t watching so carefully out of the corner of your eye to see if the neighbors were peering angrily from behind their curtains, you would laugh for joy to see God’s creation at work.  A common weed, we call it.  Ha!  More like a miracle in action, putting to shame all the complicated machines that our feeble minds can contrive to complete the tasks we deem important.  The simplicity, along with the amazing resilience, is so far beyond our imaginations that we can only marvel.  The process needs us not at all, as is evidenced by all the empty stems I see as I view the yard.  The strong storm winds have already spread the plant’s progeny to the four corners of my property (and maybe just a little beyond, truth be told).  The gentle rain that fell last week has already aided in pressing them into the soil, and even tonight, I imagine they are starting to germinate, putting down their stubborn tendrils into the damp earth, preparing for another bumper crop in a few weeks.

I hear the naysayers in my ear as I write this.  “Why would you allow this vicious weed to thrive in your yard?  Don’t you know it’s aggressive and ugly?  Aren’t you aware that it spreads to my perfect lawn?”  Of course I know that after I mow the lawn, they pop up and make it look as if I haven’t mowed at all.  I know that millions of dollars annually are spent trying to eradicate this “blight on the landscape”, but all in vain.  Ugly or not, I’m doing my part to protect the species, although it has no need of my protection.  I must admit, I have never dug a dandelion plant from my yard, never sprayed a drop of pesticide to control them.  They are, to me at least, one of Spring’s best gifts to the awakening world, with those wonderful maple helicopters running a close second.

The fantastic design of that maple seedpod is, without question, another source of wonderment for me.  This spring, the red maple in my backyard is covered with thousands of the odd winged vessels.  It is more properly called a “samara”, but I much prefer the descriptive name “helicoptor”.  Of course, the English have a fine name for it also; calling it a “spinning jenny”.  Every two years or so, the slender branches of the spreading tree almost sag beneath the weight of the seeds (as with this year), until the spring winds call to them, coaxing them off, first just a few at a time.  I like to think that the first ones are the adventurous type, not needing the company of the rest to know that this is what they were made for.  And then, before you know it, the slightest breeze fills the air with the spinning, gyrating seeds, headed by the hundreds of thousands to a resting place in the surrounding yards and ditches, awaiting their time to be pressed down into the soil and be watered; ready to spring up into saplings.  If we humans weren’t so intent on open spaces in which to do nothing, the hills would be covered with the beautiful trees.  Oh, I know…not all of the seeds would produce trees.  If they did, the forest would be so dense nothing could live.  But, as it is, I am particularly fond of the maple trees, with their large shade-providing leaves,  shaking and quivering in the storms, turning brilliant oranges and yellows before loosing their grip on the branches in the fall; only to be the earliest to burst forth again as the warm air triggers the life-cycle once more in the springtime.

I will grudgingly admit to the beauty of the autumn, and even the excitement of a beautiful snowfall in the dead of the winter, but spring is the season I love best.  I think it’s because my mind cannot fully contain the wonder of creation; cannot take in the fantastic design of the wonderful and diverse organisms surrounding us, from the flowering trees and bushes, to the pollinating hedges (covered with bees and flies to carry the pollen far away), to the amazing methods of regeneration afforded to all of the growing, thriving flora and fauna around us.  The intricate designs of a loving Creator overwhelm the intellect, as well as the senses, with each new bloom and every living thing that meets the eye.

It also might have something to do with the simple pleasures that spring affords.  I think that’s exactly the way our Creator intended it, too.  And, it doesn’t hurt that I love it when the children in my life are overjoyed as they plant dandelions along with this silly, aging man.  I can’t imagine a better way to spend a cool springtime evening!

“If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.”
(Andrew V Mason M.D.~American doctor and author)

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”
(A.A. Milne~English author)

A repeat of one of my favorite posts, which appeared on April 12, 2011.  Sometimes you just figure you can’t improve on your first take. 

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¬© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved. 

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