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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yellow fingers

Some folks might consider it bizarre that I go dandelion hunting every spring day in Maine. I think it's weird too, actually. No manly salmon fishing or rafting, driveway work or tree chopping: just me and a big screwdriver. My lawn doesn't really aspire to a green, even blanket of suburban perfection. It's mostly weeds anyway. So why this hopeless, uphill battle? Every morning inevitably sees more of the cheery, bright little beasts.

The idea is to get the dandelions out before they have a chance to produce those white-Afro heads of seeds that we as kids used to blow like soap bubbles upwind of any hated neighbors. I choose only the flowering ones (eradicating them all is a nice idea - got a month or two?). For the big spreading ones, I jab the screwdriver next to the roots and with a practiced twist, pull out a handful of those sharp leaves, a flower or two, a couple of buds and sometimes even the taproot which is the whole point of the screwdriver. The little ones I just decapitate without the help of tools, since their little bodies are indistiguishable among all the other weeds anyway. This daily 15 or 20 minutes of work results in a few score trophies and produces a nice, all-green result that actually looks like a lawn. Just don't get close.

So again, why this futile exercise? For the rest of the day I can survey my little kingdom, for we carve out little spaces in the wilderness and a clean lawn is a small bulwark against its terrors. And doesn't the lawn's green sweep look wonderful against the deep blue expanse of the ocean? Never mind that it's all a matter of perspective: the lawn is a terrible jungle to ants.

Deep down, however, I'm afraid that rampant dandelions are an example of moral sloth and turpitude. Dandelions weren't really allowed in the fifties, in my childhood. Neighbors would talk, don't you know. (It's a little startling to see yourself become more like your father, God rest his soul, every year.) Taking a screwdriver to dandelions is like brandishing a Bible against sin, not to put too fine a point on it.

The truth is, of course, that I just like to be outside on these beautiful days, and any little task will do. I'm ecstatic to follow up the painting of my fingers with dandelion juice by more painting: touching up some white paint on the doorjambs, and priming the new garage door in anticipation of a cherry-red extravagant future, and leaving some white paint on my fingers to complement the yellow of the dandelions and remind me of sunshine all evening long.

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