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The Magic of Dandelions

The Beloved who I live with, has a different sensibility about what our yard should look like than I do.  This Beloved finds comfort in order, in straight lines, and in carefully cut and trimmed plants.  Yet, in the over twenty five years in which this Beloved and I have been in relationship, they have also come to understand that I am nourished by the wildness of the wisteria vines and the buzz of bees that annually make our porch sing in the Spring.  I am nourished by the small red tea roses clambering up into the tree entwining with her branches so that red blossoms peer from unexpected places throughout the Summer.  I am nourished by the sweetness of blackberry brambles scrambling over and under the back fence from the neighbor’s yard, brambles with thorns that protect them so that harvesting must be done with full presence and attention in the midst of my rapture as Summer turns to Fall.  And then there are the Dandelions, which in our climate can bloom even in the Winter.  The Dandelions have come to almost fully populate what was once a grass lawn all around the house.  Even in drought years the Dandelions persist with their dark green leaves, brilliant yellow flowers, and whimsical puff balls.  I am most certainly nourished by Dandelions.


Dandelions are not just in my yard of course, but present on all continents populated by humans, ready to offer their gracious nourishing gifts.  They persist by showing up in even the most cemented and paved over spaces as if to say, " humans, remember to nourish your bodies with real food, here humans remember that your exhale is my inhale and my exhale is your inhale, here humans remember your hopes and dreams and make a wish.”


They have been a staple in herbal medicine for millennia.  From Dr. Mercola’s website:  “When your grandmother said dandelion greens were good for you, she wasn’t kidding.  Folk medicine claims the dandelion plant is a powerful healer, used to purify the blood, settle digestion and prevent piles and gall stones, among other maladies. The fact is the greens of the humble dandelion provide 535 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, which may be the most important source of any other plant-based food to strengthen bones, but may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer's disease by limiting neuron damage in the brain.  Dandelion greens also give the body 112 percent of the daily minimum requirement of vitamin A as an antioxidant carotenoid, which is particularly good for the skin, mucus membranes and vision. A flavonoid called zeaxanthin protects the retina from UV rays, while others, primarily carotene, lutein, and cryptoxanthin, protect the body from lung and mouth cancers.  Need more benefits? Dandelion greens are high in fiber, which helps your body shed waste. These greens also contain vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron (crucial for generating red blood cells), potassium (to help regulate heart rate and blood pressure), and manganese. Other nutrients present in dandelion greens include folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.”


The wise Seraphina Capranos who is an herbalist, homeopath, and social justice activist, once told me that Dandelion root tea is a prescription for restoring strength and hope to burned out activists.  I have taken that to heart more than once since then, particularly in the past year or so.  I pass that wisdom on every chance I get to others in the intersectionality of gender, race, economic, and eco justice work we do.


My high school friend, Melinda Sweet, recently reminded me of Dandelion’s work with the Earth Herself, “I leave the dandelions and dock in the garden until I am ready to plant in that spot. The plants are a placeholder, putting down deep roots, keeping the soil moist and cool. When I have a plant ready I remove the dandelion and already have a deep hole with loose soil to slip my start into. I pull mulch over the soil leaving the dandelion or lock leaf and root as part of the mulch. Pull and drop or chop and drop is a way to not remove organic matter from your garden. The weed's work is to save the earth. Allowing its mineral rich root and body to decompose in situ feeds the microorganisms in the soil.”


And then there are the puff balls.  Anyone who has ever made a wish and blown on the soft white balls, watching the seeds dance away and scatter like the precious bits of magic that they are, has known wonder and delight.


Blessings on Dandelions.  Blessings on their gifts of nourishment to us and to our Earth.  Blessings on each of you as you encounter and are nourished by Dandelion magic.

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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


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