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Dandelion Faith

By Dwayne Eutsey

I suppose like many people with yards to care for, I’m not a huge fan of dandelions.

Especially for anyone with an idealized vision of having a plush and perfectly manicured lawn, these pesky weeds can be something of a nuisance.

As anyone who has seen my yard can tell you, I’m obviously not obsessed with achieving the perfect lawn. However, I am compelled to drag out the mower whenever I see the grass becoming shaggy with numerous white puffballs and little yellow sunbursts dotting the green.

While I may not like all the dandelions I see blotting the yard, I can’t help but marvel at their quiet, undaunted tenacity. No sooner have I mowed them down than new stems are already sprouting defiantly from the ground—a reminder that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in my yard care philosophy.

That reminder can apply to our other philosophies, religions, and ideologies as well. Often in our attempt to make sense of the universe and our place in it, we trim and prune systems of thought or belief into perfectly shaped orthodoxies that are marred by those pesky cosmic puffballs that are beyond our control or explanation popping up all around them.

Even in a denomination like the one to which I belong (Unitarian Universalism), with its openness to religious and secular pluralism, it’s possible for intellectualism or idealism to shut us off from what Unitarian poet e.e. cummings called the “leaping greenly spirits of trees/and blue true dream of sky; and…everything/which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

I suppose that’s why I find myself at times gazing outside during church services. It’s not that I’m bored and tuning out; it’s more like I’m tuning in. However thoughtful the sermon may be that morning, sometimes I can more vividly experience scripture coming to life in a tree swaying outside the fellowship’s windows. Beyond the hymns we sing together inside the sanctuary, I can sometimes hear a more profound melody in the rush of wind outside making the tree limbs dance.

It can be raining or sunlight can be glimmering on a layer of snow on the ground…For a moment I’m drawn away from our orchestrated worship service inside the building to the spontaneous sermon wordlessly and eternally emerging all around us outside, the one that proclaims the same nature-based gospel William Stafford describes in a poem entitled “On a Church Lawn”:

 

Dandelion cavalry, light little saviors,

Baffle the wind, they ride so light.

They surround a church and outside the window

Utter their deaf little cry: “If you listen

Well, music won’t have to happen.”

After service they depart singly

to mention in the world their dandelion faith:

“God is not big; He is right.”

 

That baffling faith is often what the persistent dandelions in my yard remind me of as I drag the mower out of the shed and survey the patch of earth that I foolishly believe is mine.

It’s at those moments before I pull the cord and start the lawn mower’s roar that I see all those dandelions clustered together in the overgrown grass and sometimes experience what Ralph Waldo Emerson called communing with “God and Nature face to face,” right there in my yard.

That experience begins to fade as I get down to the chore of cutting straight lanes again and again around the grass. But afterward, as I push the mower back to the shed in the sudden silence that follows shutting off the engine, I can already see a dandelion or two sprouting in the freshly cut yard, reassuring me that however hard I toil to shape the world into what I want it to be, Nature’s God will always and effortlessly have the final word.    

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