Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Readers

Don’t poison the ground
Make a dandelion crown

As Mother’s Day approaches, so does dandelion and tulip season. Our Mother’s Day tradition was to get the family together for an early picnic at Dow’s Lake. We’d spread out a blanket, eat bagels with smoked salmon, and then wander around and enjoy the tulips. The grounds were still near empty, the tulips eager to show us their beauty, and we’d leave just as the crowds started to arrive in earnest.

This story occurred two years ago, before Covid. We hope to go down to Dow’s Lake early on Sunday, just my bride and I. I don’t mind if you steal our tradition or start making dandelion crowns with your kids. In fact, I hope you do.

Sixty years ago, at about this time of year, a neighbourhood girl with light red hair and freckles shared the secrets of how to make Dandelion Crowns. Her real name escapes me, lost in the memories; I do remember we called her Freckles. Unlike Anne of Green Gables, she liked the nickname. Freckles liked to play teacher, with us younger ones benefiting from her knowledge of crafts. One time we made dandelion crowns. The technique of making dandelion crowns was stored in the usual places in the knapsack of my brain with all that trigonometry and calculus, unopened in the great filing cabinet waiting for the time to be ripe. The harvest time came on this particular weekend.

We took my brother and his wife to the Tulip Festival in Ottawa.

The crowds were huge, six deep in front of the tulip beds. If you needed to go to the porta-potty, of which there were many, it was about a years wait in a long line that circumnavigated the globe. Meanwhile, across the lake, the dandelions bloomed on the hills unnoticed to the crowds below. A woman who looked like Venus wandered through the crowds wearing an exquisitely crafted dandelion crown. I tried to speak to her, but she moved on through the crowd like a vision. I followed her, examining her crown as the spirit of Freckles joined me. Freckles assured me that I could once again make a dandelion crown. I forgot all about the tulips.

The Creator is all around us like the dandelions. We often

try to shape our world to our own liking and pull out the dandelions. Most of us are dandelions, imported to the New World, mixing into the natural world. Trilliums and other native plants need a place to grow too. Can we live with nature or should we be rooted out? I sometimes wonder if Mother Nature asks such questions. Maybe Nature doesn’t need us or the dandelions but is simply happy to integrate us into the mosaic called life. I hope so. It would be helpful if we tried harder to work with Nature instead of always telling her what to do. Yes, there should be places without dandelions and people, but how do we blossom in the places that we do grow in?

On Sunday, Margaret had a birthday. There were four children present, all about five-years-old. We wandered around the neighbourhood with a tin bucket looking for dandelions. Some yards had none, others a few wedged in a fence line. Suddenly we came by a house that made little or no attempts at landscaping with a yard filled with long-stemmed dandelions! The stream in the Klondike brimming with gold! The kids gleefully gathered about 150 long-stemmed flowers without consulting the property owner. Later, she appeared at the window smiling, and motioned us to take as many as we liked.

Freckles appeared in a vision. The old knapsack of memories poured out the secrets of making dandelion crowns. She guided me through the process of lining up the dandelions and wrapping them in twine. We made a line about a foot and a half long and joined the ends into a circle. We made the crown using all the flowers and I placed it on the head of my granddaughter Wilhelmina. She looked like a princess. She gave it to her mother Margaret who was celebrating her birthday. She looked radiant and regal. The crown was then passed on to Wilhelmina’s other grandmother. She looked like Mother Earth. Three generations sharing a dandelion crown. Margaret wore the crown as she opened her gifts. Freckles was somewhere hovering in the room, smiling, wearing her own crown of dandelions on her soft red hair.

I felt Freckles hovering around again today. My field is filled with dandelions ripe for the picking, waiting patiently for me. Ok, Freckles, I’ll come out after my nap. Let’s enter our field of dreams and make the best dandelion crowns ever!

May the (dandelion) circle be unbroken, by and by Lord, by and by.