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Dandelions. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2017 v11n1p0424

When the sun shines on New Jersey after the spring equinox, it leaves yellow and green gifts on the lawns, gardens, around trees.

Dandelions are cheerful plants that are beautiful and edible, with leaves that are the first fresh greens after winter, and sunny-looking flowers that are happily turned into tempura, candied, turned into wine, or just left, to look gorgeous along with the white and purple violets that bloom a few weeks later. I delight in harvesting leaves, starting in late March, and cooking them like spinach for dinner.

The day before Easter, Quakers gathered at Haddonfield Monthly Meeting for a spring cleaning; I polished some of the wooden benches, raked some leaves and after a simple lunch, cleaned windows around the inner courtyard garden. On my way out, I saw a young woman working in the garden between the road and the meeting house, determinedly yanking out dandelions from the scraggly ivy and ground plants around the 20 feet tall oak trees. Amazing any sun-loving flower can grow there anyway, the dandelions looked like acts of defiance and hope. And they were being obliterated. 

I quietly protested, but she was determined, and on Easter morning, the next day, not a single dot of yellow was seen in front of the meeting house.

After failing at halting dandelionicide, I walked home across the 5-acre graveyard across from the meeting house. A grassy expanse with trees shading the one-inch high simple memorials. I knew many of the friends who now are at rest in the graveyard. Some chose to be near the sledding hill, where kids slide after decent snowfalls. Some chose to be near the butterfly garden, where some years, a teacher in Haddonfield Friends School tends a garden and plants flowers with the children.

For about a decade, the school employed a teacher who loved monarch butterflies. She built the butterfly garden as a safe haven for them as they emerge from chrysalises and start their journey of more than 1,000 miles all the way south to Mexico. We still have Friends who love them, and during our yearly autumn Triquarter retreat, I enjoyed watching an artist show children how to hold a monarch by the wings so they could suck up sugar nectar. Before releasing them to fly home to Mexico.

My garden is a buffet for squirrels, cardinals, blue jays, bees, chipmunks, rabbits, cats. In the fall I had daily visits by a family of turkeys, who waddled down the street directly into my garden. In between vegetable beds is a carpet of violets and dandelions, I carefully cut the grass with clippers to not disturb them because they bloom for such a short time.

Two days after I had witnessed wilful destruction of dandelions, the morning after Easter, I opened my back door to see a monarch butterfly sucking from a dandelion. Recently hatched? Returned from Mexico? I don't know, but seeing it made me so happy.