As October begins, I know I am mowing my lawn for one of the last times of the year. Once the rains begin in earnest I just let it go till the spring. Today, the sun broke through the clouds in the afternoon so I broke away from writing at my computer to start up the mower and make my way around and around the back yard. Many of my garden beds are curved and the mower can only get so close. Usually I lean down and with my hands I snap off the tops of the tall weeds that escape the blades as I push by, tossing them ahead onto the lawn for the machine to chew up. Today, when I grabbed at that large dandelion, the whole plant -roots and all- surrendered to me. It was a graceful offering. A willing sacrifice. And a sure sign that Summer has ended.
During the solar height of the year, you might pick dandelion flowers, her parachutes, her leaves. But you’d be hard pressed to lift her by the roots. But now, like all plants in this season, the life force energy is retracting into its roots and in doing so, dandelions release their strong clutch. They have tenaciously grasped the earth all Summer and are now full of nutrients that will sustain and nurture them during the long, cold fallow of Winter. And the same nutrients that would have kept the dandelion surviving until Spring, will now do the same for me.
Since this beautiful specimen came up so easily, after I put the mower away I went for more, gathering several, admiring the thickness of their multiple roots. The scent of damp earth in the crisp air is one of my favorite sensual pleasures. I inhale deeply through my nose to get my fill as I clip off their leaves, pitching them into the compost. They’d be too bitter to eat this late in the yearly game. At my kitchen sink I scrub the gnarly roots in hot water till they are free of soil. Then I chop them down into little pieces. Some I toss into apple cider vinegar to use in about six weeks. Some I put in a shallow bowl on my counter. Each day, I move and shake them around with my fingers until they have completely dried and hardened. I store them in a jar in my spice cabinet so when I go to season my soups, stews, or any grains that take more than a few minutes to cook, I remember to also toss in a tablespoon or two of dandelion root to reconstitute, a healthy addition to any meal. Full of fiber. Good for the liver.
As I chop these treasured roots, growing freely and beautifully in my own garden, I once more marvel at natures’ wisdom. During the two seasons of transition, Spring and Autumn, dandelions can be easily lifted from the soil by their roots. The Spring roots contain the last of the nutrients left over from Winter and act as catalysts to wake our digestion up. The Autumn roots are starchy and full of inulin, helping digestion during the sluggish, less active months of Winter. Nature everywhere is yielding now; leaves are falling, fruit is dropping, vines are beginning to wither. Even the days are yielding to the nights. I stand in awe of this. And wonder how much wiser we would be if we would only recognize and accept, right down to our roots, that times of transition require us to yield. Like the dandelion. Willing. Graceful. And completely.