Science Experiment

This is part of a daily writing project in conjunction with photographer Sarah Tesar. For every day of May 2017 I will be writing a short piece inspired by Sarah’s daily photos as posted on her Instagram feed.

Photo © 2017 Sarah Tesar

I remember playing with dandelions as a kid. Such a paradoxical little plant.

They’re pretty, really. In their way. In full bloom their yellow is as rich and vibrant as a marigold. It’s just that the pedals seem to get carried away. Instead of a few thick, curving lips you get several dozen little fingers, rubbery and plentiful. Hard to focus on, and no pleasant smell.

You want do dismiss them as weeds. They grow where you don’t want them to, most frustratingly in grass. Aside from their yellow colours, they are fairly ugly. Growing in patches along sides of buildings, you end up taking a whipper-snipper to them, leaving their thick corpses to stick wetly to the concrete and dry up, shrivelled dark and crispy.

Often I would take out stress on them. Walking around in my youth, it was target practice. The goal was to knock off their bright yellow heads with the toe of your shoe. One swift decapitating blow.

But at a really young age, I would play with them. In the vast yard of my family’s acreage I would sit down in the gritty grass, and examine the dandelions. It was a morbid little science experiment that I never applied to any other plants or flowers.

In the first place there was something gratifying in plucking the dandelions. Not uprooting them altogether, but plucking them at the base. The stems are so thick, a green and purple mottled blend like rhubarb. And with a faint white fuzz sometimes. With a gentle but firm grip, I’d pull, and with a little snap the dandelion was loose.

And some sort of milk would come out. I was never tempted to drink it – as much as a dairy fiend as I was, I somehow knew better. But it was fascinating to squeeze it out, or to pinch the stem and crush the filmy white liquid out around my fingers.

And then the bizarre thrill of popping the yellow head off, with a flick of a thumb.

Autumn would be different. Dandelions that survived that long would meet the aging of the seasons, their limited lifespans at an end. Like elderly people their yellow hair would be replaced by silver white, and slowly start to fall out. Picked up and loosened by the wind.

Or by the enthralled breath of a child. A curious show of gentle power, dispelling the little white seed-whiskers. An explosion of fluff, even less violent than a down-feather pillow exploding in a pillow fight. And a child doesn’t do this to be cruel or destructive, not entirely. It’s an exercise in power. It’s a way of saying, “I’m capable of such crazy things,” without getting in trouble from grownups.

And then next year, the whole thing starts anew. This weird, deathly little science experiment.

© 2017 Andrew Hall Writes


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