A Story For Autumn
Author: Janice Van Cleve
Let me tell you a story . . .
Once upon a time there was a little yellow flower petal named Dandelion. Her full name was Dandelion 232 because she shared the crown of the mother plant with 231 of her sisters. Dandelion was very happy. She basked in the sun with her siblings and gloried in her comfortable and easy life. Her mother fed her every day and brought her water to drink. Every night the mother closed her green sepals around the petals to protect and shelter them.
One day there was a distinct chill in the air and Dandelion noticed that the days were growing shorter. Soon she began to feel herself changing. Her lower half grew into a seed while her bright yellow petal transformed into a stem with a white parachute on top. This was very strange and she knew not what it meant. Yet she still felt the security of home. She still shared the cozy flower crown with her sisters and her mother always closed her sepals around them at night.
One night, the mother did not close her sepals. The petals stretched open their parachutes and by the dawn, they had spread out into a great round puffball. A couple of them even blew away in the breeze! “I won’t leave you, Mother! ” cried Dandelion. Mother tried to explain to her little daughter what was happening. She tried to tell her that this was part of the cycle of all things. Dandelion would not listen. She feared the changes that were happening. The next day the wind blew stronger and more of her sisters floated away. Terrified, little Dandelion pleaded, “Please, Mother, don’t let go of me!” She held on with all her might but to no avail. The mother plant died, and there was nothing left to hold onto. Another gust, and Dandelion was plucked from the secure home she had always known and was cast to the wind.
For many days Dandelion was blown about, tumbled around, and bumped by all manner of obstacles until finally her parachute and stem broke off. She lay on the ground bruised and sore and very much afraid. “I’m lost and alone, ” she wailed, “woe is me. It cannot get any worse.” Then along came a bird.
The bird was hungry. It spied Dandelion and decided she would be tasty. Before Dandelion knew what was happening, she was swallowed down. “Oh no! ” cried Dandelion, “this is much worse. At least on the ground I could still see the light. It’s pitch dark in here.”
Several hours later the bird lightened its load and Dandelion found herself buried in a bird deposit. “This is it – the absolute worst, ” sighed Dandelion. “I’ve been torn from my home, abandoned by my mother, abused, battered, and bitten, and now here I am, alone in a strange place and in deep poop!” So Dandelion relinquished all she had known and held dear. She resigned herself to what is and let go of what she wished it to be. She unclenched her grip on life as she knew it and let it unfold as it would.
Time passed. After several months the sun returned to warm the land again. The bird deposit had dried and cracked and now it decomposed itself to become nutrient for the soil. Instead of being the worst of fates, it had been a protection for Dandelion from the harshness of the winter. Dandelion could see the light again. Then she felt a stirring within her. Her seedpod swelled and split open. One long tendril grew out and extended itself down from her into the dirt. Another stretched up into the air and leaves sprouted from it. As the days grew warmer, Dandelion grew bigger. Soon she was a strong and healthy plant with a deep taproot and many lush green leaves.
Summer came and Dandelion began to feel a new stirring. Up from her center grew a stalk. On that stalk grew a crown with sepals and many little petals. She opened the sepals and discovered to her delight a crown of hundreds of little yellow petals basking in the sun. She fed them every day and brought them water to drink. She held them high so they could receive as much sun as possible. They grew and swelled with pride in their bright yellow finery. Every night Dandelion closed her sepals around her daughters in protective embrace. She was very happy.
One day the air turned chill and Dandelion noticed that the days were growing shorter. She knew what was coming. She released the special hormone that triggered seed and parachute formation and fed it to her daughters. She continued to protect them as long as she was able, but at last her sepals would not respond any longer. She recalled how once before she had let go of home and mother and all that she had loved and held dear, and now she knew it was time to let go again. She remembered her mother’s last words about the cycle of all things and she was prepared now for the next turning of the cycle.
The wind began to blow. One by one she felt her daughters plucked from her crown. She knew what they would face but she was confident also in their future and that they would be reborn and become mothers in their own right. She knew that they would have petals of their own and that the cycle of all things would renew as it always had and as it always would. One of her daughters, however, was still holding on to her crown tenaciously and repeating, “I won’t leave you, mother! I won’t leave you!”
And the mother sighed and said, “Dandelion, let me tell you a story