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Nature at Arm's Length / Nina Miller

Published 9:46 am, Monday, June 30, 2014
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Look at how they've grown! Bright yellow and seeming to smile, they work intelligently to claim their space. The dandelion's dented leaves grow out, close to the ground, covering the soil against competition. The tap root, which at times is quite brittle, grows down deep into the soil, as far as a foot in some cases.

Shunned by some, misunderstood by many, the dandelion is a stubborn plant -- but beneficial in many ways to several animals, including humans. They are the first source of nectar and pollen in the spring for bees. Birds eat the seeds of the moon-like puffball. The small green leaves of spring, so good sauteed or fresh in salads, contain more iron and calcium than spinach. Dandelion wine and jelly are made from the flower and the milky sap from the hollow stem is a good anesthetic for mosquito bites and bee stings

Look at how they've grown! Bright, unique and sometimes even smiling, they work hard to claim their space, their individuality, their identity. Teenagers, sprouting like weeds, remind me of the dandelion. They are intelligent, competitive, at times fragile, yet always determined.

Shunned by some and misunderstood by many, the 16-year-old, four years into his teens and four years from leaving them, can be a stubborn young adult but also very helpful. He is the first to offer to help others less fortunate. She will forfeit the run around the bases when a member of the other team falls with an injury. They will share their love and compassion for other living things in the hope of making the world a better place for all. Gifted artists and talented athletes, they perform often for charitable events.

Although I'm not sure there are many teenagers who wake up every morning with a golden glow of happiness or can be relied upon to power down and go to bed at a regular time each night as the dandelion does, the similarities continue with the fact that the dandelion is a composite flower made up of many other tiny florets. The teenager too is a composite being, made up of many different experiences, gifts and hopes.

My son was 16 in 2001. To this day, I still tell him that I love him more than the sun, the moon and the stars. The dandelion has been likened to these celestial bodies: The golden flower resembles the sun, the puff ball the moon and the seeds resemble the stars.

Dandelions and teenagers: a wild world of possibilities if given the chance.

Nina Miller is a Darien resident.