I was walking one day…

up on Nose Hill Park in Calgary. It was a beautiful walk, on a hill high above the city with a view of mountains and sudden dips in the terrain that could make the entire city disappear leaving you alone with the wind, prairie and sky. I came upon a sign that said I was walking through undisturbed prairie; grassland that had never been tilled, a reminder of how things had been before carts carved roads into the landscapes followed by shovels digging wells and foundations until the prairie disappeared below asphalt, concrete and carefully manicured lawns.

I started to pay attention, imagining myself as one of those first settlers, encountering everything for the first time and that’s when I saw it, a single dandelion gently swaying in the breeze, looking a little lonely yet completely content. I smiled at the golden interloper, who like me is not native to this land. “How is it that you’re all alone?” I wondered, “when you visit my house, you bring all your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren with you!”

I pondered this question with a friend a few days later…why were there so few dandelions on the untouched prairie and so many on my lawn where my husband worked so diligently at regularly pulling them out? Wouldn’t a weed be a weed everywhere? “They’re only a problem when they show up in the middle of a mono-culture,” he replied.

On that day, a metaphor for my teaching life began, the quest to understand the dandelions…originally imported because of their amazing medicinal and culinary properties, a favorite of children and the recipients of their golden bouquets, able to grow in the tiniest cracks in the most forlorn places…maligned for their resilience and unwillingness to stay in their place…perfectly respectable when free from the mono-cultured world.

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