One of the sure signs of spring around my household is a yard full of dandelions. Some might call them weeds, but I don't like the connotation.
One of the definitions I read calls a weed "a wild plant growing where it is not wanted," and maybe that's a reason for my distaste. I have a knack for killing most everything I put in the ground, so any flowers that decide to show up on their own are A-OK with me.
In addition to adding a touch of color to the landscape, dandelions are edible and valued for medicinal use in some cultures, including Native American, Chinese and traditional Arabic medicine.
Other plants -- looking at you, poison ivy -- can keep the weed title with (dis)honor, but I'll call my dandelions something else, maybe just "volunteers."
Besides, you have to have a little empathy. Haven't you ever felt like a wild thing growing where you weren't wanted? Maybe you took a metaphorical spraying with weed killer and never came back, or maybe you got your head cut off. Sometimes it happens.
Then you can decide if you want to give up or try again.
"Just wait 'til next year," in the immortal words of Bad News Bears right fielder Timmy Lupus.
Perseverance, you might say.
"Life is not easy for any of us," the famous chemist and physicist Marie Curie once observed. "But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."
Curie shared a 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics for her work in isolating radium, served as head of the physics laboratory at the Sorbonne, perhaps France's most prestigious university, and was the first woman to hold the position of professor of general physics in the Faculty of Sciences.
But in 1911, her application to become a member of the French Academy of Sciences was rejected due to her "liabilities," as a 2012 Wired.com article observes: "Curie was Polish, rumored to be Jewish (an erroneous assumption; actually, her mother was Catholic and her father an atheist), and a woman."
Later that year, she received a letter of support from another researcher who did all right for himself, Albert Einstein.
"I am impelled to tell you how much I have come to admire your intellect, your drive and your honesty, and that I consider myself lucky to have made your personal acquaintance …" he wrote. "If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don't read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated."
Curie went back to work, conducting further research into radioactivity, and earned her second Nobel, this one in chemistry, the same year.
This isn't to say that Curie wasn't esteemed at all.
"The snub by the Academy of Sciences says more about its members and their prejudices than it does about any deficiencies on Curie's part," the Wired article observes. "Curie the scientist was highly regarded by her peers, and she held numerous awards and degrees, not to mention influential posts with other, apparently less judgmental, organizations."
They didn't want her in their yard, in other words, and were left without the input and insight of a true pioneer.
I'm not saying every dandelion is Marie Curie. I'm not saying every wild thing has to grow without interference.
I'm just saying the blade and the spray aren't the only options, and that there could be dandelions among us who deserve their springtime, and a chance to bloom.