make a wish

Make A Wish

by Lea Redmond

Milk witch. Monk’s head. Cankerwort. Clock flower. Tell time. Irish Daisy. Blowball. Dandelion. She’s a splay of bright yellow florets in the daytime who folds and puts away her party dress at night, only to dream of seeds. Lots and lots of seeds—a hundred or more in a lacey sphere so tidy and tenuous that it would take your breath away if you hadn’t already seen this a million times.

I learned the etymology of “dandelion” on a night hike a decade ago from my ethnobotanist friend Kyrié, and the plant has never seemed the same. The name comes from the French, dent-de-lion, or “lion’s tooth,” in view of the fact that the leaves have jagged edges, just like a lion’s jaw, agape and ready to tear its prey to bits. These pretty little plants lost their innocence for me that night. Dandelions no longer grant wishes and smile sweetly from greeting cards. They’re not even just a metaphor for the beauty of small, common, everyday things. Now I notice a part of her that is not so light on her dancing feet: the leaves. These poky lobes of deep dark green from which the flowers spring are rough-to-the-touch, and ready to bite if I don’t watch my step!

I believe in wishing on dandelions, but not because they have mystical wish granting powers. It’s not that I believe in dandelions; it’s that I believe in the person making the wish. It’s that I believe in me. And you. I believe in crouching at the edge of the sidewalk, plucking a perfect seed head, concentrating one’s most heartfelt priorities into a single, full-lung-capacity breath, and watching one’s intentions take to the wind.  And here’s where the lions come in. Sure, make a wish. It’s fun. It’s a chance to remember what truly matters. But then—quick quick—get moving! The leafy jaws are snapping at our feet, reminding us that if we just stand around wishing, nothing much will come of it, or maybe worse. The lions—fear, regret, procrastination, laziness—will certainly eat us up.

When people say “make a wish,” they’re of course referring to a brief moment in time, like the one before you blow out the candles on your birthday cake. Make a wish, blow out the candles, done. But what if we took the phrase and stretched it out, like taffy, into the future. What if making a wish, at its best, means that you also get to make the wish come true? What if the wish is actually still in your hands long after you’ve dropped the empty stem on the sidewalk?