Words by Kimberly Armstrong
The seedless stub of the since-picked Dandelion uses her last moments of life to remember the softness of youth. She remembers drifting around in her infancy at the whims of the wind and the ground below. The careful hands carried her away from her origin, whispering of places bigger and brighter. A place where the grass glittered in the early morning sun; a place where eucalyptus trees bend but didn’t break against the wind; the place where she could lay her roots and then eventually her seeds. Flower.
Trust us. You’ll love it, pretty one. Little heartbreaker. Passers-by will love it.
These whispers meant little to her. Not while she was sailing so smoothly. That sweet, soothing glide was so sacred her gripping tendrils relaxed. She only really knew the bright blue of the sky, the heat of Spring, and those small shapes creating unidentifiable scenes below against the backdrop of vivid green. The soft white clouds were merely stepping stones as she climbed higher and higher into the sky, all the while that wistful wind sighed sweet symphonies against her soft white down.
Oh, to be you, little one. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Pretty lucky.
As the sun tenderly kissed the horizon and that bright blue turned bashful orange, the young Dandelion seed was released from that tender caress, gently floating and flying down to her lucky lucky spot. She found herself beneath the leaves of a tall Hydrangea Bush, pretty purple, pink, and blue. Pretty hue through and through. Gazing up at those shining, stretched, taut leaves, those first few promises flittered through her mind in the cool dark shade of pretty purple, pink, and blue. Pretty one, pretty lucky. When the sun finally rose again, alighting the green, purple, pink and blue, the Dandelion noticed she was not alone. There were others here in the darkness of the shade, but unlike the soft whispering wind, their words were bitingly bitter.
We know what’s best. Best for you; better and better. Better to stay quiet. Better to be seen, not heard, pretty one.
Their small leaves were nothing compared to the long, gleaming coat of the Hydrangea Bush. The Dandelion seed could not see the Hydrangea’s face but she could imagine it looked nothing like the yowling, yellowing faces of these Bitter Betters. They told the tale of tall Passers-by with their cutting wit and terrible tutelage.
Not too pretty; not not pretty. Enough to stay, not picked. If not pretty, then hidden. Hidden like us.
The first time she had seen a Passer-by, she had long since taken root. When underneath her budding green skin, she started growing an array of petal thoughts, threatening to burst her tightly taut head. Petal thoughts of her promised future. Bigger and brighter, they did say. Glittering green, they promised. She will grow a tall pretty purple, pink and blue and see over the brown into green. She was trapped in these thoughts when the Passer-by passed by, walking on solid roots and blushing the same bashful orange of the sky. She unfurled her newly sprouted long green limbs in greeting. They weren’t the same shape as that pretty Hydrangea Bush, but any limb is good for a friendly greeting. These not-quite petaled thoughts became tangible on that hot Spring day as she gazed upon that beautifully blushing Passer-by. There were not only thoughts of purple, pink, and blue, but of yellow and orange.
No, yellow and orange do not get pretty.
Those small Bitter Betters hissed and yowled. The Dandelion pitied the Bitter Betters. Underneath these leaves, they’d never been able to see the sky change to that same concoction of yellow and orange. They’d only ever known the cool darkness of the Hydrangea Bush leaves.
As the Passer-by leant down to the petaled flowers above, eyes closed and pretty pink lips open slightly in a sigh, the two exchanged precious pollen secrets. The Dandelion realised she wanted so bad to be privy to those precious private moments.
The precious Passer-by sighed. In her mind, that budding Dandelion saw herself being admired so deeply by something so tall and grand. She felt her insides grip with longing, desperate to be desired. Pretty sitting places are for prettily sitting plants, privy to pretty secrets.
On the day of her blooming, she was introduced to the flowers atop the Hydrangea Bush. Her petals had burst through the green, a shocking yellow hue. Not the pretty purple, pink and blue. That was also the day she learnt a new word.
The Passer-by met her bright yellow gaze, cringing.
When they turned to the Hydrangea Bush, their pink lips parted in a pearlescent white smile. The Dandelion found her reflection in the white there, staining and yellowing. She felt the need to apologise for finding herself there, her too-long limbs desperately reaching higher, only to come face to face with the pretty purple, pink and blue of the Hydrangea flowers.
The Dandelion knew the flowers of the Hydrangea Bush, sitting pretty in their pretty place, thought the Dandelion smiled an ugly bright yellow, too-wide smile. She talked to them in a too bright, too yellow voice. Too loud, too much, not pretty. Why can’t she sit in her pretty sitting place, prettily like them? These flowers – in all their purple, pink and blue, purple, pink and blue glory – sat pretty and did nothing else. Their blank faces soaking in the sun, their pretty blank petals gleaming. No yellow petaled thoughts. No yellow staining.
Rising above the shade of the Hydrangea Bush is dangerous, little one. Come back down. Come back to us. Back to us Weeds.
The Dandelion decided the Bitter Betters were wrong. Being plucked from your pretty sitting place while sitting prettily in your pretty sitting place is the highest honour. Snip and pluck. Pretty enough. It wasn’t enough to be the gleaming green of the Hydrangea Bush leaves, the pretty Hydrangea Bush under which she sat – you needed to have those petaled thoughts that Passers-by like so much. It wasn’t enough to have the bursting and budding green and yellow trapped beneath taut green leaves or bursting yellow thoughts.
The day she was finally picked and plucked, the fingers felt wrong on her soft yellow petals. They dirtied her bright yellow and stained the deep green of her stem as she once stained their teeth. But she wanted this. She did. She wanted to be plucked and torn from her place. Pretty enough. So, she lets her rooted grip slack from their position in the dirt, only letting rigour Mortis set in after she had been freed from the grip of that Hydrangea Bush. As she was carried away from her pretty sitting place, not sitting prettily, and higher into the sky, the greens and browns she loved so much in soft feathered youth were muted compared to the dirtied hands of the Passer-by who so generously picked her.
The hands that carry her are no longer the soft, feathered lightness of a seed but warm and heavy, swinging her back and forth. Her yellow petals fall to the floor until she is left with none.
The promises from the Dandelion’s soft white downy days rear their ugly head. Bigger, brighter places. Glittering grass. Tall, unbreakable trees. Spread your seed. They never mentioned the heavy footfalls cutting through the glittering grass leaving black voids in their wake. They never mentioned the danger of Passers-by that take and take and never give back. They never mentioned picking fingers, plucking ferocity, and the threat of a slowed decay from a pretty place of display. She was never prepared for the desperate feeling of wanting to be picked, even if it meant marrying with death.
She wanted to replant herself in that cold black dirt just so she could tear her roots out herself. She wanted to grow long, thin roots that would tangle and grip, never to be ripped out again. She wanted to tangle these roots into the roots of the Hydrangea Bush and pull until the pretty purple, pink, pretty blue hue was deep underneath the ground, drowning in the shade of itself.
But she also wanted to wrap her long green limbs around that gleaming Hydrangea body and squeeze until they were both whole again. She wanted to squeeze until they forgot what pretty was and could only find themselves in the gaps between the others’ cells. It wasn’t the Hydrangea Bush’s fault she became obsessed with pretty. She learnt the same things the Dandelion did.
Pretty Hydrangea. Pretty purple, pink and blue. Pretty enough.
As she gazes down at the Hydrangea Bush, climbing into the sky in the grips of that warm pink flesh, she realises those tall stems and branching leaves of that sweetly revered Hydrangea Bush,
Weren’t that tall after all.
I have written ‘An Ode to Weeds’ as an exploration of femininity through nature. An issue arises when we can only think of nature from a human perspective. We should not have to personify nature to care about it. However, as I moved through nature and practised deep mapping, I realised the creation of art was intrinsically linked to how I was feeling. Therefore, I could not separate myself, or humans in general, from the environment I was in. I believe that nature generally does not care about art all that much and therefore does not care if you separate yourself from creation. So, I decided to flip the expectation of a human perspective viewing nature, and instead study the human experience from a natural point of view, more specifically, the female experience.
The place this is based on is a park from my childhood near my parents’ house and old primary school. I wanted to harness the strange melancholic nostalgia I feel when visiting a place from my childhood memory and seeing that it has changed, but more importantly, how I have changed since. When I started to expose myself to the world outside of family and school around the age of 15, I realised that everything I was taught as a child was to shape me into the ideal woman – quiet, pretty, and feminine – and I wanted to capture that feeling of furious clarity the moment those rose-coloured glasses of childhood were shattered. The drowning repetition of the word “pretty” was used to show how centric this ideal image is pushed upon young girls and the reiteration of several other phrases during the narrative emphasises this, as it only occurs when the Dandelion thinks of aesthetics and becomes enraptured in the idea of being pretty. Also, the human characters are called “Passers-by” to emphasise how ephemeral the people who hold these ideals are. They pass so briefly into our lives, but their comments stay forever.