By Amy Sondova As I was walking around the outside of the old Bethlehem Steel Plant today, I came upon a few dandelions growing among the weeds and trash that now litters the land that once proudly held a captain of industry. I had to stop and take a picture of the this dandelion and its beautiful yellow plume, because it is beautiful; and because it grows in a land that has been forgotten. Because to the world a dandelion is just a weed.
When I was a little girl, I took great pleasure in plucking dandelion blooms from the grass and presenting small bouquets to my mom, grandmother, neighbors, and friends. It was amazing to me (and sometimes still is) that people would purchase bouquets in stores when what is found in nature trumps anything that man can grow. My little bundles of love were often bound with ribbons and delivered complete in a “vase” made from a Dixie cup. Sometimes I would wrap the dandelions together and make bracelets, necklaces or headpieces. In fact, these little yellow flowers made fantastic hair accessories–worn behind the ear, tucked into a ponytail, or just thrown about. The uses for dandelions were as vast as my imagination.
One day I encountered my neighbor pouring weed killer onto his lawn to kill the dandelions. I was aghast that someone would kill something so beautiful. The cynical old man told me that a dandelion was, in fact, a weed. I informed him that there was no way that a dandelion could be a weed because it was a flower. He told me that flowers could be weeds and he was killing the yellow blooms. I ran into my house to ask my mom if dandelions really were weeds and she confirmed it. I think I cried for about two hours after learning the “truth” about dandelions.
After that, dandelions didn’t seem nearly as special. They were just weeds and no one likes weeds. It seems so minimal, but I think a part of my childhood died that day. The little piece of me that saw beauty in everything realized that some things were undesirable. Yet as I’ve grown older and thrown off the cynicism that plagued my former neighbor, I’ve come to accept that dandelions are weeds, but they are also beautiful. Weeds grow just about everywhere; and dandelions are no exception. They peek out of our gardens, our lawns, sidewalk cracks, and fill empty, open fields. And yet, we barely notice them. Today in a place that was rather mundane, dead, and ugly, there was a dandelion–a bright, yellow, spark of life that grew despite the adversity around it. A weed growing where most flowers could not, simply because that is what a weed does.
From my study of Genesis, I doubt there were weeds before the Fall of Man. When Adam is being cursed by God, Genesis 3:17-18 says, “‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.'” So, weeds are really bad things which often prevent good things from growing. However, leave it to God to design a weed that produces a flower so that even in its fallen state, the world can be beautiful. (Of course, this discussion could move towards the idea that all that is beautiful is not beneficial, but that’s not for now.)
Even in brokenness, toil, struggle, and sweat, God creates beauty. I love that about God. While she may just be a weed to everyone else, a dandelion will always be a flower to me.
Original photography by Amy Sondova. Here are a few additional images of the Bethlehem Steel Plant from the same day’s adventure. I put a couple in B&W to get an “old” effect.
The old steel plant, beautiful and rusted.
A side building that once held thousands of workers is now fenced in to keep squatters out.
A former employee of Bethlehem Steel who stopped to tell me about the plant’s glory days.