Here’s a wonderful sign I saw in a front yard while walking my neighborhood. This is exactly how I feel when I’m tossing out seeds at the beginning of a creative project: Are these weeds or are they flowers? I guess we’ll see.
But what is a weed? Emerson, ever a fan of a gardening metaphor, said it was “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
I came across another gardening metaphor just this morning: dandelions and orchids.
This metaphor comes from psychology and has to do with sensitivity in children. The idea is that some children are like dandelions and they can grow in any environment. Other children are like orchids: they need very particular conditions and the right environment to grow and thrive. And a majority of children are like tulips, somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
The metaphor, like all metaphors, has limits, but I find it personally helpful: I’m raising one boy who’s more like a dandelion and one who’s more like an orchid.
Artists tend to be highly sensitive people, and I wonder how many grown artists consider themselves dandelions or orchids.
I feel like a dandelion, myself, which is good and bad. So often, I feel scattered to the winds, content to land wherever, and do my work there. I am easily distracted and can get interested in anything. Chaos can be a very fruitful source of creativity for me.
But there are orchid parts of me that I feel are really beautiful and often neglected — in part because I pride myself on my unfussy dandelion-ness.
I suspect this has some relationship to the specialist/farmer and generalist/hunter tension.