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You Have a Flower in Your Hair

Dandelions outside the KNOM studios, beginning their morning opening.

“You have a flower in your hair,” people tell me.

It’s always the same line stated the same way. It’s not a question or an exclamation or even a signal like telling someone they have a smudge on their face or spinach between their teeth. Just a disaffected statement of what they see: “You have a flower in your hair.”

And I do most of the times these days. A dandelion. And with each one, memory.

It’s funny, the things that root us.

In Alabama it was driving.
In England it was folding clothes.
In California it was slicing vegetables.
In this moment of Nome, it’s picking dandelions.

I do these actions and I remember who I am. I remember where I’ve been. The rituals embody what I understand myself to be. And as place and occupation and people change, these actions remain constant.

Key in ignition. Right sleeve over left sleeve. Knife piercing carrot. Flower behind ear.

Throughout Nome, canary yellow dandelions shoot from tuffs of grass alongside dusty streets. Stepping outside, I don’t walk five feet before I pluck one and stick it behind my ear.

I thought Alaska, subarctic tundra, would be a frozen wasteland. I imagined icy post-apocalypse of darkened, ashy sky and jagged, razor-edged terrain.

Never did I imagine a summer of dandelions spreading their yellow manes to the sun.

In Viking mythology, a solar eclipse was caused by a wolf god eating the sun. The wolf god spent its entire life chasing the star, and when he caught it, turning out the light, everyone on earth was supposed to run outside and scream at the sky until they scared the wolf away.

That’s what these dandelions seem to do. Only they don’t wait for the light to go out. Instead they roar their ferocious roars day after summer day until they burst into clouds.

Everywhere I have lived dandelions have grown. Alaska is now part of that circle. I will be leaving soon, but this action of plucking and weaving behind ear incarnates Nome in that ritual, making this land part of that constant. So wherever I go and the yellow roars, Nome is carried in the echo.