First Dandelion

My Dad and I were on the deck a few days after the first day of spring. It was a fine morning. I was standing and admiring the flowering rosemary and bees digging the nectar, when dad stood up and came over to the rail. He pointed at a lone dandelion in the lawn, a tiny circle of yellow surrounded by green.

“May I quote you a poem?” he said.

“Of course.”

He recited:

Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,

As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,

Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass—innocent, golden,
calm as the dawn,

The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.

“Who wrote that?”

“Walt Whitman.”

Dad then went onto relate a story, quite an extraordinary one, about the time Walt Whitman appeared to him in his Oregon City apartment some 40 years ago as he was reading “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Whitman’s classic elegy to the assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

After telling me the story, I told him I had a hard time believing it. I then confirmed he was not high or drunk or delusional.

This happened only once in his long life of loving poetry. He is not a man prone to report such supernatural experiences. I’d never heard one from him before.

I expressed further skepticism. He said, “I don’t care! It happened and I can’t explain it.”