Art and Culture Family Adventure Capital Nature & Wildlife

Dandelion Clock – The Clock You Never See Turn

Written by Kirstie Pelling

Dandelion Clock – The Clock You Never See Turn

It’s been a week of arts and culture, what with our visit to the Kendal Comedy festival, creative days for the kids at school, some serious thinking about our commitment to the Nemean Games and then for me, a last minute invitation to a poetry and screen-printing workshop.

When does dandelion become dandelion clock?

I’m told to go away for an hour and come back with a freshly written poem about nature. So, along with eight other people on the course, I spill out of the classroom and onto the sunshine pathways of Ulverston’s Ford Park. While they head up the hill to the Hoad monument, I dip away into a wild area of garden, and plonk myself onto a tree stump. My mind is blank. I deliver kids poetry workshops now and again so I’m used to writing poems about school dinners and scary headmasters. But I’m not used to writing about nature. I really don’t know nature that well. Well not like my arty predecessors, the Lake District Romantic Poets. I could wander lonely as a cloud for the rest of my life and still not be able to tell a cirrus from a cumulus.

A dandelion clock catches my eye. Actually to be precise a big clump of them. They’re as good a subject as any for a poem. I pick a big fat clock bulb and blow softly on it. Nothing happens. I’ve got a stubborn one. I blow again, and again. And eventually the seeds disperse. It’s nineteen o’clock. Time to get on with that poem.

Transformation from dandelion to clock

But I can’t tackle the poem until I’ve unravelled the mystery that is the dandelion and got its life-cycle straight in my head. As a child I used to stamp them out in case they made me wet the bed. Do they? And I’ve seen plenty of dandelion clocks in Cumbria. But how does that bright yellow flower become a delicate timepiece? Have you ever witnessed the transformation from yellow flower to fluffy white lollipop? How does that work? I’ve never seen it. Does it happen at night? Does someone switch them? And those myths and legends that surround them. Where did they come from? If I can’t blow all the seeds off does it mean that I am not loved or lovable? And f its fluffy does it mean the rain won’t come? I stop and watch one for a while and so my poem begins.

….”Watching the dandelion clock”

Who first called it a clock? And who spread the rumour you can tell the time by blowing seeds into the sky? One o’clock. Two o’clock. Three o’clock…..

…..”Marking time, your spidery hands taking minutes into hours.”

I sit and blow and write. Four o’clock. Five o’clock. Six o’clock. I find a flow like seeds carried on the breeze. Seven o’clock. Eight o’clock. Nine o’clock. And then there’s only ten minutes left on the class clock.

Where does the time go?

I wander back into class where we share our verses with the group and workshop leader, Norfolk poet Caroline Gilfillan. When I read mine out loud, my class mates make appreciative noises, then read out much better poems. It’s clear they know one cloud from another.

Dandelion clock poem

My poem… hope you like it!

The afternoon is given over to printing with Annette Rolston and I spend several hours trying to immortalise a dandelion clock on a piece of paper using water-based paint and a mangle. I try to capture delicate seed wisps by crushing real ones instead of using the dandelion stamper provided. That’s when I realize dandelion clocks not only tell the time, they take it too. First I have to get one from the garden into the classroom without it flying away. Then I have to cover an acrylic screen in paint with while holding the dandelion in my mouth. Then I have to lay the clock on the painted sheet without the seeds making a final bid for freedom. All that and then the mangle.

Soon everyone’s screen print is covered in tiny bits of dandelion frond and the garden is almost weeded. But I am pleased. I have successfully captured time on the page and have an stylish screen-print for my wall.

And through my encounter with the dandelion I feel more intimate with its wispy nature. Perhaps through poetry I could come to know nature better. Now, I wonder if it’s possible to screen-print a cloud?

What helps you become more in touch with nature? 

This post is part of our Family Adventure Capital Season. We’re exploring different ways families can adventure together in and around Cumbria, sharing ideas and inspiration to encourage families to get out, get active and adventure together.

Got some ideas for things we should try? Let us know.


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About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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