I did some laundry today. What has that got to do with gardening? Well, aside from the fact that I like to do laundry almost as much as I like to garden, I was washing my grass-stained work clothes from this past weekend. On Saturday, I gave my lawn the first cut of the season. I still like to mow my own lawn, but every weekend, when I look around my neighborhood, I can’t help but think, “Am I the only one?”
When the landscapers arrive, my street looks like a neighborhood under siege. Trucks and trailers are everywhere. Engines rev, blowers whir, and hordes of men mow over every blade of grass. But not in my yard.
You have to understand something. I do not have a large yard. In fact, a riding mower would be laughable. I also don’t really care what’s growing in the lawn. As you can tell from the photo, I have dandelions, crab grass, clover — a botanical garden’s worth of weeds. As long as it’s green, I’m okay with it. And now that the mowing season has begun, (and after my conversation with three shamrocks), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I enjoy mowing my own lawn. I wonder if I should try to keep up with the Joneses? Could I be a control freak? Or perhaps, am I just cheap? This is what I have come up with — so far.
1. Nostalgia. Each time I begin the routine of taking out the mower, I immediately think of being a kid again and mowing the lawn as a regular chore. Mowing was a rite of passage then, a responsibility that I was able to take off my father’s shoulders. It was a sense of trust that I was old enough to grab the cord and pull and that I could cut the lawn in the same pattern each week. It disheartens me now that I never see a teenager mowing their lawn. How do they earn an allowance? It may take a village to raise a child, but aren’t they part of the village? Don’t they have a responsibility to the village? Their families? Their lawn? As an adult, things have changed. I now use an electric mower and a weed whacker and I no longer need to bag my grass. My Town won’t even collect grass clippings, so everything just gets mulched back into the lawn — but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying my never-ending rite of passage.
2. Meditation. I’m not sure if it’s the sound of the engine or the vibration traveling from my hands to my arms, but when I mow, I feel like I’m given the chance to get inside my head. It’s relaxing to walk at a steady pace and think about the week gone by, the week to come, life. I’m not sure I actually solve anything, but in a world where there is so much juggling, it’s nice to begin a task and see it through to its completion — not to mention how neat and orderly everything looks. It’s like fresh haircut, just after the barber brushes the hair clippings off of your neck and dusts you with talcum powder.
3. Ownership. Simply put, my lawn is my own. When I take my mowing walk, I get to know each blade of grass. I see the maple tree roots that are spreading near the surface, the patch of clover that continues to spread, the weeds that have to be pulled from the flower beds, the dry areas. Maybe this all harkens back to an earlier time when gatherers planted their first seeds, or when colonists staked their claims on their land and tamed what was once wild, or when city dwellers first ventured into the suburbs, to places like Levittown, and took pride in owning their field of greens.
When I returned to the laundry room to check on the washing machine, the room was filled with smoke and a distinct smell of burning rubber. I guess getting out grass stains was too much for the old Maytag. Now, I can’t do my favorite indoor chore: laundry. Fortunately for me, though, the lawn needs its second cut.
14 thoughts on “Mowing In The Deep”
At 71 years I still mow. It hurts more then it used too, but it’s part of me feeling and knowing I’m still alive. Besides its good exercise.
I completely agree! Even on those days when you feel like you don’t have the energy to mow, it feels great after you’ve finished. I’m toying with the idea that my next mower will be one of those old-fashioned, new-fangled, no gas, no electric rotary kinds. Just taking a step back in time.
Thanks Kev. Reading your post brought me back to the interior of my parents musty mysterios garage where the ancient lawn mower lived. I actually had an olfactory flashback. A 12 year old with uncombed hair and both knees covered in scabs is now getting ready to go to work!
Make that”mysterious.”12 year olds can’t spell at 5 in the morning!
I hear olfactory flashbacks can do that to a person. Happy to hear that I brought you back in time.
The sound – the sound of a manual mower – can anyone describe it? We had a “Queens Lawn” 200,00 blades of grass surrounded by cement.
There was a ritual – clean and sharpen the mower blades, maybe add some oil (loved that oil can) the mowing,the clippers,the broom,the tiny rotating sprinkler. Sitting on the stoop watching my Dad. This WAS the sound of summer – the whirring of the mower, the clicking of the clippers and the swish of the broom, the smell of the grass. Ya know what? I’m going to look for one and maybe make a memory with my grandchildren.
Thanks for writing! I think that as more conveniences have come into our lives, we have lost so much more. Best wishes as you make happy memories with your grandchildren.
Hi There,I love to mow the lawn!!I do it ‘cuz I can!It’s a physical thing for me.Fill the tank, pull the cord and off I go…I have a pretty small lawn.Just the front yard and the lawnmower width of grass that edges the cul-de-sac where I live.I like to cut the lawn in the pattern of the beds.One week I follow the edge of bed across from my front door,the next week I follow the edge of the circular bed by the driveway.
The weekends are quiet by me.The “lawn guys” come during the week to cut the grass.It seems like every other house has a different contractor.Sometimes two or more contractors roar into the neighborhood,desending on their respective yards and cause such a racket!!The funny thing is all their lawns never look as good as mine!!I’ve always told people who ask ‘why do you like to garden,work in the yard?’that it’s a time when I think of nothing else but the dirt,weeds,flowers,…and it’s so rewarding when I finish(for the day)and enjoy what I’ve done.’Cuz I can.
Absolutely!! Maybe we can begin a Take Back Our Lawns movement??
AMEN! I absolutely hate the sounds of the mowers and blowers!
On my block, the “guy” has a contract with three houses in a row, lots of noise, no neighbors outside.
I guess these days, in addition to cicadas, kids, and ice cream truck jingles, we can add revving engines to the sounds of summer.
I used to have a landscape maintenece business. Mowed nearly 30 lawns a week on a regular basis…..and I LOVED it. Many of my clients commented on how I loved to mow. It is soothing to the soul. It is a great time to meditate, or to just zone into the moment and watch the tracks the lawnmower leaves. It also is one of those things that brings instant gratification. Depending on the size of the lawn in 30 – 45 minutes you can see that you have done a GREAT JOB!! Yes…mowing is good. And this is the first time I’ve read your blog…I will be back.
Hi Debbie. I’m so glad you found this site, and that you enjoyed the mowing article. I am so with you on this one. Mowing the lawn is meditative — better than yoga. And in this day and age, it’s nice to see a task completed from start to finish. Thanks for the comment, and hope to hear from you soon.
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