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.