I mowed the lawn today.
I realize that may not sound extraordinary — but these days, the most ordinary thing can truly be something extraordinary.
In all honesty, I’ve always looked forward to mowing my own lawn. It gives me a chance to notice other tasks, like weeding a bed or pruning a shrub. I think, though, it’s the repetitiveness I most enjoy. It’s almost meditative. First, I divide the lawn into smaller rooms, the curvy side area, the area in front of the front window, and the large area between the front island bed and the street. Then, I mow around the borders and beds in each zone, giving myself a bit of an outline. I follow this up by pushing my lawn mower in straight lines, walking back and forth, filling in the outlines like in a coloring book — and I think.
Most times, I wonder about this blog and potential post topics. I play with words and word patterns in my head. Other times, I think of problems — personal, national, and global — and I try to come up with solutions.
These days, in the Age of Coronavirus, either my lawn isn’t growing fast enough or I need a bigger lawn. There’s so much happening, so much to dwell upon, and only so much mowing to do.
Like many of you, I’m scared and anxious. I don’t say that aloud too often. I’m working very hard to keep myself from losing my balance on the tightrope that separates logic from panic. I’m also quite angry, especially at the slow response in this country and the number of people who still have not grasped the severity of the situation.
At times like this, I desperately crave my garden.
With each passing of the mower, though, I kept noticing this patch of weeds that drive me crazy. I believe it’s dollarweed or dichondra — either way, it’s the bane of my lawn’s existence.
I’m really okay with weeds. In fact, it’s always been my philosophy that if it’s green, it gets to stay — but this stuff is not like any weed I’ve ever known. Its small seedpods stick to everything — skin, clothing, shoes, the undercarriage and wheels of the lawnmower. Because there’s no way to avoid it, I have to walk through it — and now as I mow, I see other colonies popping up in other areas of the lawn. Forget Typhoid Mary, I’m Weed-Spreading Kevin.
Naturally, my thoughts eventually wandered to Coronavirus — and I felt I really needed to write something to all of you — or perhaps to me. I had to take a breath and stop myself because I do not want COVID-19 to be in my garden. Even though Joe and I (and I hope all of you) chose to self-distance before government officials recommended it, the virus has managed to infiltrate areas of our lives — from the news to conversations with neighbors and friends and family to every excursion to the supermarket. The garden, though, has to be Coronavirus-free because it’s my escape hatch for when containment becomes too smothering.
That’s when I thought that rather than filling a blog post with my own worries — adding mine onto yours won’t help any of us — I started thinking about good things and my hopes and wishes. Things like:
I’m getting so much inspiration from the people of Italy — and if any of you reading this are from Italy, thank you! And extend my thanks to your neighbors and fellow citizens. The videos of you singing on balconies and displaying Italian flags have moved me to tears and smiles and laughter. I am so deeply touched by your courage and spirit — and it is absolutely contagious!
Speaking of which, we should all live life like the Italians. Although many areas around the globe are on lockdown, it doesn’t mean locked in. It’s okay to go outside, to take a walk, to sit on a terrace or by an open a window, and to enjoy the fresh air, the sun, and the breeze and still be able to maintain six feet of distance between others. When we see a friend or a neighbor or a stranger, we need to remember to nod, talk, and laugh — and when life returns to normal, we must keep doing that.
In the same vein, I want the nations of the world to do better — perhaps greater trust to share knowledge and work together for the common good of the planet and the human race, to return to appreciating science, and to face other global threats — climate change, war, famine, poverty, quality of life — with the same fervor on display today. If this small virus has taught us anything, it’s that we are literally all in this together.
Over the past few months, I’ve reconnected with my love of reading. Lately, I’ve been on a winning streak with some amazing books: Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again (both by Elizabeth Strout), The Lager Queen of Minnesota and The Kitchens of the Great Midwest (both by J. Ryan Stradal), A Single Thread (Tracy Chevalier), The Plot Against America (Philip Roth), The Overstory (Richard Powers), and The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers). At the moment, I’m about two-thirds through Plainsong (Kent Haruf). Now that libraries are closed, I’ve loaded up my Kindle with free samples so I can look for my next great read — because reading is a great way to get away without leaving home.
I also find myself looking forward to the ordinary tasks of the day, things like making the bed and doing the laundry. There are also the garden chores, like mowing or re-edging a bed that has tough-as-Berber St. Augustine grass runners creeping into it. Being active burns off the anxiety and fear, and for a few short hours there is no Coronavirus. Performing these tasks gives me a sense of control when things are spinning out of control. Completing them are accomplishments, building blocks for a better day.
The other afternoon, early in our self-quarantine, Joe walked around to “my side” of the yard. We call it that because it’s where my potting bench and tool shed are. He asked how I was doing. Sweaty and grimy, I smiled and said, “Everything in Kevin’s World is great!”
And it was, because my garden is my happy place, my most ordinary happy place filled with the most ordinary of tasks — and these days, ordinary can do wonders.