Mowing the Lawn

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I am aware though after I mow my lawn in a strange suburban pride in having a neat and tidy lawn.

I am aware though, after I mow my lawn, in a strange suburban pride in having a neat and tidy space to call my own.

I mowed the lawn yesterday. This morning I’m looking out on the bluish early morning light and seeing the edged and smooth and somewhat green velvety texture of the lawn coated with early morning dew. There are drops in the scraggly and mostly dead rose bush. I like the collapsing and tangled and probably unhealthy rose bush and don’t want to trim it, but the lawn itself is something I feel a degree of suburban energy around. I don’t even know know how to phrase this. I didn’t have a lawn when I lived in an apartment while going to college. In fact the entire building didn’t have a lawn. It had a hedge of bamboo where raccoons would hide while migrating from Lake Union to Green Lake. There were planters for the Japanese maple trees along the street. But otherwise the building was free of vegetation even though it was under very tall city trees that left leafy, cool shadows on the side of the hill in the Spring and Summer. But after this I lived in houses on city lots with tiny lawns that required mowing and I would kept these patches of grass trimmed and short. It would take less half an hour and I would be done. I didn’t think much about the lawn or lawn care or mowing lawns in these rental houses. We lived for a time in a house north of the city, and the previous tenant had left the back lawn to grow. He’d had a bon fire in the middle of the grass that had gone to seed for several generations leaving clumps of golden straw and a brown morass of old seed pods. I used a weed whacker to cut the grass down to a manageable size and then began to cut the grass and after a season the grass was a plush bed of grass and the old fire-pit disappeared into the soft bed. It calmed me, but it wasn’t until I bought a house in the algae coated suburbs filled with cul-de-sacs, pastures holding drainage ponds, and houses with somewhat vast overgrown yards that I became the owner of my own bit of managed lawn.

The lawn I managed to purchase had long since suffered a massive invasion of dandelions. These were not the big, fluffy dandelions that you might think would make good tea, but rather a kind of knotted, stunted dandelion that grew with a mutated fervor. I moved into the house twelve years ago in the last damp days of the spring, and the lawn was lush and green. The tiny dandelions do not really care for water. And the previous owners of my house had gone to great lengths to minimize every single thing that was wrong with the classic suburban house that my wife and I had bought. One of these was a fecund hot tub in the basement. The other was the general state of the plumbing and electrical wires. It would be several months before I would discover the strange ancillary wires that had been epoxied to the exterior of the house. It would be a year or so before I would discover that elements of the plumbing had been repaired using the same epoxy. For instance, cracked pipes hadn’t been replaced but rather reassembled and glued together with the thick, mucous-colored glue. And the lawn was the same. It seemed to be rather lush and cared for and as soon as the heat in the summer came the grass retreated into itself, a ban against watering lawns was put in place, and the extent of the invasive dandelion conquest became evident. The dandelions thrived in the arid, near drought of the Pacific Northwest summer and soon where I had been mowing the plush grass, I was now dragging the mower over a field of brown dust and stringy lime-green dandelion stems. My yard appeared to be nearly all dandelions and patches of dirt.

And then the autumn and the rain returned and the grass shifted back to green  and the arid, mid-summer nightmare of dandelion fluff and dust receded. Finally near the first frost my yard duties ended for the year except for a mid-winter drag of the lawn mower across the verdant winter carpet. For the majority of the year in the Pacific Northwest, from October to the end of March, a lawn is an inert thing. It requires very little input. It is mostly lushly green. And so I don’t even think about the lawn during this time. I remove stray branches blown from the Douglas fir after windstorms. Clumps of empty plastic bags find themselves draping from the bushes like someone has hung them out to dry.

I am aware though, after I mow my lawn, in a strange suburban pride in having a neat and tidy space to call my own. I like to walk past my house and down the block and look at the houses where they don’t keep their lawns. About two blocks away is a house that is kept in nearly military tidiness. The lawns are edges. There isn’t a single dandelion. Even the beds of the trees on the property are edges with timber, tiny stones, and not a single weed. I never see them doing yard work at this house. It is the same build as my house, but appears prosperous and neat. While my house looks far worse for the wear during the ten years that I’ve lived here. A portion of the fence blew down a couple of years ago in a windstorm. Strange streaks of substance have managed to drip down the sides of the house in places. A ting of moss is on the roof. But my yard even though it is stuffed with dandelions is mowed and the edges of the place trimmed and this suburban pride wells up in me despite the pathetic display of suburban power in my house. It is like the kid that goes comes to the concert requiring formal clothes who does wear a formal white dress shirt and tie, but there is a stain washed into his pocket.

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