Notwithstanding what I wrote yesterday, there is a tyranny of plants. Specifically those which make up lawns—in my case, mostly weeds. A friend recently reminded me that weed is just a name for a misplaced plant, and I confess that I’m fine with weeds but neighbors may not be so open-minded. Non-conformity is still a virulent stigma. If an observer from outer space were to observe us during the spring and summer, they might well conclude that we were in the service of our yards. The irony here is that yard care is perhaps the ultimate sign of success. You have really made it if you can keep it neat and trim. And you’ve excelled beyond that if you can pay someone else to do it for you with their tractor full of buzzing implements.
Because I’m concerned about fuel consumption, we purchased a reel mower when we bought our house. I never mowed the lawn as a child. First we rented, and when a stepfather came into the picture he didn’t let the kids mow. (It wasn’t to be kind—it was a control thing. If he saw a snake he’d race across the yard to dismember it. More than once I’d be out playing only to find snake suey, with flies.) College at Grove City involved carefully manicured lawns done by others, and after grad school we lived on campus at Nashotah House where the students cut the grass. From there it was back to renting. In other words, I never had the opportunity to learn how to mow lawns. My lines aren’t straight, and I’m tempted to sneak out at night, when the grass is high, and leave crop circles at which the neighbors might wonder. I don’t like being a slave to plants.
The reel mower is like pushing the grim reaper in a baby carriage. Or at least it must seem so from the perspective of the grass and weeds I call my lawn. The suddenness with which constant lawn care becomes a major concern has tightened my focus on the fealty we owe to ground cover. We’ve had a break from the rain for a couple days and after work I find myself pushing that mower like a deadly thurible, releasing the scent of newly shorn grass. Our particular town retains the right to fine those who let the grass get too long. As I go along cutting back both grass and weeds indiscriminately, I wonder at the biblical nature of even this.