This March, like everyone else in the country, we had a week or two of what I called “Frankenweather,” where every day was 86 degrees and sunny. (I was planning a trip to Florida at the time, and found myself in the unusual position of leaving Indiana in late winter for cooler weather in Florida.) Suddenly spring was on fast forward. The daffodils wilted, the forsythia bloomed for about ten minutes before dying, and the redbud trees came on a month early.
And the grass started to grow. This was a problem. Late last fall I drove the Green Pony, my ancient but functional riding lawn mower, over one of the bridges in the yard with the blade very much down and engaged. Thus ensued such a mechanical racket as I’d never heard before, with metal and wood mashing and mangling and generally doing battle until, in a minor panic, I turned off the mower. That was the last mow of the year. When Travis came out of the house to investigate the condition of the Green Pony, we discovered that my conflict with the bridge had separated the entire deck from the mower, and it would need to be welded back on. We had all winter to get the Green Pony fixed, but who can really be made to care about mower repairs in December? Then July arrived in mid-March, and things were suddenly very pressing. Between our efforts to get the deck re-welded, to discovering after we did that the blade was now bent beyond hope, to being entirely unable to persuade any of the very busy landscapers in the area to accept the job of mowing our lawn, things began to get dire. One day we got a message from the landlord. “Jen. Please mow the lawn. Neighbors are upset. So-and-so is reasonable. His # is xxx.”
Sigh. So now the neighbors were pissy. And let me be honest — I’ve never been a perfectionist about the lawn. There is an entire portion of one of the hills I refuse to mow at all, because it erupts in native flowers and grasses if I let it go. But now the entire acre-and-a-half of my yard was actually waving in the breeze like a summer wheat field. And of course, my landlord’s guy had no more time than any other lawn guy in the area and we never heard back from him either. The question that kept gathering in my mind, as my Epic Lawn Struggle developed, was why do we do this? Why do we sow our property with a continuously and rapidly growing, nonproductive plant that requires 50 million people to spend hours cutting it every weekend, emitting massive amounts of carbon, and for the more fastidious of us, a whole heap of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers?
Meanwhile, this front yard puts its owner in jeopardy of jail time. I’m afraid, friends, that we have lost our minds. Again, why do we do this? I imagine the lawn mower lobby has something to do with it — because of course these days government is far more interested in serving entrenched moneyed interests instead of getting out of the way of positive change. I’m not unsympathetic to the fact that some people make their living mowing lawns — one of my good friends does. But I’d rather pay my landscaper friends to create and maintain an edible front yard garden than to mow a useless plant.
After it became clear that I was the scourge of the neighborhood, I ranted and raved for a few days about decamping to the country, where I could be my nonconforming self in relative freedom and comfort. But now I’m not so sure. Maybe my deviance would be better utilized here in the metro area, by creating a beautiful edible front yard garden, and flashing my poorly manicured finger at the tyranny of grass.