Sunday, August 31, 2008

Satisfaction is a Freedom Lawn

Lately, our old reel mower has gotten about as much attention as our garden.

Which isn't much. See here the garden in question: above, a roving squash plant gasps for breath in a merciless sea of seeding grass ("whirl up, weeds!" as the Modernists would say)....

And yet I can't conceal my pride. Yesterday, I finally gave the old reel mower (sickle mower, push mower) the attention it was due, and over a span of two or three hours, mowed our entire 12,000 sq.ft. backyard.

It felt good. No gas, no fossil fuels. Just time, exertion, and swearing, in more or less equal parts.

I think my trouble has always been with this recipe. When attempting to reel-mow our front lawn, the ratio was usually closer to 1:1:3 or 1:1:4. And as one might expect, this has been a sure-fire way to flood my own engine:

Grip the handle. Curse. Gather inner strength. Curse. Pause.

At last, in an erratic series of lunges at grass, shove the mower for all it's worth, enduring with each swipe an uncanny sensation that the grass is really hair being yanked from the head of a friendly green giant.

Curse again, this time at the folly of bringing suffering into the world. Regroup; find the Zen within. Curse again.
Yesterday, though, I figured it out. I'd always been fighting intertia before. To use the reel-mower right, I needed momentum, and a steady flow of it. Putting the handle of the mower just below the beltline, like a jackhammer, I found that I could literally run across the yard with the mower. Meanwhile, the mower's own resistance propelled me upward a bit, giving the sensation that I was jaunting up to a high-jump bar or, perhaps more accurately, like I was prancing across the stage of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet.

I'm sure that's what my neighbors thought: There goes that prancing lefty, they'd say. Up to his eco-shenanigans again.

Meanwhile, I was trying on different imagery: that of a football player in training, pushing a practice dummy across the field. Hunh!

Try though I might, though, I couldn't shake the tune of that damned Nutcracker's Suite. I made a point not to turn around, lest I see sparkly dust in my wake.

In the end, though, it was all worthwhile. To survey one's own hard-won handiwork, and actually see a whole lawn full of churned grass and mow-hawks -- a lawn that looks for for your life like a disgruntled teenager made a half-assed attempt at cutting it with hedge-trimming shears, and to know, yes, I did this, and have the blisters to prove it...? Ah.

There is little sweeter in life.


Annalese said...

lol. great imagery, esp the prancing lefty. :)
i appreciate that you write often. my daily checking habit is seldom left unsatisfied.

Anonymous said...

nate? eddy here. i did something similar this past weekend. i pulled out our sorry excuse for a scythe (4ft tool with a serrated, horizontal blade), filed the sad blade, and "cut" the lawn. this was the first oil-free cutting in my tenure. i too have blisters, but no mowhawks -- just random tufts all over, like one who has pulled literal handfuls of hair out of one's head. i like "freedom lawn." we need signs.

Nathan First said...

Thanks, Annalese. Makes me grin to know that friends keep up with me here. I think you heard from the horse's mouth that Greg stayed with us this weekend. Of the 4563 Gang, you're next, right? ;-)

Eddy, kudos on the scythe. The one time I used one, I was certain that any minute I'd cut myself off just below the kneecaps. As for "freedom garden," I must admit I co-opted the phrase from a great recent New Yorker article, who in turn lifted it from F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe in the 90s. (No, I didn't have those names on the tip of my tongue - see the link to the review/article itself -- "Turf War" -- in my "shared" items somewhere in the right-hand column of this blog. Well worth a read, and right up your alley.) Happy scything.

Josh, yes Josh, McDonald said...

This environmental stuff keeps striking me as the crappy alternatives to the life we know. Like my mom saying, "You can't stay out till midnight, how 'bout 10:30? No you can't have pudding, but trying this apple and close your eyes..." But I suppose we might as well be ready for when it's the only option. As with all things Nathan, you're ahead of the curve...