Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Turf War

All this reel-mowing lately (you know, that whole one time) has inspired me to share a recent Elizabeth Kolbert article from the New Yorker.

The article, masquerading as a mere book review, is hardly that. And even to say it touches on the origin, (ab)use, and future of the American lawn is vastly inadequate. I'll just let you see for yourself.

Give it a read, and get out the swingblade. Or better yet, just watch your backyard jungle grow.

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.