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Friday, June 26, 2015

A Man Mows a Lawn

I am sitting, resting actually, on an old teak bench at the back of our property. I have just finished mowing half of our very large lawn and I am feeling a bit wiped. Behind me I hear the sound of our 96-year-old neighbour firing up his sit-down mower. My mind whirls.

For the past few days, when I haven't been mowing or listening to neighbours mow, then I have been reading about mowing, thinking about mowing, planing to mow or examining mown lawns for tips, lessons or warnings.

For nearly 20 years, I have not mown lawns and  have not missed the activity. Then we moved and mowing a lawn became a necessity and strangely a bit of a blessing. I have written before of my odd way of mowing lawns and I have come to understand that mowing is strangely a guy thing, one that I have started to wrestle with in the Third Phase of my life. Everyone on my street who mows a lawn is a guy and if there is no guy in the house to mow the lawn, the rule seems to be, hire a service and a guy will come and mow the lawn. And we are judged by our lawns and once you start mowing and start feeling judged you find yourself judging other lawns. Like why has one of my neighbours let his lawn literally go to seed. Is it because he rents and doesn't own? Is he lazy, lacking in initiative, ill, away? Is it possible he has simply decided to drop out of the lawn mowing competition all together?
It intensifies. Especially if you have a big yard and an electric rechargeable mower that lacks sufficient battery power to do the whole job in one day. You start planning your assault and weather and the daily schedule starts to play a role. Soon you feel like the old guys at the community centre who talk and talk incessantly about their lawns.

My friend, the excellent writer and curmudgeon Parker Donham, has summarized the history of lawn mowing quite succinctly on his blog, and then acknowledges that his need to mow has been made easier with the purchase of a Husqvarna mower or a sit-down mower. And sit-down mowers haunt me. Is getting one a cop-out, is there some virtue in sweating through a hot day in order to lower the height of the average grass blade of our yawn? Will I feel or look foolish sitting down on a mover? Is there a mower small enough to move between our front and back yard but large enough to make having one reasonable? The questions...the questions...see what I mean about this lawn mowing stuff getting obsessive?

Roger Cohen at the New York Times places mowing the lawn at the centre of the pursuit of happiness project, the joy to be found in the repetitive tasks that make up the day-to-day of a good life, our life. I identify with that. When I was recovering from surgery, the mark for me that I was healing was when I could empty the dishwasher. There is a value in the quotidian. There is joy and meaning to be discovered in patching together all the moments that congeal together in the fashioning of a day.

That's what is really different today when it comes to mowing a lawn. In past years. when being at the office was a full-time job, mowing the lawn, doing the everyday necessary seemed to be one task too many, one straw too onerous. In this phase, where life is more malleable, more under my control, making sense of my day is my job and part of making sense of my day means stitching the repetitive into the grand scheme of things.

I am still sitting on the bench but for the moment I am now longer thinking about mowing or not directly. I am thinking about music. When I was young, in my teens, I loved Carole King's Tapestry. Still do actually. I doubt she had lawn mowing in mind when capturing the sense of life as a deeply woven tapestry, but that's okay because I do as I remember the song and contemplate the remaining half of the lawn to be mowed.

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