May 23, 2008

Lawn Care

Dad killed our lawn.

For as long as I can remember, we've had an awful front yard. Not by our own doing, mind you, I prefer to blame mother nature and the people who lived here before us. They conspired to impede any efforts on our part at having a front yard with any aesthetic appeal. Certainly, we are not to blame for its ugliness.

Usually, when I need to give someone directions to our house, I can tell them to find the house on the west side of the street with the patchwork quilt of a lawn. (And now, I just tell people to look for house that looks like it used to have a front yard.) Everyone else on our block seems to invest a lot of time, effort, personal pride, and fertilizer in their grass. Not so for us. When it needs mowing, we mow. When it needs sprinkling, we sprinkle. Nothing more, nothing less. For the most part, our efforts have sufficed at maintaining a pretty, dull sheen for the several different types of grass, moss, dandelion, fungus, and decomposing political signage that sit in front of our house. There might be a bicycle in there, too, somewhere. (Actually, probably no bicycles.)

Occasionally, and only at his personal convenience, dad has attacked the patchwork with herbicide or fungicide or weedicide or some such -cide that is supposed to kill bad things. Like zit-cream for grass. It has never worked.

For a long time, I silently appreciated my dad for not wasting his time with the vanity of lawn care. People put way too much into their lawns. In some places, like Arizona, they tap dry already-thirsty aquifers to keep lush, green lawns where they have no business keeping lush, green lawns. It's not because I'm an environmentalist. It's because it's stupid. You don't need grass. In the Great Lakes region, we can get away with this. We have lots of water. If you don't have water, you don't need to have grass. Keep a zen garden. Some nice rocks, a cactus, that sort of thing. But not a lawn. Besides, a zen garden is a lot less work. Rake the sand, keep the rocks happy, done.

People work too hard just to have nice grass. It's going to be there if you don't let it die. Mowing and sprinkling is good enough, and if you ask me, just mowing is enough (That's the bare minimum to keep your family in the "normal middle-class suburbanite" category and out of the "Probably sends their kids to school in burlap sacks and feeds/underfeeds a vast army of rescued pets until the city steps in" category.) What lies between our home and the street has always been a socially acceptable, pleasantly diverse ecosystem. Sure, we could have a lush, green lawn that blends smoothly with the rest of suburbia. But at what cost? Are we that shallow, that our dignity and self-worth is vested in how our grass looks? We're defying convention, we're sticking it to The Man with our bare-minimum effort front lawn.

Which is why killing it all makes perfect sense. As anyone who has ever tried to extend the life of a doomed-from-the-start ramshackle project (i.e., less-than-amateur efforts at baking a pie, drawing a picture, building a galactic castle with legos, cross-stitching the Detroit Lions logo) can tell you, it makes a whole lot more sense just to start over.

And that is why dad killed the lawn. He killed everything, attacked it with the everything-cide, laid waste to it, nuked it. And everything died - the weeds, the crabgrass, the grass, and almost, I suspect, the maple tree too. A few days later, when the poison had done its job and run off into the sewer or into the neighbors garden or dissipated or something, he threw grass seed all over it.

And that is where we stand today. We're all crossing our fingers, hoping the lawn comes in nice and pretty. If it doesn't, at least we didn't have to deal with the dandelions this year.

(Edit: I was wondering how big the collective lawn of the United States is. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably bigger than Vermont or something like that. If, for some silly reason you know the answer to this or if you know how to get it, I'd like to know, for no other reason than that it's a very strange thing to know.)

1 comment:

Amy said...

The previous post is evidence of why your blog continues to be one of my favorite reads.