May 27 2011

Profile Image of Walt

Cutting Grass

Posted at 9:31 am under Blog Post

Most people like the look of a well-manicured lawn.  Not me.  The green rugs surrounding homes strike me as the ultimate expression of human hubris – a patently absurd attempt to control nature.  We cut the grass, it grows back.  We cut the grass, it grows back.  Our mastery over this simple plant is temporary at best.

When my wife and I bought our home a decade ago, my main objection to the place was the grass around it.  From May through October, I walk back and forth in my yard once a week at least, pushing a noisy, carbon-emitting machine that turns grass into stubble.  The rain comes, the grass grows, then I do it all over again.  I am Sisyphus with a lawn mower, trapped in social convention.  Even if my immediate neighbors didn’t object, I wouldn’t dare let my yard grow wild.  The value of my property would plummet.

If I had the resources, I’d transform my yard into a lush garden.  But no, to be honest, I’d never put the time into it.  A friend of mine has done just that, but he spends half his life in his yard.  I’d rather be doing other things, like wandering around the woods.

I could always do what the affluent do and simply hire someone to cut my grass.  That is, after all, what the European kings did back in the day when they invented the lawn.  But no, that misses the point.  It matters little who cuts the grass.  The pertinent question is: why cut it at all?

The concept of high civilization is at the heart of any discussion about green space.   It isn’t enough to cultivate fields, thus providing ample food.  We must cultivate everything else in sight, keeping the wild at bay.  After all, it’s either us or them, where “them” is everything living that isn’t under our thumb.  Or so most people think.  But I don’t agree.

To justify mowing I tell myself that the lawn is good place for my wife to lounge, my dog to run, and my visiting grandchildren to play.  But down deep I seethe with rage.  Despite all talk about property rights, I have little control over my own yard.  Social convention.  I am bound by it.  So I dream of a cabin in the woods even while cutting my grass.   And maybe someday, if I win the literary lottery, I’ll make that dream come true.



5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Cutting Grass”

  1. Andrewon 27 May 2011 at 4:41 pm 1

    Amen, brother! It’s like outdoor, wall-to-driveway carpeting. But you don’t vacuum it. You mow. An ugly mono-culture. In my book. And so I “grow” a freedom lawn. No watering, no weeding, no fertilizing. Whatever grows is free to grow. Yet I still must mow. Arghh. Last year I bought an electric mower. At least it’s quieter an less smelly. But I’ve already had to patch the extension cord three times. Sheesh.

  2. Richardon 28 May 2011 at 8:09 am 2

    Nice rant Walter. That job is really starting to get to you, huh? To paraphrase some best-selling author: to each his own. In defense of trimmed lawns I offer you this:
    a) Dude, it’s hard to play baseball on an unmowed lawn, or croquet, lawn darts, or bocce for that matter
    b) A lawn, like anything else you “wear” is a reflection of you, so again, to each his own, and if you can’t man-up and make your lawn reflect you, you shouldn’t damn others or the practice, and “seething with rage” will be bad for your health
    c) What’s next, no paved roads?, grass roofs
    d) My 14 YO son makes $80/week mowing others lawns (I rest MY case)
    e) aesthetics are an important part of every culture, mono or otherwise

    Your property value won’t really decrease from your lawn, unless you have the place for sale, and if it decreases from the town’s assessment, then you’ll benefit from paying lower taxes. Sounds like you are not the Kooky King of your Kastle, but like the many of us, live within Oligarchies

  3. Richardon 28 May 2011 at 11:26 am 3

    PS….I forgot to leave my smiley face at the end 😉

    BTW, I really did like your rant. Here are a couple of additional thoughts:

    If your lawn runs feral, it might look as though you are away, thus increasing the chance that your home will be burgled.

    You could do what has become an (sub)urban myth and pour concrete over your lawn and paint it green. Probably not very appealing even as an idea except to men sitting around drinking beer.

    You could just cut paths through the back yard, creating a maze or pathways of sorts with small sitting or playing areas for grandkids. One year my father tired of mowing the back 40 and he mowed a giant peace sign and that’s all he maintain for the whole summer.

  4. Deedee Burnsideon 31 May 2011 at 9:24 am 4

    Turn it into a wildflower meadow and educate your neighbors about your “backyard habitat.” I have done this for years and my neighbors understand. My yard is a virtual butterfly haven, I grow their food plants and have many nectar sources. Natives are important, butterflies mostly do not use non-native plants (especially for laying eggs.) My uncut meadow feeds birds and other wildlife all winter and I cut it down just before spring to watch it grow again. As for aesthetics, is a monoculture artificial green lawn more beautiful than a lush productive meadow full of flora that is beneficial to wildlife? Even in suburbia!!

  5. leoon 01 Jun 2011 at 7:23 am 5

    Walter, Walter-cabin in the woods would be ideal for what you truly desire although you would be in the minority as most want their comforts. Sorry to say that I do have a lawn and yes I do indeed keep it mowed not for my neighbors, tax assessors or from habit but because I enjoy being outdoors more then in and the physical efforts are a huge bonus. Now, with that being said my lawn has been shrinking each and every year as I add better habitat for the wild life in my neighborhood and each year I witness new visitors to my little patch of ground. 1/3 of an acre of butterfly’s, birds, deer, rabbits, squirrels and an vast assortment of insects that I must admit I don’t really enjoy but they do good things I’m assuming. I’m guessing that you would agree that anything that gets one OUTDOORS and active can’t be all bad. Shopping malls and computer games certainly can’t help our planet or our well being and hey…I bring less ticks into the house now that my lawn is cut.
    Good luck with your new job