I grew up in a green leafy suburb of the Crossroads of America, a moniker I came to terms with thanks to Eric Clapton, and in spite of the fact that Indianapolis city center is actually a traffic circle and its most famous monument an oval. I tell you this to demonstrate my willingness to not only stretch the bounds of logic to include those gray areas around the fringe, but to let its band break, to fling open the double doors of logic and let in the wild winds of what if. I am that elastic, that forgiving, that faithful. I allow magic and mystery.
What baffles me is the American cultural obsession with lawns. Of course, my youth was funded by the Green Monster, Dad’s big bad, the mower with a clutch and throttle behind which I sprinted and with which I routinely mowed down the wild prairie grasses of home and of my grandparents’ property which almost adjoined. I also mowed down Grandpa’s plum tree, but that is another story.
I never understood the whole process of fertilizing and nurturing lush growth in order to more frequently mow it down. What is the beauty of it? Where is the logic? What is the force behind this American rite that justifies the billions of gallons of water and the millions of gallons of gas, the hours of labor and the guilty look over the shoulder to see how one’s lawn compares to the neighborhood norm?
I confess that I am not a fan of the crew cut. This is pertinent as it may in some measure explain the lawns. I prefer the wild wonder of flying curls and flowing gold to the crisp neatness of hair mown. The importance of this will soon be apparent.
Another factor in my un-American attitude may be my exposure to the gardens of Europe, the mini-front yard lawn that the Amish mower snips quickly, the lush flower and vegetable gardens around and behind. Oriental gardens also maximize the bloom and leaf and minimize the wide unblemished stretch of grass. Except in Mongolia, but they don’t mow much. I confess to a life long interest in the world outside Indiana, which of late is somewhat less of a federal offense but still suspect in patriotic circles.
Given this dark blot on my character, you can see why I wonder if the passion that motivates the American icon to rise early and toil late, to trim and to tame acres of rolling short grass (which have been amputated to prevent their ever joining those amber waves of grain), stems from Biblical roots? Can God’s gift to man of power over the beasts of the field and birds of the air explain this compulsion to demonstrate control? Fact it, this is a step on the path to world domination.
It has come to this. Logic would suggest that lawns are a part of the neo-con religious right conspiracy to permeate all life with the Old Testament laws, which of course would logically make us all Jews, but I digress. We are now back to the crew cut connection. The military and political conservatives share the crew cut with the lawns. Are all the sweating masses riding their gas guzzling machines actually albeit unwittingly in the service of the military-neo-con public relations department? If they have no family plans for croquet or volleyball or lawn bowling or touch football (no, the last Kennedy brother has left us), no romantic notions of a picnic on the grass with 150 of their close friends, then why are they clearing and owning and mowing those acres of lawns?
The logic escapes me, even with my wide flung door to mystery.
I have not mowed since June. The grass lies over meekly, silky, and sparse under the woodland of my front yard. I’ve pulled the occasional tall weed and overlook those that escape my notice. There is an edge along the boulevard that grows higher and attracts notice. I plan to mow it today, but may quit after the visible violence is done. I have better things to do, like plant a rose bush, cook spare ribs, move Dad’s firewood.
I submit for your judgement these specimens: judge on the criteria of beauty, of utility, of efficiency of maintenance.
Finally, check out my front and side yards and tell me what you think. I'll listen to reason.
In the mean time, I say, down with the cult of the lawn. Vive le grass, the garden, the rosebed, and the woodland.