The Wood Elf

The Wood Elf
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
November 17
On my day job, which lasts well into the evening, I teach French to middle schoolers who are wonderfully voracious readers in a well-educated community on the fringe of Indianapolis. I also coach the speech team that as an experienced former high school coach and parent, I felt compelled to start last year. The rest of my life is tied to my parents for whom I moved here a year ago from the rural village where I raised my children. We enjoy the symphony and opera and camera club and church activities. And Scrabble and the Red Sox, which are the focus of my mother's delights. I read to escape the lists of anxiety elevating demands, a wide variety of genres, but I love stories with people who become my friends and in whose lives I become invested. My delight is in my children, the definition of which I stretch to fit all the borrowed ones in my collection, carefully chosen to take me all over the world in visits. The newest additions to the collection are a granddaughter, a grandniece, and 2 grandnephews, who augment the joys of the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews. I collect multi-generational and international friends. My wandering in real life as opposed to book life include splendid tours of New Zealand with my eldest reader, Korea with my Dad, Hong Kong for the wedding of the borrowed Chinese son, and Europe for summers of study that include visits to the French sister in Sevilla and German son in Heidelberg. I am looking under sofas and car seats for the discipline to write stories of my own which have a rich life inside my head but rarely find their way into print. And I am seeking friends in this new city that share my love of the global community and its possibilities. My library? Extensive. I treasure books with character, so bound rather than paper, and inscribed from the giver. I read to escape, a wide variety of genres. I have an entire bookcase dedicated to Arturian research and literature, the real 5th century sort rather than the later legends. The historical fiction and documentation of the second world war fill another bookcase. I must confess I also have a Tolkien bookcase, with his works in Korean, Russian, German, French, as well as the myriads of publications since Pete Jackson's films. And I have a Nancy Drew bookcase. I devour books with a blindness to the world around me that really should require therapy. I am thankful to have a sister and children who read, who read aloud, and who write with articulate clarity.


The Wood Elf's Links
AUGUST 30, 2009 6:07PM

Cracks in the Culture: Part 1

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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.  

And blog.

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.  

Wood Elf's Front Yard

Wood Elf's Yard


In the mean time, I say, down with the cult of the lawn.  Vive le grass, the garden, the rosebed, and the woodland.  


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Yeah, baby, I'm with you on this one. Our "lawn" is shot with clover and a wild yellow flower and for a few weeks in the spring with copious dandelions (which we categorize as "wildflowers"). We have an open lawn policy. We don't fertilize or weed kill. We take what we get. Steve has let the west side go back to native grassland/prairie. If they ever make a riding electric mower that will keep a charge long enough to mow an acre, we'll happily divest of our carbon-spewing gas rider.

I just told Steve yesterday that I'd trade our sward for Dad's front yard full of violets if I could, but we have full sun and the violets want shade trees.

Keep up the great work.
Oh, and I thought only my French-Canadian neighbours were crazy about lawns... on this side of the border it is the "anglophones" that come to me asking how did I get all those daisies to bloom (the magics of June), while the "francophones" complain about the weeds from my lot... I love lying down between the tall flowery stalks, getting lost in the buzz of bees and thinking I am invisible in the sea of green... if I hadn't transferred all my pictures to a hard disk that's hidden away somewhere I'd share the picture...I second your "no mowing" policy - magic happens when we let open the door to the wild, and nature paints a much better picture than most humans could.