Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener (when it's properly mowed by someone other than me)

If there's one chore I dislike more than dusting, it's yard work. Actually, I'm okay with weeding, but I don't enjoy mowing the lawn. There, I said it. I've never enjoyed lawn mowing and I'm not sure why. Maybe because it's loud and just a little bit scary. I have a girlfriend who loves mowing. She finds it therapeutic and downright meditative to get out there and push her mower around the yard, snipping her Bermuda to a neat, uniform length. That's just not me. For a long time, I've wanted to enjoy mowing and other yard work, but I think I'm finally ready to accept the fact that it's just not my cup of tea.
  One of the reasons I like my house is because of its diminutive yard. Back and front, it should take about thirty minutes to mow, trim and weed—tops. And even better, I haven't had to mow it once in the past 10 months since I took possession of the home! In fact, I don't own a lawn mower. And yes, I have real grass. And no, I did not hire a lawn service.
   You see I live on a street where the houses all have very small front yards that adjoin each other. My neighbors all enjoy the same lawn deficit and therefore, if one of the owners of the three houses adjacent to mine is out mowing his or her lawn, he or she tends to just run the mower over all of them for good measure. I don't own a lawn mower, so it's rather convenient that other people freely elect to mow my yard for me. I've never even had to ask! I would simply come out into my front yard while this one or that one was mowing and before I'd know it, yard karma would take over and the Mower would ask me if I wanted him/her to cut my grass while he/she was at it.  Once—and only once—my boyfriend mowed my lawn, borrowing a neighbor's mower after offering to cut her lawn as well.
  But recently, in a true testament to impermanence, my lawn karma changed. On Saturday morning, one by one, my neighbors revved up their mowers and cut their lawns. By nightfall, my yard alone was unkempt. The site of the tidy lawns up and down my block made me feel guilty. The gig was up. It was time I take on the task myself. I still had to borrow a mower, but I determined to cut my grass sans help. My boyfriend, Jason, offered to do the job, but I waved him off. "I can do it myself!" I said with that Helen Redding I am woman hear me roar tone in my voice. How much time and effort could it take to cut such a small patch of green? I'm rather new (again) to this relationship business and I felt myself becoming defiant about mowing the lawn. For all these months, I'd let other people do this chore and now, for some strange reason, suddenly I felt I must prove my mowing prowess.
   On Sunday, I approached my friend and neighbor Emily and her husband Michael as they worked in their own (lovely and large) yard. They agreed to let me borrow their mower to complete my task. Michael even primed the engine for me a few times to make it easier to start, before I pushed the mower down the alley to my front yard. (Let me state right now that I have mowed yards before. Big yards, too. It is not as though I am a yard-work-a-phobe or a lawna-prima-donna.) 
   Standing on my front walk, I held the handle bar down and yanked the starter cord. The mower roared to life and I pushed it from the walk up a (very) slight incline to the my urban jungle. The mower spit out a mouth-full of grass...and then...choked.
It doesn't look like much, but when behind the
mower, my lawn turns into the Grand Canyon.
(Note: The line of demarkation between my lawn and
my neighbor's lawn is roughly parallel to the
 largish brown spot, upper left.)
   For the record, my lawn only appears to be perfectly flat. It is actually as curvaceous as Dolly Parton. Seriously. There are peaks and valleys in my postage stamp of a yard. And I realized that the grass (Bermuda? Zoysia? Don't ask me what kind!) had grown so thick and tall it overwhelmed the mower's blades. I tried to adjust the wheel-height, but the wheel-adjustment-thingy was stuck in place.
   I started the mower again. This time, I lifted up the back end of the mower ever so slightly so that only the front wheels were rolling through the thick grass. My technique worked but my arms and shoulders soon began to ache. I pushed the mower for a while and then, it chugged, became overcome by the abundance of green stuff and stalled out again. I pulled the mower back to the pavers to restart it, but the beast wouldn't budge. The blades were stuck in the newly cut grass clippings. I tilted the mower onto its side to clear the blades and then righted it again. Handle bar down, I yanked the starter cord and voila! the mower started. This time I pulled the mower onto the lawn and made a small path before the blades clogged again. And so, the slow, grueling process continued.
   By this time, it was 11 a.m. and the cool morning air had turned sticky and hot. I was sweaty and thirsty and miserable. My lawn looked like the head of a child who had cut his own hair with a blunt, safety scissors. And then, there were bald-spots where I felt certain grass would never grow again.
   I gave one final attempt to push the errant mower across the overgrown yard. Only when the damn thing sputtered to a stop (again) did I realize that I had worn a blister on the inner side of my thumb and it had burst. It was all I could do to not plop down right there in the middle of the crazy hair-cut yard and cry. Instead, I did what any sane woman would do when faced with a surmountable task that had become insurmountable: I gave up. 
   With only words of thanks, I returned the mower to Michael. Then I went into my house, ran a cool shower and stood under the flow of water until my face returned to its proper color. After I cleaned up and dressed, I came back downstairs. I glanced out the window at my front yard, hoping it wouldn't look as bad as I thought it did. Nope! It looked worse.
  That evening Jason came over. I'd already warned him about the yard. By then I was laughing at myself and my crazy determination. He shook his head and (wisely) kept his mouth shut, except to assure me that my lawn was very overgrown and it wasn't as easy as it looked to mow, even for him. Then he offered to finish cutting it for me and, this time, I gladly took him up on the offer.
  One of the nice things about getting older is realizing one's limitations—and preferences—and not feeling vulnerable because of them. Sometimes simple tasks are not simple at all. And if you have a nice man who wants to do your lawn work, why not let him?

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