Before I get too far along into telling you how my lawn is simultaneously my pride and my nemesis, how I’m being literal when I say “That’s not the hill I’m going to die on,” I should come come clean on a couple of things:
1. It’s not really a lawn. It’s a yard. A really big yard.
2. Lawns and I don’t have what I, or anyone, would call a rich history.
I blame my stepfather for this, in large part because he’s in Texas and can’t defend himself. But let’s examine the record: In 1974, when he and my mother bought the house I grew up in, they had a mound of soil deposited in the front yard, presumably to turn that barren patch of North Texas into something lush and green. As the years went by, time and the elements whittled away at the mound of dirt, but nothing of consequence grew there. Several years later, when our next door neighbors put in a pool, my folks volunteered our backyard as a depository for the dug-out earth. Henceforth, our yard sloped gently to a two-foot-tall wall of clay. My stepfather would wander back there occasionally and knock down the vegetation, but that was about it.
So, clearly, I had bad lawn role models.
The ensuing years didn’t improve my game much. I lived in a lot of apartments and condos, and even in the times when I lived in a house, I either employed my stepfather’s knock-it-down strategy or, more often, exercised my one true superpower: the ability to pay somebody to do something for me.
Then my wife and I moved to Maine. We bought a house with acreage—as a lifelong Westerner, this appealed to me, because they’re always jabbering out there about having a piece of land to call your own. I’d never really done that before, because although I’m a Westerner, I’m also a kid from the suburbs. Moving to Maine was my great leap into having neighbors who are near but largely unseen, after a lifetime of having neighbors whose backyard deck was on a direct sight line from my upstairs window. I like the Maine thing better. Who knew?
Anyway, back to the yard ...
It’s big. Not the biggest I’ve seen, not by a long shot, but big enough that my weekly dread at having to fire up the mower and walk the switchbacks is outweighed only by my pride at how nice it looks once I’m done. I almost—almost—get why people lose their minds about landscaping and willingly spend time planting things and pruning and shearing and whatnot. I certainly hope I’m never so bored with television that I end up one of those people.
The thing is, the main part I have to mow is on an incline. That’s where the work sets in. My father, who lives with us and was, in his younger days, a man who took great pride in yardwork, likes to come outside and have a spot of tea while he watches me trudge back and forth, pushing the lawnmower, walking sideways, sweating. Sometimes, he’ll pull some weeds and toss them into the yard, far above where I happen to be, and say, “Come run the mower over those, why don’t you?” Helpful guy. I remind him that it’s probably time for his nap.
At any rate, it’s a beautiful yard when it’s done, and I do feel something approaching euphoria when I’m doing it. Or maybe that’s just indigestion. It’s hard to tell.
As I sit writing this, it’s been five hours since I finished my weekly mow. I love that I can walk across the house, out onto the deck, and admire my handiwork.
I also know each and every blade of grass is plotting to grow this week and make me do it again. They’re ruthless that way.