Mowing the yard is a lot like having to take two hours to cut your nose hairs. You know you have to do it but there’s no point in trying to pretend it’s enjoyable, unless you like that sort of thing. I’ve known married men who loved their lawns but that was because it was their time away from having to deal with being married with children. There’s a certain degree of Lawn Love that is understandable but everything after that is a cry for help or having nothing to do anymore in life. That’s way harsh, but no one I have ever know who was obsessed with their lawn had anything better to do.
I have a yard. There is grass in my yard. If I wish to keep the population of ticks, fleas, and other pests down, and be able to find my own dogs in the grass, I have to mow it once a week in the Summer. I do not like it. I decided to stop mowing one year and my neighbors, kind souls that they are, mowed while I was at work and never asked me for a thing. I realized that they thought I wanted it mowed. I realized they wanted it mowed. So here we are. Mowing.
It’s been two weeks since I last mowed and it has rained fifteen centimeters since the last time blade hit grass. In that two weeks the grass has grown as if being pushed out of the ground by Satan so some of it was nearly knee high. I dragged the mower out at seven in the morning and fired it up. Tyger Linn and Tanya the Destroyer hate the mower. They try to attack it. I have to get a stick and chase them away from it. Imagine, there I am, I hate mowing, chasing the dogs I love with a stick, so I can mow.
Since it rain another two centimeters yesterday the grass is very wet. It sticks to the underside of the mower and packs itself into flat cakes that resemble hash. I have to stop, move over to a sandy area, let the mower dry out enough for the grass hash to fall away, and continue. This is like mowing in a rain forest. It’s like mowing the Sargasso Sea. This is as slow as if I was mowing with a pair of toe nail clippers but I do realize that the longer I wait the worse it will keep getting. I find Amelia Earhart’s plane. I find a lost Mayan Step Pyramid. There’s the career lost by MC Hammer near the fence like but I can’t touch that. It’s thick, I tell you, and the going is slow.
I know the mower Al Joad knows the family truck. I know the sound the engine makes when it is bogging down or clogging up, and if it clogs up it will bog down and the thought that the up will lead to the down makes me think about how we use language. We could bog up to our axles or bog down to the fenders. But we never clog down to anywhere. Things are always clogged up, not clogged down. The mower sings me the song of its people. The grass dies in the revolution of the blade, decapitated and innocent. It takes a few minutes to get from point A to point B but every time I make the trip there is less to mow. Back and forth and forth and back. The mower sings me the song of its people and the grass that was cut when I started has already started to regrow.
The sun rises more quickly when a soul is out in the open working and there’s a mist that rises from the grown, the ghosts of all the dead grass blades rising to the sky, to be reborn in the same body next Saturday, to face the spinning God again. Thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of their kind seek to touch the sun but are rebuffed time and time again, none worthy of the sky, all rejoicing until they hear that terrible sound of the mower, singing the psalms of its people.
Many years ago, when I bought my first house back in Donalsonville Georgia, I took up bike riding to get more exercise. I pedaled out, far out of town, circling back through the backroads, and was aiming for a friend’s house near Jakin. A girl I was in love with in High school had moved to the same road, not far from her parent’s house and I saw her in the yard that day, mowing. Now always, but sometimes, when I’m mowing, I’ll think about that girl and that day, and I wonder if she looked up and saw me, and realized I had seen her. I wonder if she ever thinks about me when she’s mowing or looks up to see if I might be there again. There’s no telling how many blades of grass have come and gone since that day or how many more will come and go again, before I ever see her again, if ever.
Thoughts like that devour time and I realize I’ve created a very wide path between the fence and the unmowed part of the yard. I am more than halfway through. The sun is up but now I know I will be done soon and the hardest parts of the yard are behind me. The thickest areas are sheared away and done. My yard looks less wild now and the time I contemplation the mysteries of life under the drone of the mower’s song is coming to an end for this week. I know that one day someone will call me and tell me she has died or has been killed or one day someone will call her and tell her of my end, and that will be the last either of us hear of the other. Like the Mayan Pyramid or Earhart’s plane, there are things that are discovered while mowing that will never be heard from again.