On Gardening

My early memories of gardening are not positive ones. I remember as a smallish child, being given the job of weeding in the bed of lettuces my dad was growing in his little plastic greenhouse. It turns out I don’t know the difference between a weed and a baby lettuce, so I guessed/picked randomly.

I think my dad took his resentment for that little faux pas with him to his grave.

After that, there hasn’t been much gardening in my life at all. I bought a bonsai tree once and then forgot what I was doing and it died. It was briefly a cool skeleton of a tree and then it was just a dead plant on my desk.

But then, recently, I moved into a house with a yard. There’s not much in the way of flowerbeds, but there’s a fair amount of grass, front and back. I thought it was going to be a major headache and that I might have to just bite the bullet and pay a professional (or a teenager) to mow everything for me. But then I mowed my lawn for the first time. The first time ever…after 45 years on this Earth.

And, Reader, it was a life-changing experience.

There’s a Zen-like feeling that can go with lawn mowing. In the 30 minutes it took me to mow our back lawn for the first time, I reached a most uncharacteristic level of calm. There was, I presume, a change in my brain chemistry. As I pushed my little electric mower up and down, I began to daydream: I could do this as an actual job. I could keep it local; drop my card off at homes where the grass was getting a little unruly. Keep it low-cost but develop a steady list of regulars.

Be outside, meet people, see the results of my work immediately. I’d be known amongst my neighbors as someone who could help out. I’d be a local character. Sounds like a plan.

A stupid plan, obviously, but that’s how calm and idealistic I was feeling…

So what broke the dream? Getting to the end of my 30-minute mow. I had enjoyed it, but my mowing was not something other people would pay for. The edges were rough; there was row after row of Mr. T-style ridges among the flat grass. I am an enthusiastic mower, but I am not a good mower.

But we all know what helps to make a job better: more tools. Rough edges and hard-to-mow places need a different approach. Americans call it a “weed whacker” but its correct and more reasonable name is a “strimmer”. I bought a strimmer. And it’s even more fun than a mower.

Wielding it kinda like a flame-thrower, I attack the bushed-up grasses and other nonsense around the fences, posts, and trees in our yards. It makes a cool noise; it thrashes the weeds and throws it around. It’s more fun than any other toy I’ve ever had – including the lightsaber that lit up and made noises from the Best Ever Christmas, 1970-something.

And you know what, I’m no good with a strimmer either. If I was a barber, the yard would be extremely angry and want its money back. Some of it is close like a buzz-cut, some of it is more Malcolm Gladwell. It’s not consistent or tidy, is what I’m saying.

But when I’m finished, the grass is, on average, shorter. So…that’s all that counts, I guess? Plus, I’m having a weirdly relaxing good time. And there’s no financial value on that. Literally none.

One final side-effect of my new hobby: I’m paying attention to other people’s lawns. And yes, most of them are way better than mine. And that’s fine because this is my first summer of grass management. But what’s with the hard-and-firm boundaries that people are applying to their lawn work? The side-by-side houses where one side has mowed their lawns and left a rigid line apparently randomly between the two yards.

A photo of two lawns, one cut short and one not. In the background is a large metal dinosaur garden ornament.
Not all lawn boundaries are guarded by dinosaurs.

Offer to mow your neighbour’s lawn, people. It’s the right thing to do. And you’ll reach a spiritual level of nirvana you didn’t know was possible.


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