I write this morning from the screened front porch of our century old brick farmhouse overlooking the vast front lawn with its winding creek and the pergola where my daughter’s wedding was held a couple of years ago. The sky is overcast, but it’s warm and the breeze is pleasant. I can hear the trucks full of seed on the county roads nearby, and the morning commute has begun on the highway behind me. Redwing blackbirds call out to each other in the abandoned pasture to the east, while sheep bleat in the big red barn, and two of my roosters crow at each other across the yard.
Robins and blackbirds and other species unknown to me flit about in the freshly mown grass poking around for food. Two dogs are asleep on the wicker settee, while the shepherd cross, affectionately referred to as our guard dog, sleeps on the floor. The tiniest cat looks about anxiously from my lap just in front of the keyboard, while the other five tread lightly around the dogs or lounge in various corners. In moments like these it is easy to find peace.
But peace is temporary. The front stoop is covered in maple seeds and needs to be swept. Once swept the peeling paint is revealed and scraping and painting needs to be done. The trees are filled with broken limbs torn off by recent windstorms and they need to be removed. The lawn is uneven and filled with rows of cut grass because a part on the lawn tractor broke and the lawn will need to be recut once the mower is repaired. The garden around the pergola, beautiful for the wedding, has been damaged by floods and is filled with weeds that need to be pulled. Around the foundation, mulch is needed and it would look so much better with phlox and pachysandra. The vegetable garden in back is showing signs of life, but it needs a fence to keep the chickens and cats out of it. The former enjoy the greens. The latter see the raised beds as giant litter boxes.
Downstairs where the real litter boxes are, the felines don’t always hit their target and the concrete floors are happy to accept their misfires into their pores. Heavy rains, an old foundation, leaking downspouts and dogs that don’t always go outside when they’re supposed to make for an unpleasant combination. Beyond that there is a room that is filled with boxes of stuff that serve no useful purpose. It needs to be sold or dumped or moved so we can put a family room in, which of course means cleaning, painting, flooring and furnishing, not to mention regular cleaning once the room is finished.
Upstairs a ceiling fan isn’t pulling enough moisture out of a bathroom and mildew has formed on the ceiling and the paint is peeling. I’ve contacted a handyman to replace it and fix the ceiling, along with the broken downspouts outside, which are causing problems with the basement.
And this was our dream; the farmhouse, the barn, the land, the animals. It’s all ours… and I am ready to be rid of it. Buddha says “he who has a thousand loves has a thousand woes.” There is no doubt in my mind of this. The more we have, the more we have to do, and I am not a do-er.
It is the lawn that bothers me most right now. In my vision I had always pictured woods rather than wide open spaces. Instead, I have about 26 acres, including two acres of grass that needs to be cut at least once a week, which means fuel and a garden tractor and maintenance and oil and broken parts and down time and tall grass and an ugly lawn. For what purpose?
Lawns are the folly of kings. We work so hard to keep them cut and shaped and uniform in color, devoid of diversity. We put down chemicals to kill weeds and bugs and other chemicals to make our fescue, and only our fescue, grow. Perfect play places, we keep our kids from playing on them because of the chemicals, and because what becomes important is the appearance of our lawn. Kids playing on it wear it down and make it less uniform. Less green. This is especially true if we live in neighborhoods where lawn police inspect on a regular basis and report weeds to the Homeowners’ Association.
I think of the beauty in nature, the diversity which exists in the abandoned pasture on our land, the purples and whites and greens and yellows of various plant life, of the toads and frogs and praying mantises and garden spiders and snakes which largely disappeared from the suburbs when lawn uniformity became paramount. I wonder why we do it. What waste goes into our lawns!
It is a waste of time, of fuel, of space, of energy, of water, all for the sake of vanity. We want our lawn to look as good as our neighbors’ or better. We worship God and His Creation and then destroy it to make it our own, to make it conform to our idea of beauty. What beauty, though, might arise if we left it alone?
Before I cut mine it was colored by dandelions and some delicate little purple flower, two beastly weeds that would have to be eradicated if they were spotted in the suburbs. To me they were more beautiful than my lawn is now. But the war against nature must be waged so that our lawn adheres to societal standards of beauty. It is a war which can never be won and which would be better for all involved if a truce were called immediately and lawns converted to productive gardens or wildlife havens.
For our part we have opted to rent part of the lawn to a gentleman who raises sheep. Rather than an endless cycle of mowing, the sheep will take care of the grass and convert it to fertilizer for the vegetable garden in back. I suspect the grass will be as green as it has ever been. The weeds will be gone. My garden will be more productive, and the sheep will be happy to enjoy the sun and the grass and the creek and the pleasant breeze, and the bounty and beauty which nature offers freely, and which we miss in our effort to bend her to our will.