Cutting Grass

Last year I slaved over an essay that centered on how much I dislike mowing lawns. This turned out to be a really boring topic, so I ended up going on all sorts of weird tangents, and the eventual result was a disjointed mess. But this year I have become strangely fixated on taming the area around my house.

Without rewriting the whole discarded essay, here are the main reasons I dislike mowing:

1.) It’s a sisyphean task. Sure, there are always more dishes to wash, but a plate that needs to be cleaned has been used. A lawn just keeps growing, regardless of whether anyone has played croquet or whatever.

2.) I mowed lawns in middle school, even though I hated it. It’s not the most damaging way a young person has felt pressured to conform to societal expectations, but I still feel a twinge of sympathy when I see a skinny twelve-year-old struggling behind a push mower.

3.) The exhaust smells really bad.

4.) Lawn mowers aren’t usually well made machines, and I’m not mechanically inclined enough to take any pleasure out of fiddling with them when they don’t start right up.

5.) The ridiculousness of mowing is highlighted by watching livestock get great pleasure out of accomplishing a task I don’t particularly enjoy.

How have I countered such a well oiled bear trap of an argument against mowing? Mostly by realizing that I dislike encroaching goldenrod, parsnip, and burdock more than I dislike mowing. Also, we don’t yet own any sheep, which are the only class of livestock I’d want to use close to a house.

But if I am honest, there’s something deeper going on. For the first time in my life I can almost imagine someday being able to relate to people who obsessively try to cultivate perfect sod. I’ve always found the biblical injunction to have dominion over the earth fraught, but I can’t deny the sense of satisfaction particular to imposing order on an unruly collection of plants. Is this a subconscious rebellion against mortality, as if by controlling the growth and death of the plants outside my door I could control the inevitable failure of my body? Or is it more external, an effort to make at least my little corner of a terrifying world simple and comprehensible? The answer to these stupid, overwrought questions is obviously no, but hopefully by asking them I have clarified exactly why my fraught relationship with mowing a lawn does not need any lengthier discussion than this.

-Garth

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