Two ideas slammed against each other in my brain yesterday, almost causing a stroke.
Freedom and lawn care. The former I love; latter, hate.
Our grass grows exactly two feet per hour so I’m constantly fighting and cussing it. I asked myself how this baloney got started. Google, oh master, tell me why Americans are obsessed with perfectly manicured lawns.
I found this disturbing piece of text (I kind of knew this, but have never read it) about what our culture says about scraggly, unkempt lawns. They’re referring to two films in particular: Edward Scissorhands and Pleasantville.
It is implied that a neighbor, whose lawn is not in pristine condition, is morally corrupt, emphasizing the role a well-kept lawn plays in neighborly and community relationships. In both of these films, green space surrounding a house in the suburbs becomes an indicator of moral integrity as well as of social and gender norms as lawn care has long been associated with men.
I feel, resent, and succumb to this insidious pressure. I have three forces moving against me, propelling me to keep our grass at a reasonable height: societal pressure, local ordinances, and a wife. I do not cut the grass because I enjoy it or because I particularly care about having a beautiful lawn.
Jennifer and I share the duties, but when she’s wielding the trimmer, or other lawn device, I feel a bit uncomfortable because society has told me from birth that lawn care is a man’s job, which is, of course, bullshit.
So, yes, lawn maintenance limits my freedom and lowers my overall quality of life. I would love to destroy our turf in favor of an organic neighborhood garden, an entirely edible landscape. This would be the sustainable, sensible path, but it’s not acceptable in our culture to destroy perfectly good grass at such a grand a scale.
Instead, if a suburban homeowner creates a garden at all, it’s a small rectangle, preferably out of sight from the road. If a bare spot inexplicably appears in a man’s lawn, he soon will throw seed and straw over it–in effect, “repairing” it. A lawn not completely covered with turf is a broken, imperfect lawn.
I was heartened to read this:
The economic recession that began in 2008 has resulted in many communities worldwide to dig up their lawns and plant fruit and vegetable gardens. This has the potential to greatly change cultural values attached to the lawn, as they are increasingly viewed as environmentally and economically unviable in the modern context.
And then sad to read this:
Lawn maintenance often uses inorganic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, which can harm the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has estimated nearly 70,000,000 pounds of active pesticide ingredients are used on suburban lawns each year in the United States. It has also been estimated that more herbicides are applied per acre of lawn than are used by most farmers to grow industrial crops.
Last summer I used a gas mower, which, environmentally, blows. This season we gave it to someone else so they can pollute, officially putting to end–forever!–to my involvement in gas-powered lawn maintenance. Instead, I would like to rely solely on our engine-less reel mower, while Jennifer is pushing to buy a corded, electric mower. The problem with an electric mower is that I would surely mow over the cord within ten minutes of its virgin run through our lawn.
We’ll see how it goes.