Copyright 2004 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner                                                               May 13, 2004

                                             A Limited Lawn

  It's been a while since I came up with a totally preposterous, never-
happen, can't-do-it idea, but, while zipping around the countryside this past
week, nervously driving past people on riding mowers and waiting for their
discharge chutes to chuck a rock through my windshield, I thought of one.
The peasants' descendants have had several generations to show off to the
rest of the world how much arable land they can afford not to farm; isn't it
about time for them to downsize their displays, by limiting the size of their
lawns?
    There are youngsters out there who have never seen an old fashioned,
spinning reel, human powered lawn mower, the kind that didn't need
gasoline, didn't make a lot of noise, and didn't amputate body parts in the
blink of an eye.  A little lubricating oil on the bearings, periodic sharpening
of the blades, and wiping the grass clippings off after each use was most of
the maintenance those mowers required, and the sound they made while
cutting the grass was a soothing "skrish, skrish, skrish" that never disturbed
anyone, particularly not a quarter-mile away.  When people used reel
mowers, they limited their lawns to proverbial postage-stamp size, because
anything larger was too much work.  They had enough flat green to play
croquet or badminton, to practice their putting, and to let the kids turn
somersaults; for anything else, they went out to a public park.
    What is a huge lawn, particularly a huge front lawn, good for, other
than to display how much land one controls?  I asked a lawn enthusiast, and
he described his lawn as an art form, involving mowing patterns, turf
management, and other aesthetic aspects of a large, well-maintained grassy
expanse.  Okay, some folks might find plaid patterned property pleasing, but
it's an expensive hobby, for more of us than just the guy who likes his riding
mower.
    Ozone advisory days, water shortages, dependence on foreign oil or
more drilling in the oceans and on federal lands, noise pollution, and water
pollution from pesticide and fertilizer runoff affect everyone's health, quality
of life, and pocketbook.  Think of the hours wasted cutting the grass,
particularly by folks who don't have a lawn hobby, but who have grass
around their houses because everyone else does, and the neighbors would
complain if it wasn't kept knocked down to a regulation height.  Millions of
people are slaves to the conventions of suburbia, carefully tending the grass
to keep the thistles out, but then going out and buying thistle seed to attract
goldfinches to their bird feeders.  Why not just grow thistles, and other
wildflowers, and have the entire yard become a natural birdfeeder?
    More power, that's why!  It was a running joke on the TV series
"Home Improvement": the bigger, more powerful, and noisier the lawn
tractors and weed-whackers were, the better!  Millions of desk jockeys are
giving in to their urge to go vrooom! Vrooom! VROOOOOOOOOM! with
internal combustion engines, and they're doing it on their lawns, because
their SUVs, large and powerful though they might be, don't provide enough
testosterone-driven thrills for them while they impotently crawl through
daily rush-hour traffic.  Why quietly expend calories and muscle effort to cut
grass, trim edging, or rake leaves, when you can buy an expensive, noisy,
gasoline powered gadget that does most of the work for you?
    "Look at me!  I control land, I control Nature, I control loud, powerful
machinery!  This yard is my kingdom, and it is right and fitting that
everything in it is subject to my mighty will!"  Why do people who don't
play football or baseball, but watch it on TV, want their yards to look like
football or baseball fields?  Does the idea that they could play football on
their front lawn, if they felt like it and if they could still run thirty yards
without gasping for breath, please them so much that the rest of the world
should have to pay for their pretensions?
    Even those folks with smaller yards tend to have more grass than they
can comfortably tend without power tools, and the "more power" theory still
holds true.  For the sake of their personal desires and pride, their efforts to
tame the wilderness and maintain their visions of civilized order (as opposed
to natural order) waste and pollute resources that belong to us all.  The
hydrocarbon emmissions from millions of homeowners' lawnmowers pollute
the air for apartment dwellers, as well.  Talk about second-hand smoke!
    Household lawns are bad enough; add corporate lawns to the picture,
and things get really ugly.  Those acres of sod surrounding hospitals,
schools, and business headquarters are showpieces set out to impress all who
see them with the importance and power of the incorporated entity.  Why not
plant them in low-maintenace groundcovers, ivy or ajuga or hens-and-
chicks, or seed them with a replacement mixture of indigenous plants and
wildflowers?  I look at those manicured acres and see nothing but waste,
inspired by hubris.  Stop mowing, turn off the sprinklers, spare the
weedkiller and fertilizer and let the gophers go at it.  Once the vegetation
gets tall enough, you'll never notice the holes.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, hundreds of industries and millions of jobs depend
on lawn maintenace as we know it.  We used to heat houses with coal, and
have milk, ice, and bread delivered to our doorsteps, too.  There used to be
more blacksmiths, before automobiles replaced horses.  Jobs come and jobs
go, depending on what sort of "progress" we're making at the moment.  But
with gasoline prices rising, and the ozone layer shrinking, it's high time to
progress beyond showing off like peasants  pretending to be royalty, with
power mowers as servants instead of a team of human gardeners.  If you
can't cut your grass with your own muscle, mow down your pretensions
instead, and maintain a limited lawn.

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