Zen and the Art of Lawn Maintenance

So here’s my thing. It’s a little off the beaten path, I admit it, but you know how when you mow your lawn you follow the same path all the time? You know you do. It’s a thing of beauty, a masterstroke, true art.

I used to have this thing down pat. One part of the yard was straight back and forth, in long stripes. Then the other part I had this cool yin/yang thing rocking with the flower bed and the big-ass fir tree making up opposite sides of the symbol. It looked pretty cool. I would sometimes finish, and go to the second floor of the house to look out the window at it, just to make sure it looked right.

Then I get this idea to plant some arborvitae by the street — I call them the “Original Six” as I’ve since expanded the lot by another group, the expansion shrubs. So that threw off my juju by a little bit. I had to now go around something and mess with the pattern. This wasn’t too onerous, but then I decided to build a shed. Now I’ve got this big square box right in the middle of my long stripes. What to do with that? Now I’ve got this Utah shape I have to deal with. Add into this mess a swing set, a bunch of trees cut down, and a new stockade fence and I have completely ruined my mowing-mojo . There’s a regular and normal pattern in every yard, and it is up to us to bring it out. It’s doing Gods work.

Its not like I have ballpark quality turf — I have grass where I don’t want it, and clover, Bermuda grass, and other weeds where I do want grass — its just that I’ve always appreciated a well mowed lawn. If you go to Fenway Park, you’ll see these intersecting patterns or the hanging Sox logo. What I wouldn’t give to have that action. Instead, I own a postage stamp of crab grass that looks moderately manicured when freshly mowed.

I know you think about it. You do the same freaking thing, and don’t deny it. You’re out there walking around planning out your path, what it will look like and making sure you hit everything. It’s an unspoken truth, unspoken until I break the silence. Sure, we can advertise feminine hygiene and family planning products on prime time television, but we just can’t have this conversation about our lawns. And I don’t mean about grubs, or the pros and cons of Round Up Ready turf. I mean the artistic, right brained stuff — the artist in each one of us, because it is art. Your significant other wants to take you to the Guggenheim, you just want the front lawn to look good, and she tells you that you just don’t appreciate art. A well executed double play — THAT’S art. A linebacker blitz to the quarterback — THAT’S ART. A quality mowing pattern in your front yard — THAT’S art. A crucifix in a jar of urine? Um, no. Not art. Yeah, and it’s me that just doesn’t get art. No, we appreciate art — it’s YOU that doesn’t get it. I don’t need to spend $45 plus cab fare to go to a building with a bunch of paintings within it.

Most of us don’t have “a guy” doing our lawn for us: fact is if you’ve got someone mowing your lawn for you, then you’re probably getting your nails done too. I think it’s a guy thing to want to get out there — we’ll rationalize how much a riding mower would save over having someone else to do the lawn before we’d allow someone else to do it for us: “as long as I have this for 20 years and mow 25 times a year, it’ll completely pay for itself…”

We spend that time and money because it’s a contribution to the arts. We spread chemicals because our yard demands it. Art demands it. We demand it.