Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lawn yawn

This is an example of what seems eccentric, at best, may be just enough ahead of the curve to appear around the bend.

Oct 1, 1995
Point Pleasant, NJ

It’s been this summer’s drumbeat: drought, drought, drought. Meteorologists even insist that the recent rain has done little to fill our reservoirs.

In England, the chief executive of a Yorkshire water company recently announced that he hasn’t bathed in three months, limiting himself each day to a washcloth and a half a bowl of water to keep from offending others.

I’m not following his sterling example, but at the incessant urging of public officials, I have made a good faith effort to cut back, to at least not waste this very stuff of life. I try not to linger in the shower, to shut off the tap while brushing and to think before I turn on the dishwasher, although I freely admit it sometimes slips my mind.

Although we have been fortunate in not needing mandatory water restrictions like the North Jersey communities, I remain puzzled and disturbed by our priorities.

Walking around my neighborhood, I can’t help but notice an awful lot of lawn watering. To my mind, that should be way down the list, right after filling a swimming pool. (But it was stifling this summer, and to my mind, people come before lawns.)

OK, OK already, I confess to lacking this national obsession with outdoor, velvet-green carpeting. My long-suffering neighbors would be quick to agree. I make this statement with full realization that most of you call such a position heresy.

This spring, a new friend asked if she could borrow my lawn mower. (She obviously had not been to my house yet.) When I stopped laughing and told her I had no use for a lawn mower, she stared in disbelief.

You see, I don’t have a lawn. My front yard is a motley collection of sand, weeds and trees. Every few months I go out and trim things back a bit, so it doesn’t grow to resemble the rear yard. There is no other way to describe the back yard other than wild. One of my friends dubbed it “the rainforest.” At this time of year, you can’t even walk back there – not without hip boots and a sickle, that is. (At this juncture, I feel the need to pause and point out that I wasn’t raised in some shack with a dilapidated car in the front yard. My family lived in a succession of very middle-class houses with very green lawns.)

When I married and moved into my first home, the yard work fell to my husband. But that was another lifetime. For decades, I have lived in my own home, one with quite a large yard. And I have never been inclined to “put down a lawn,” as they say. I just don’t get it.

Why do we yank out the indigenous plants, the so-called weeds and spend an enormous amount of time and money nurturing grass and polluting our precious water with chemicals? And who are these weed police, anyway? Who decides, for example, that the graceful and abundantly growing mimosa tree is little more than a weed?

Humans seem to have an inborn need to reshape nature instead of joining with it. After careful consideration, I have decided we feel uncomfortable without the illusion we are in control of our surroundings. And that extends to the physical space around our homes.

By now a lot of you might be thinking, so what’s the big deal? Lawns look and feel real nice, and it’s not as if they do any harm. I will concede that a hearty strain of grass makes a nice place for children to play. But front lawns are worse than useless.

They waste time, energy and pollute the environment. And for what? I could understand it if the yard was put to some productive use, such as a vegetable garden. But all this just make our houses look better? Please!

Decades ago, I had a friend with a large family who actually dug up the front lawn of her Monmouth County home and planted vegetables. She also started an alternative school for her six youngsters before moving out West. Once in California, her kids adopted names like Treefrog. I’m sure you get the drift.

Back then, I thought she was slightly off kilter.
Now I’m not so sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thats funny about the treefrog comment. My mom calls me Laughing Water.