Saturday, May 26, 2007

A-Mowing I Will Go

“Next morning, before it was yet broad day, I awoke, and thought of the mowing.” Hilaire Belloc “The Mowing of a Field”

My wife worries about the lawn.

She is not concerned about the grass getting too tall, though, of course, if I allow nature to take its course for too long she does say something.

Nor is she concerned that our lawn is not perfect, and so sports different kinds of grass, some weeds, and, of course, dandelions (which, by the way, I happen to like).

It is simply the fact that she believe I will die while mowing the lawn.

She is convinced of it.

She keeps saying that I will suffer a heart attack.

Mind you, while I am a little overweight, I am in relatively good health, as my last physical revealed.

A bit of arthritis and asthma, true, and there is that weight the doctor hinted two years ago I might lose (I do weigh less than then, thank you).

But otherwise, fine for a man in his early 50s.

I report these things to my wife, but she is undeterred.

She is convinced that at some point I will keel over and lie prone along with the severed grass.

Of course, this comes from a dear woman who if she has a temperature of 99 declares she has a fever and takes herself to bed.

My own attitude about these things is typically dumbly mannish. When I was younger, I broke a finger while playing basketball. I taped the broken finger and the finger next to it together, and went on playing until the game was over. Then I had it looked at.

I leave it to readers to decide which of us has more loosened screws.

But for me, mowing the lawn is more than a man thing. And it is more than just some morbid game of grim reaper played with gas-propelled whirling blade rather than a hand-powered scythe (even though that comparison has crossed my mind).

Mowing is a strangely satisfying activity.

There is a rhythm to it. There is a sense of measurable accomplishment.

And there are also happy memories attached to mowing. I remember as a small boy watching my father mowing his lawn, amazed at his strength in controlling the roaring mower. It was one of the first chores that I eventually took over, proud in the fact that I was trusted with starting and running that mower or one of its replacements.

Finally, it is a time alone with my thoughts. I have composed essays, songs and poems while mowing the lawn. I have prepared for job interviews, running over possible answers to even the most bizarre of interview questions (“If stranded on a desert island, what book would you want along.")* I have practiced lectures and lessons. I have worked off grumbles and upsets. (This is when the grim-reaper game sometimes comes into play.)

I have even prayed while mowing. There is something almost rosary- or Jesus-Prayer-like in the repeated pattern.

Finally, when I finish, I can sit and drink something cool, and feel the first cold sip seeping down my throat.

My body and my soul are refreshed and my lawn is in order.

Thank you, Lord.

No, I will not give up mowing my lawn.

At least not until winter. That’s when I enjoy shoveling my driveway by hand.

And giving my dear wife something else to worry about.

*(I wish I could say the book would be something profound like the Bible, or Shakespeare, or Chesterton, or clever like How to Build a Boat from Scratch, but it would be something like The Best Comic Verse in English or 1001 Jokes for all Occasions. I figure in that situation I'd need a few good laughs.)

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