October 12, 2001
I'm one of the few people who welcomes
the cold weather. For me, it means only one thing: no more mowing
the lawn. Even now I can almost hear those annoying little green
blades grinding to a halt.
Maybe it's because I grew up on a corner
lot in the suburbs where it was my weekend job to mow the lawn.
With all the bumps, stumps and other obstacles, you could start
mowing Saturday morning and be finished just in time for Sunday
dinner. But for an eleven year-old, it was the only way to make
some money. These were the days before a pre-teen could build
up and lose a billion dollar dot com empire before lunch, or
put an earring in your bellybutton and tour in a boy band.
As a junior gardener for hire, I learned
to hate grass in short order. The only fun I had was running
over little plastic army men with the lawn mower. Unfortunately,
people look at you funny when you keep doing it as an adult.
Especially when accompanied by international super-villain type
laughter: "Mr. Bond, meet my friends Mr. Black and
Even though it numbs the brain, mowing
the lawn also requires your full attention, as one of my friends
discovered. He now needs a calculator to count higher than nine.
While breathing gas fumes and working
with whirling blades would seem like a paradise for a young boy,
it wasn't without its perils. Plastic army men notwithstanding,
the average lawn contains a surprising number of hazards. Especially
if you let the grass get as long as I do. Lurking down near the
roots is a collection of rocks, sticks and the dreaded pet deposits
from inconsiderate neighbours (the deposits are from the pets
- not the neighbours). Regardless, you don't want any of them
shooting out at your ankles at a hundred miles an hour.
It's probably a generational thing, but
I've never been particularly lawn proud. If you don't believe
me, ask my neighbours. My lawn looks like Osama bin Laden's front
yard. And I spend about as much time out there looking after
it as he does.
There used to be a retired man who lived
down the street from me. His lawn would put any PGA golf green
to shame. It was an eighth of an inch high and uniformly green.
He watered it every day and used more fertilizer than they produce
at a First Ministers Conference. He could literally hear a leaf
falling from a tree, bolt from the house and catch it mid air
before it could land on his lawn. He spent weekends on his hands
and knees giving his grass a shiatsu massage.
My lawn was a bit of a disappointment
to him. I think I may be one of the reasons he finally left the
neighbourhood. My grass has never seen fertilizer. If I think
of it I'll spray it with the garden hose when it starts to smolder
on hot days and threatens to become a brush fire. I like to think
of my lawn as evolution in action, where only the strongest survive.
Unfortunately, the weeds are winning.
When I was in China before they won the
Olympics I saw them spray painting their dead grass bright green.
It didn't look anything like real grass, but I was still tempted
to ask them where they got the paint.
Now all that's left to do is wait for
winter to arrive, because that's when my lawn looks best - under
three inches of snow.