Patch of Green

April 12th, 2010

I do a lot of stuff I don’t like to do without (much) complaint or (a lot of) prompting. Like scooping the litter box. Our cat likes a clean box. Mowing the lawn is not one of those tasks. I hate mowing the lawn or, more accurately, mowing the weeds in front of our house. And don’t get me started on edging. Too late. With that in mind the following may seem like an elaborate rationalization for avoiding that task. Fair enough. 

A few years ago I saw a piece in Esquire or one of the other magazines I get for the articles about how to have a perfect lawn. I read it with fascination, not taking note of tips, but feeling like I was perusing an anthropological text. A perfect lawn? I’m sure one could trace the origins of the lawn to the sprawl of the suburb and a backlash against urbanization and perhaps even the industrial revolution. But lacking that context in our collective recent memory, it has lost its meaning as an attempt to preserve or recapture nature in our environment. And in a time “where children have to play inside so they don’t disappear,” they don’t even make sense anymore. 

But we all have them. And I mow (but won’t edge) mine. And it really annoys me when someone parks their cars on their lawn. I always say that it makes the street look like a trailer park, but really it’s the barely subconscious violation of a taboo, the bucking of convention, flying in the face of societal mores. Not playing by the rules! Not conforming! 

Do you think I'd be working in a place like this if I could afford a real snake?

“Blade Runner” is my all-time favorite movie. I must have seen it twenty times, but only recently read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” the novel by Phillip K. Dick upon which the movie is based. A key element of the book not explained in the movie is why everyone has an animal. It’s part of their quasi-religious belief system known as Mercerism. But not everyone can afford an animal in a world where pollution and fallout has destroyed habitats, so people buy fake animals. In the movie people readily admit to owning fakes but, in the book, they guard this shameful secret. It has moved from a valuation of life and nature to fetishism. The live animal has been replaced with a representation of itself. 

Untitled (1968) by Mark Rothko

The same has happened to the bit of nature on our property. The fact that we edge our lawns with such precision, or that Bukowski’s father beat him in “Ham on Rye” for leaving an errant blade of grass standing, shows that we no longer equate our lawns with nature. As my eight-year old pointed out, it’s like having a green mat in front of your house.

My mother-in-law is perfectly content with her Astroturf. In the face of repeated droughts–and our rural roots fading further into history–this artificial lawn may become more acceptable, even the norm. Eventually they may evolve further into a painted green square, then maybe a blue swatch, or black and red polka dots, until no one remembers what it once represented. But not me. I’m taking a stand! I will not edge my lawn. I also don’t like doing the dishes.

Michael Singman-Aste
Postdiluvian Photo

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One response to “Patch of Green”

  1. […] week I was mowing the lawn, one of the most arbitrary and pointless activities I ever perform. More on that later. Anyway, I think I ran over a snail. Mulched her. And that got me […]

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