Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., May 19, 20 or 21
(All together now: “FINALLY!”)
I know this not because of temperatures that flirt and flash between freezing and the 80s, or baseball played between rain delays, or displays of graduation cards or ads for prom dresses.
No, the signal that spring is here is the yard. More and more, it demands more and more.
I hate winter mostly because grass turns yellow and dry and dies.
For months, I miss mowing the lawn.
That ritual of clipping millions of blades of grass has, over decades, become enjoyable.
It started as a curious chore in my childhood backyard, like most people. Then it became my first job, earning a few bucks from neighbors with lawns with as many different sizes and shapes as husky, hulking old Briggs & Stratton mowers to the then-new and sleek green Lawn-Boys.
Now, mowing not only presents exercise for the legs; it offers calisthenics for the mind, the soul.
The relaxing act of repeating smooth paths through the grass is a reassuring blend of gymnastics and prayer.
For me, mowing can be an escape, a refuge.
At times each spring and summer (and fall if I’m lucky), I find myself finishing the front lawn while daydreaming of the Cubs or humming some melody or thinking of my son or wife or life – with no recollection later of maneuvering the mower around fences or fragile flower beds.
(“Maneuvering” implies subtlety, which is sometimes required. It’s not like those who screw around with fuel or gear ratio so they can race their Toro or Snapper riding mowers like deranged NASCAR fans or ex-motorists with one too many DUIs or moving violations on their records.)
Anyway, mowing can give a person relief from the hectic hours of labor – or leisure. Like a massage on the lower lumbar, mowing is a rubdown for the brain.
There aren’t any political debates while mowing. Just Nature.
OK, it’s not exactly natural. Mowing is a modest part of that “human activity” we all know is contributing to climate change. Unless circumstances force me to use my “auxiliary” rotary push mower, the act of mowing depends on a small internal-combustion engine or, in my case, a long cord connecting my 18-inch Yardworks electric gem to some distant power grid.
However, it is tidying up grass, and better than a stroll through a park picking up litter.
During the diversion, there are no screaming social issues or community conflicts as I affect the yard’s appearance – or ecology, I suppose.
There are no injustices or inequities, no economic crises or environmental catastrophes at hand as I breathe in the scents of the neighborhood and feel the sod beneath my feet.
Mowers offer their masters moments to meditate, to think. Or not to think at all.
Mowing gives minds time to contemplate, to muse about life.
My mower and I share the seasons; the lawn growing lush and dark, then suffering lulling heat or too often drought after the summer solstice, followed too soon by the coming cool around the autumn equinox.
A mower lets me sort of commune with the surroundings in the sun and shade – counting how many passes between the gazebo and fountain, guessing the number of rows the mower will slice through the bluegrass between the English ivy-covered pine and the front porch, noticing squirrels barking at me from nearby limbs to hurry up and quiet down, watching birds harvest worms in the wake of clippings, me all the while wondering about weeds and wildflowers…
I missed mowing.
No snowblower could work such wonders.
[PICTURED: My corded, electric one-note mantra mower.]