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Next: Suburban angst!

Oh gawd, this is a Live Journal, isn't it? A meme followed by angst....

Yes, I'm doing angst these days. See, I've seen people attempt to do angst, at certain coffee houses in my past. The perpetrators tended to be around 20 years old and ... well, I don't want to be insensitive to anyone's suffering at any age, but... well, you don't know angst till you're middle-aged and you start to suspect that things have pretty much peaked and it's all downhill from here.

But I don't mean to be that existential. The main source of my angst this weekend is yard work.

I am master of my own domain, if by "domain" you mean a 50 by 120-foot suburban lot and "master" you mean "the guy who pays the mortgage every month till he's too old to remember signing the mortgage in the first place." As part of achieving this wonderful part of The American Dream, I am the custodian of a certain amount of land that has been decreed by social custom (if not city ordinance) to be largely grass, with a smattering of more variegated botany scattered here and there.

Now, I happen to like most members of the plant kingdom. Unlike some members of the animal kingdom, plants won't eat or even bite me and their smells tend to be pleasant (with the notable exception of the cemetery plant, but we don't have those in Michigan). But plants have the habit of making a constant effort to be as wild and unorderly as any organism without the powers of locomotion can possibly be. This sort of behavior flies in the face of suburban social mores, which decree that, if nothing else, everything should be orderly and neat as if some big suburban mom wielded a big cookie cutter and made only star-shaped cookies.

Here's the thing: I'm on the plants' side. As long as they stay out of my dwelling, I'm happy to let the plants be biologically exuberant and grow to their little hearts' content. But that would make me a bad suburbanite and the neighbors would look askance at me and perhaps call the city department that enforces totally unimportant ordinances like lawn care rules, when such department should be spending its time preventing elected officials from looking like idiots on public access TV broadcasts.

So there I was, on what was and probably will be the most beautiful Saturday afternoon of the year if not my lifetime, picking up sticks from my tree (I own a tree, for the love of Mike!), hacking back an overly expressive rose bush, and cutting totally innocent grass. And all the botanical biota looked at me as if to say "We thought you were our friends?" and suddenly I felt like Bill Clinton endorsing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (or at least as he should've felt).

It was then I realized that my talents are going to waste in cutting grass. I like greenery, but I'd rather let someone else handle it, if it has to be handled at all, and I can stick to playing music and writing long, pointless LJ entries. No, I don't really mean hiring a lawn maintenance company. I had the misfortune of being born to people who, though nice, aren't Rockefellers; hiring a lawn maintenance company would cut into my CD buying budget, to say nothing of mortgage payments. I'd be happier living across the street from a park, where I could go visit grass and trees, than having to manicure a lawn of my own. Kind of like grandkids, from what I hear: You cuddle and play with them, and when they get tired or need changing you give them back to their owners. (Unless you're my poor mother, who had to handle my nephew for years, but that's her angst to put in a journal someday.)

Almost exactly eight years into this experiment of owning a piece of suburbia, I realize that what I want is either a cabin in the woods, where no one expects perfect lawn care, or an apartment. The former isn't practical given the distance from a sufficient woods to my workplace (now estimated to be something like two hundred miles, maybe more like 400 given my tastes in climate and geography). And the apartment isn't terribly attractive financially, at least until the housing boom goes completely bust (any day now, perhaps).

So I guess I'll just take comfort in the fact that it's October, and I probably won't need to mow grass anymore this year. Now, if I can just convince the trees to hold on to their leaves....


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2005 01:56 am (UTC)
the garden option
Is it against the local regs to replace your lawn with a vegetable garden? Some folks in my community have done that. It's a real pleasure to bike past yards full of tomatoes, beans, and other sundry good things growing tall.

A garden is more work than a grass lawn, but it can be much more satisfying.
Oct. 3rd, 2005 02:02 am (UTC)
Re: the garden option
I could probably put in a garden in back and a low-maintainence, low-growing ground cover in the front. But it would be a lot of work. Work is bad. :)
Oct. 3rd, 2005 11:36 am (UTC)
Take it from one who did it. You don't have to go 200 miles to get away from that stuff. There are tradeoffs, certainly, but the distance need not be that extreme. I'm in complete agreement with you about the absurdity of suburbia and "lawn care". There's a long history behind that stuff, and most of it is pure human mental illness.

In short, it comes down to 18th Century England, where growing a lawn was proof of wealth and gentility. It meant that you didn't have to plant vegetables, for instance. And that you didn't have to keep cows. The custom of mowing the lawn down to golf green levels grew out of the practice of keeping deer parks, where the deer did the mowing. When keeping deer went out of fashion (or became unaffordable) the deer were replaced by squadrons of servants who trimmed the grass with shears. I kid you not. Talk about ostentation, that is a perfect example. The rotary push lawnmower was invented in the early 1800s to reduce the cost of lawn ownership and it caught on like a prairie fire. Anyway, the entire thing is sheer ostentation. A manicured lawn serves no other purpose, even though most Americans have forgotten what it stood for and many would reject the symbolic effort to look like titled and landed nobility.
Oct. 3rd, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC)
I didn't know that. It all makes perfect sense.

I did know that grass as "practiced" in suburbia simply does not fit with the natural flora of this part of the world. It grows, but wouldn't be the dominant species if we allowed competition to take place. Grass would do better in Illinois, being that it's the Prairie State and all. But here, it's just the wrong thing, not that robins and squirrels seem to mind all that much.
Oct. 3rd, 2005 02:06 pm (UTC)
Mom has neighbors that have replaced the front lawn with a flower garden that runs a bit towards the wild. Might be an idea. Of course, then you'll have to do some weeding.

As for getting looks from trimming the rose bush...make sure it understands that it is for it's own benefit so that it stays healty.

Oct. 3rd, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC)
Actually the main reason I trimmed the rose bush is so people could get out of a car without getting snagged by the reaching thorny canes. Although the bit about it being healthy is good to remember; I'll have to remind it that trimming is for its own good.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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