Man’s Greatest Love: Lawns

A favorite game growing up, among my dad, sister and myself, was to predict when our neighbor would next mow his lawn. As we got older, bets were placed, and it definitely granted you bragging rights at least for a few hours until he was back outside on his lawn mower. I must admit though, I had never thought lawn mowing could be construed as an art, but he certainly made it appear that way at times.

If anyone on our end of the street dared mow their lawn that day, it was pretty much guaranteed that he would be out there within a few hours, following with a plastic bag in which to put spare blades of grass or twigs. When I think of the word “immaculate,” I immediately picture his lawn in summer, green as it was in the first flush of spring (because of  his timed sprinklers).

I believe (know) his masterpiece pained my own father. Living across the street from what looked like a MLB diamond was hard, especially if one’s own lawn had succumbed to the dry heat of summer &  had not been properly treated by a professional lawn care service. As if to spite him, patches of our grass would die, or be replaced by crabgrass, the bane of all lawn-care enthusiasts.

I think the greatest questions Robbins raises have to do with the surrounding culture of lawn-care. Obviously nature has its own rhythm, one that will continue without our intervention. The very notion that we have developed an entire lawn-care industry is ridiculous when you give it some thought. To think we find the need to assert that much control over the stretch of nature surrounding our houses as to have it regularly treated with chemicals and cut down, indicates our relationship with nature has not progressed much beyond the belief that nature is a resource to be exploited.

Some do not succumb to this mania, including my roommate’s father, who has taken the opposite approach. They live in Portland, OR, and consequently have quite a bit of moss. Rather than treat his lawn to replace the moss with something like Kentucky bluegrass, he has allowed the moss to infiltrate enemy territory, thus replacing the grass. Indeed, his own personal version of heaven is one in which our nation’s lawns are covered by moss. While this is not quite feasible because of climatic differences, I believe it accurately portrays the contempt some people feel for obsessive lawn-care and for what we have done to our environments.

Robbins even suggests this course of action, claiming that if we are to diversity our plant life it may be better for the environment itself. Though governments are sometimes adverse to this course of action, many may find it to be a more favorable option. A lawn in Ohio using native species could look like this:

which seems much prettier & more natural than the field-like structures currently in place. First we must question why these societal norms are in place today – why we need and appreciate manicured lawns. Perhaps if we are unable to come up with satisfactory answers, a new era of lawns will be instituted.


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