I have a love/hate relationship with my yard. It is overgrown and choked. I frequently describe my house to people arriving at the house for the first time this way. “It is set on a corner lot–the one that looks like the setting to a Stephen King novel”. Interestingly enough, everyone always finds the house without much more information than that.

But I love my yard for all the potential it holds. The garden was once beautiful and serene. You can see the outlines of a Japanese contemplative garden. But that was many many years ago. Over 18 years ago, the couple who lived in our house divorced. The husband was left with three small kids. He stopped working in the garden. Juan and I had plans to tame it when we bought the house but somehow we never could quite get on top of it. And then our own stuff got in the way and the yard went wild once more.

The yard is to me too much a metaphor for single parenting.

Several times over the last few years I have made attempts to get a handle on this yard of mine. I spent days in the yard thinking that if I could somehow figure out how to make the yard nice I would get a handle on going at it alone. One year I spent hours after work pulling out Japanese honeysuckle that had completely taken over a bed of azaleas. Another year I spent days with pruning shears trying to tame the 50 year old bushes in the yard. There has been some progress made. Its not obvious to those passing by but I can see it. Small little progress.
But the lawn…well the lawn is another thing.

Juan always mowed the lawn. We both gardened but he was in charge of the lawn mower. In fact, the first year we moved into the house he asked me to buy him the big old gasoline powered monster for a gift. No joke. He really wanted it. Whenever I would offer to cut the grass he would look at me with horror as though I had asked him to give up his only child. “No…of course not,” he would stammer.

The first year he left I let the grass in our yard grow wild. The thought of dragging out the lawnmower and trying to make it work left me in fits of tears. A few times my neighbor across the street took pity on me and cut my grass while he was cutting his own. Once Juan came by and did it while I was at work. But for the most part, the grass grew wild all summer. The second year after Juan left after the rains had passed I dragged out the lawnmower. I couldn’t get it to work. I tried and I tried and I tried some more. I changed the gasoline, I pulled on that rip cord with all my might but it was a hopeless cause. I called a friend’s husband and asked him to come over and help me get it started. He said he’d be right over but he never showed. I asked Juan repeatedly to help me start it up. He would mumur something about coming over to cut the grass but the grass went uncut. It grew up to my waist while I twisted around in my own mechanical inadequacy.

And then one weekend I could take it no more. I bought one of those old fashioned push-style no-need-for-gas-or -electricity-or-anything-but-muscle mowers. I put it together all myself. And I cut my grass. All by myself. I did it once just to prove I could do it. And then, I put that mower away and let the grass grow.

This year, my yard feels too much like a metaphor–a metaphor for how I sometimes feel–overwhelmed, chaotic, barren in some parts, choking in others. It is alternating patches of scorched dirt and knee high grass. It is a circus of abundance and starvation. It is a mess.

This spring while I was busy feeling sorry for myself, I did not step foot in that crazy yard of mine. I pretended it didn’t exist, preferring to spend my lazy Saturday afternoon’s in my friends’ more calm and manicured havens.

But coming back from Puerto Rico I had an itch to start to return to the routine of my life–to the little things we do that may bring calm, peace or incremental progress. I took today off and spent the morning at the MVA righting all the small things I had let go in the world of my car. And then I took out my mower and made for the back yard.

I made only incremental progress. Mostly the weeds just bowed down. I had to pass over the same area ten times just to get a little bit cut. But I kept on going little by little. Truth be told, it looks like the yard had a haircut kind of like the styles that Max gives himself. Tufts sticking up here and there at funny angles. Long in some places. Way too short in others. But I did it and it is progress, however small.

As I passed that mower over the grass I was amazed at how calming it was for me. To be so focused entirely on simply cutting the grass. To not be thinking about anything else but shortening the grass, shooing away mosquitos, and pushing, pushing the mower. It was a relief. It was a rest. It was a meditation. The meditation of the ordinary.

Sometimes I wonder if when I chose BLOSSOM to be my word for the year, I jinxed myself somehow. BLOSSOM is such an active and exhilarating word. It set my mind on extraordinary things and perhaps in the process, the small things seemed so…well…small. Perhaps it pushed me a little too close to the edge of my life. Perhaps it set me up for waves of disappointment.

In any case, I have been set right, at least for now. As I done my straw cowboy hat as protection against the blaring sun, I am content not to blossom but simply mow.

3 Responses to “Chop Wood…Carry Water…Mow Lawn”

  1. Karen Says:

    Although I want to say everything, every kind of salutation and amen to this, I think the way to do that is to have no comment. Hallelujah, no comment!

  2. julianna Says:

    as they say down here in georgia, bless your heart for sometimes feeling “overwhelmed, chaotic, barren in some parts, choking in others.” i know how you feel….

  3. angharad Says:

    i think your grass took you at your word and decided to blossom a bit too much! i have paving and gravel and plants in between – that way there is no need to mow but still lots of green!