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What's a Lawn to You?

In the old days, the aristocracy had lawns to emphasize their wealth and power. Today, things have changed. Each of us is lord of our own manor, and we don't need a lawn to prove it.
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Summertime is green with lawns. Some are lavish, spanning acres. Others are tiny but proud displays in front of basic homes. Mainstream America equates perfectly homogenous manicured lawns with wealth and stability; the lawn is a middle class icon... and more.

Historically, only the rich could afford to have lawns. After all, investing money (and labor) in growing green grass on expanses of fertile land is nothing if not a symbol of excess. Who else could afford to flaunt affluence? Okay, maybe you need one if you are going to hold a serious lawn party on the 4th of July... but really, who needs a lawn?

And, who really wants one when you have to take care of it yourself? In our neighborhood, those who like lawns and have a little money to spare quickly delegate the task to a lawn service or the kid down the block? Others capitalize on free child labor (does your kid really "want to mow the lawn"). Okay, I see how some people enjoy driving their expensive grass-eating toys while drinking beer. And, I also see (with sadness) that mowing the lawn gives others a way to be out of the house each weekend.

In my family, the lawn was a burden for all of us and so we abandoned it to the moss and wildflowers. Long before Frozen, we "let it go." My husband hates mowing, and I'm right there with him. None of us want to spend time doing something nosey, boring and for what? It's not like we're growing sod to sell or hay to feed any animals. As to discretionary use of fertilizer (ugh) and pesticide (even worse), why expose ourselves and the environment to toxic chemicals unnecessarily?

The perfect lawn is an expanse of monotony. Instead, we have a modest, New England jungle replete with diversity (which is much needed in our community... but that's another story altogether). There are so many hues, shapes, textures and sizes of green things out there, brimming with life and chlorophyll. We figure we're helping the environment at multiple levels, and we glory in our privilege.

For the folks next door, however, our lawn is a major headache and cause for consternation. They poke us regularly, commenting that we're "an embarrassment for the neighborhood." When they complain, "we don't like looking at your lawn because it's in such awful condition" we reply, "first of all, it's not a lawn -- it's a suburban jungle -- and second of all, why do you look at it if doing so is such torture?" In our case, tall fences would make better neighbors.

On the other side, there's a young guy who sees a different kind of green in our lawn: money. "Hey, I know y'all are too busy to tend to your lawn, so why don't you hire me to take care of it?" It's obvious to him that this arrangement would be win-win all around: he'd get good money for honest work, we'd have a lawn the neighbors would be proud of, and the other neighbors would have to find someone else to torment. The only fault in his logic is that we like our land just the way it is... and we live in a subdivision where we can keep our lawn as we like.

So, how about you? Do you have a lawn? Want a lawn? Want to get rid of your lawn? Or what? If you have a space that could (or does) support a lawn, here's a thought: go out onto that land when the neighborhood is quiet, and stay still long enough to notice what's around you. Watch the movements, listen for the sounds, and notice the colors. Practice mindfulness then and there, and shift your attention to your breath so that you notice the movements, sounds and sensations within you. Now, switch back to the land and stay present.

If you like what you feel, they keep doing whatever you're doing with that lawn or not-lawn. But, if the land feels less that its whispered promise, follow it's direction and envision what might be instead.

In the old days, the aristocracy had lawns to emphasize their wealth and power. Today, things have changed. Each of us is lord of our own manor, and we don't need a lawn to prove it.

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