I Don’t Do Mow

The other day I drove past my rental house and discovered that my tenants had worked wonders with the yard. Not only was the lawn mowed, but there were pretty flowers in pots on the front stoop, little fences around various plantings, and questionably tasteful yet charming lawn art here and there. In the back, they had placed a few tables and chairs with cheerful little umbrellas.

In other words, they’re taking much better care of the place than I did when I lived there. It kind of feels like I won the lottery. I don’t ever want them to leave.

And as the cherry on top of the yardwork sundae, I have married a man who actually enjoys mowing the lawn! That, in and of itself, makes him quite a catch, even though it’s a tendency I can’t relate to at all. He says he likes the mindless physicality of it, and takes pride in how beautiful things look afterward. I’m glad he isn’t into toxic chemicals to make the grass even greener. That we agree on. So more power to him, I say.

Personally, I can think of no bigger waste of time than mowing. Manicured lawns are a foible that has been visited upon us by the French. It’s not what our yards want to do with themselves, and no one should have to put so much work into keeping up appearances. We mow to follow rules that we’ve imposed upon ourselves. Nature could care less about our stinking rules.

I think all yards should have native plantings. I think if we all were to xeriscape, the planet would be in much better shape. So much water is wasted on lawns, and so much damage is done when we fertilize them.

I think we should all plant fruit trees and let the neighbors help themselves. I think we should have vegetable gardens to teach our children what real food is supposed to taste like. I also think weeds have as much right to exist as anything else. I want rabbits to want to hang out in my yard.

In the first house I owned, I planted confederate ivy in the front instead of grass. I never watered it. I never did anything to it, other than occasionally cut it back so it wouldn’t choke the sidewalk and cause a tripping hazard. I lived there for 23 years.

I’m sure my husband would be horrified, but not overly surprised, to know that if he were ever abducted by aliens, the yard would wind up looking extremely different than it does now. Things would definitely be encroaching upon one another. Survival of the fittest.

Watching people sweat behind gas propelled machines on a beautiful sunny day seems to me to be the biggest waste of life and the worst of ecological insults. We should all be on our knees, getting our hands dirty, working the soil and planting for food, beauty, and the chance to do something, anything, other than mow.

Natural garden

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Grass

Isn’t nature awesome? It never ceases to amaze me. The natural world is capable of so much more than we mere humans are.

Case in point: Grass. I recently watched my back yard get covered in 9 inches of snow, and it remained in place for a week. While it was beautiful, I couldn’t help wondering what was going on beneath it.

Imagine being covered in a thick, cold, wet, smotheringly heavy blanket. Imagine being plunged into temperatures below freezing for days on end. Imagine not being able to see the sun during that entire period.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’d be dead. Stick a fork in me. I’d be done.

And yet, once the grass was exposed again in a thaw that is still making slow but steady progress even as I write this, it was as green and perky as ever. Incredible. Dare I say it? Miraculous.

Okay, yeah, I get it. There is a scientific explanation for it. I have every confidence that this phenomenon can be accounted for. But I’d much rather just gaze at my intrepidly green back yard and consider myself lucky that it is content in its beauty and comfortable in its role in the overall scheme of things. Because if it had a union, it would probably rule the world.

Grass and Snow

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Earthing

One of the best things about the advent of spring is that I find more and more opportunities to walk barefoot. I love the feeling of grass under my feet and sand between my toes. I love feeling connected to the planet, especially after long months of raw, bitter, wet, isolating cold.

In particular, I love the grass out west. It’s soft and smooth, like the grass of my Connecticut childhood. In the South, one is forced to live with St. Augustine grass, which is actually lumpy and painful to walk on. That, and you have to watch out for fire ants and snakes and scorpions and hostile plant life. It’s not the same experience at all. (But I do miss walking on Southern beaches! Warm sand, not painful rocks!)

But walking barefoot, or “earthing”, is now being scientifically studied. It comes as no surprise to me that people are discovering that there are actual health benefits to the practice. I know I feel calmer and happier and much more centered when I’m barefoot.

According to this article, scientists are discovering that earthing improves sleep, reduces inflammation, and increases antioxidants. It has something to do with having direct contact with the electrons that the planet produces. It also reduces stress, regulates glucose and heartbeat, and increases immunity. According to this article, walking barefoot also helps loosen tense muscles, relieves headaches, reduces menstrual cramps, and boosts energy levels.

Whether or not these studies stand up to further investigation, I just know, instinctively, that I feel better when I can feel the earth beneath my feet. After all, we evolved to live upon it. Our very existence depends on it. We are meant to be connected to it. I find it sad that our idea of “progress” is removing us more and more from the natural world.

So get out there and wiggle your toes!

Barefoot-walking

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There Goes the Neighborhood

I’ve been house hunting, and I can tell, almost immediately, if I’d be a good fit for a neighborhood. If there are wide expanses of manicured lawns, I definitely will not fit in. And I would chafe under rules that dictated what color I paint my mailbox. I’m not a “keep up appearances” kind of person, if I can possibly avoid it. I prefer a yard that’s pretty much au naturel, and my tastes can be unorthodox.

I love dandelions, because the bees love them. I don’t know why people object to moss or dollar weed. I mean, it’s green and it’s flat, right? What’s the big deal? Lawns were a French affectation that unfortunately caught on, and have been a nightmare for the environment ever since. I will not, absolutely will NOT fertilize my lawn. That crap gets into the watershed, and it’s one of the reasons that the river in Jacksonville gets choked with green slime every summer.

I like to plant flowers that will attract butterflies and bees and hummingbirds. I love to grow heirloom tomatoes, although I’m not great at it. I dream of having a bat house in my back yard. I think squirrels have as much right to food as any other creature. Possums keep the tick population under control. And if I feel like paining my house hot pink, I’ll do so (although it’s unlikely).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to leave junk cars up on cinder blocks in the yard, or moldy couches that fill with mice and stink after a good rain. I’m not going to plant flowers in an abandoned toilet or cook meth (I hate to cook). But if you can’t handle a neighbor’s yard that suffers from benign neglect, or a neighbor who has an interesting concept of art, then we’re going to have issues.

Having said that, I am quiet, I don’t cause trouble, and the police have never been called to my door. I want to steal an idea from a friend and call my next home “Tranquility Base”. I’ll even hold onto your mail while you’re on vacation if you ask, call 911 if I see someone peeping in your windows, and help you look for your dog if he runs away. So I’d like to think I’m a good neighbor to have. I am house hunting in the Seattle area, so if you are looking to sell, please, please contact me first. More details here.

Urchfont Manor
Urchfont Manor. It’s safe to say I do not live here.

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The Climate of my Childhood

The first 10 years of my life I lived in Connecticut. After that we moved to Florida, with its foreign, subtropical climate and 3 inch long cockroaches. I always felt as if I were in a third world country. This would never feel like “home” to me.

Now I’m in Seattle, and the climate is very similar to that of Connecticut, although the winters aren’t nearly as harsh. Just like in New England, the leaves change colors in the fall here, and apples grow. You see all sorts of flowers that come from bulbs that did not thrive in Florida. Daffodils. Tulips, Irises, Crocuses. And other plants like Forsythia and Lilac and Pussy Willows.

I can’t tell you how much emotion is evoked in me by seeing these things again. These were the flowers my mother adored. They filled the yards where I used to play. Feeling soft grass and moss beneath my feet again and smelling the loamy earth rather than the lime-laden sand of Florida nearly brings tears to my eyes.

Even though I had never set foot in Washington State until I moved here 6 months ago, everywhere I turn, it feels as if Mother Nature is saying, “Welcome home.” And that means everything to me.

1Forsythia

[Image credit: soltygardencentre.com]

The Little Things

On my drive to work today I got tears in my eyes; tears of gratitude. I came around a curve and saw a tree with flaming red leaves. You don’t see too many trees whose leaves change in the fall in this Emerald City of Seattle, but you see enough. Enough to make you appreciate them even all the more. I am back in a place where leaves change color! I can’t explain how much that means to someone who hasn’t seen it in 30 years.

There are so many other things here that bring me back to the climate of my childhood. Moss. Rocks. The smell of rich, dark earth. Soft grass. Water that actually tastes good. It’s all so precious to me. Priceless, because it took so much for me to get to this place of abundance. So forgive me for being maudlin, but tears are bound to flow.

Here are a few more pictures of little things that have made my heart squeeze.

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Plants that I’ve never seen before.

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Sunlight sparkling through crystal clear rippling water onto smooth stones.

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A large snail in a city lake.

Abundance is mine!

Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules!

As I lie here in a feverish fog brought on by a cold that surely came from the very bowels of hell, I have been thinking about chaos, or more specifically, what keeps our world from falling into chaos. Rules. Not laws, mind you. Those we cannot really control, and must abide by. No, I’m talking about the rules by which we lead our daily lives. These are often unwritten and seem to be agreed upon by some anonymous majority that has to do, by and large, with culture and community. We often follow these rules without even thinking about them or questioning their veracity.

Many rules make perfect sense and are created to preserve our lives, health, safety, or simply to sustain our collective ability to live in large groups. These rules include such things as looking both ways before you cross the street, not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, washing your hands after using the bathroom, and waiting one’s turn. I can live with these types of rules.

But then you have rules that we all seem to follow, like lemmings off a cliff, for no good reason. For example, our front yards must be covered in a skinny green plant called grass, which requires a ghastly amount of time to maintain. It can’t be a skinny orange plant. It can’t be dollar weed, which is flat and green, too, and requires no maintenance whatsoever. No. It has to be grass. That’s the RULE.

And then there are fashion rules which we all seem to follow simply to avoid being laughed at. For example, men should never dress like women. Whatever. And tell me, why do both of our socks have to be the same color? Who decides which colors clash? And why is a paisley tie, for example, more formal than a tie-dyed T-shirt? Thank goodness some fashion rules have fallen by the wayside, mainly due to their lack of comfort, it seems. You just never see women wearing bustles anymore, or those conical bras that looked like they came from outer space. You don’t see men wearing powdered wigs. I think panty-hose is slowly making its exit, and I won’t be sorry to see it go. I don’t know why ties persist, as they serve no purpose. High heels should go, but I doubt men will ever stand for that (pun intended). Trust me when I say my high heel days are over.

Some rules made sense when they were first created, but frankly are outmoded. We seem to cling to them for tradition’s sake and for no other reason. For example (and here’s where I’ll probably alienate and/or offend half my readership), dietary rules. They made perfect sense at a time when we had no refrigeration, or when we were too nomadic to properly store or prepare our food, but nowadays?

Then you’ve got rules that are based on…nothing logical whatsoever. Even though it has long been proven to be untrue, how many of us were forced by our parents to wait an entire hour after eating before we could go swimming? How many hours have been lost to that annoying old wives tale? And why was I told once that it was tacky of me to have a roll of toilet paper on my desk for nose blowing purposes? Why must the paper be in rectangular sheets and stored in a cardboard box for it to be acceptable? And why must we eat dessert last, even as adults?

I must warn you, though, that once you start questioning the accepted norms of society, you are really going to open up a can of worms. People don’t LIKE their routines disrupted. They are made uncomfortable by people who zig when they should zag. So proceed with caution, and remember that this was written by someone with a low grade fever who is feeling rebellious.