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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If a trout sees a fly flitting about on the surface of his river, he’s going to snap at it. It’s in his nature. And when it’s just nature at play, that’s a great idea. Everybody needs food.

Unfortunately, sometimes man is inserting himself into this little game, and then taking that bait means certain death for the trout. I’ve always had mixed emotions about that sort of thing. When you take advantage of the fact that another creature is going to do what comes naturally, it kind of seems like cheating to me.

Bait. It’s a sinister thing. And the worst part is that we use it on one another, too.

If you’ve ever snapped off an angry response to a hostile e-mail, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You took the bait. And that almost always makes things worse for you.

Humans have always struggled with delayed gratification. The bait is there now, and it’s soooo satisfying to snap at it. For a split second. Then the regret and/or embarrassment sets in.

Trolls, in particular, count on this. They get some weird satisfaction from getting a rise out of people, while hiding alone in their lonely little rooms, clad in their stained and stretched out tighty whities. And they are oh, so good at it.

When someone gives you bait, it’s hard not to take it. But as a loved one says, “Don’t let their stupid rub off on you.” Wise words, indeed.

I’m trying to remind myself that no one controls my timeline. I don’t have to respond instantly to an e-mail. The fact that I’ve never been very good with snappy comebacks is probably a good thing, after all.

Take a breath. Let things percolate. Give yourself the time to use your very valuable brain. Because hooks in the mouth hurt.

Trout fly

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Recently, I listened to a series of five TED talks regarding de-extinction. Here are some interesting tidbits that I picked up.

The biotechnology exists to bring back extinct species, such as the Passenger Pigeon, by using the DNA of these creatures that can be found in museum samples, and splicing them with the more intact genes of similar, still living animals. This technology is being improved upon with each passing day.

Now, the question is, even if we can de-extinct an animal, should we? We need to think long and hard about this. There are several factors to consider.

First of all, if we are going to recreate a creature, we need to be sure that the habitat it needs to survive still exists. Given our penchant for taking over and spreading our parking lots as far as the eye can see, the answer could very well be no. There’s no point in recreating a species if it then has no way to survive.

Another question is, will these reintroduced animals overwhelm plants and animals that are currently thriving on this planet? We need to keep in mind that there may be unintended consequences. We’ve all seen what non-native species can do to a landscape. If something has been gone for centuries, and other animals have stepped into their ecological niche, are these extinct animals really native anymore?

Third, what came first, the chicken or the egg? If you de-extinct a Passenger Pigeon, for example, it will have no parents to teach it how to behave like a Passenger Pigeon. The current thinking on this is that we’d introduce the chicks to similar birds in hopes that they’ll teach them what they need to know. But of course, there are no guarantees.

I have mixed emotions about de-extinction. I think nature has a way of taking care of itself. So, for example, I don’t think we should reintroduce the Woolly Mammoth. It experienced a natural extinction long before you or I came along. The last thing we need is the equivalent of a Jurassic Park.

But on the other hand, there are plenty of animals that are extinct simply due to the callousness of Man. For example, if we didn’t kill Passenger Pigeons by the millions, simply because they were the most easily obtainable source of protein at the time, those birds would still exist.

If we are capable of repairing the damage that we caused in the first place, shouldn’t we do so? It’s a tricky subject. What do you think?


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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!


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Unnatural Nature

I just watched a squirrel run down a 40 foot pine tree head first, like it was nothing. And it was nothing, for him. He probably does it a hundred times a day. I tried to imagine doing it myself, even once, and the thought made me kind of queasy.

There are a lot of natural things that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do.

  • Roll poop into balls bigger than I am like a dung beetle.
  • Eat rotting flesh like a vulture.
  • Dive into ice laden seas like a penguin.
  • Scream for hours at the top of my lungs like a howler monkey. (But it might actually be quite spiritually cleansing to do it for a minute or two.)
  • Echolocate like a dolphin or a bat.
  • Slam my head into a rival like a ram. (I heard a great quip on Welcome to Night Vale the other day: “Dodge Ram. Great car. Even better advice.”)
  • Eat the head off my partner like a praying mantis. (Or eat the head off anything or anyone, for that matter.)
  • Remain pregnant for 23 months like an elephant.
  • Mate for life like a swan.
  • Chase down something, catch it, tear it to shreds and eat it raw like so many creatures do.
  • Stay outside in horrible weather like most animals do at some time or another.
  • Lay an egg. Or sit patiently on a nest and count on my partner to bring me food.
  • Shed my skin all at once.
  • Chew through (often chemically treated) wood like a mouse.

Nature is awesome. I’m glad we have yet to succeed in destroying it in all its many forms. But I’m also glad I’m me.