It’s that time of the year again, when the lawnmowers start whirring and the chemical trucks start making their rounds. When you live in suburbia and have a dog, spring is both welcomed and dreaded. Now is the time that little white signs crop up along our usual walking path, warning of toxins, like landmines, proliferating our grassy route. The dogs, in their illiterate joy, try to lick up this new scent, new flavor, and we’re left in a perpetual tug-of-war that we rarely win.
I live in suburbia’s suburbia, a Levitt neighborhood of 300+ houses in five varying styles, obligated to follow an association’s rules. Even now, nearly 11 years after we moved here, I still wake up bewildered, wondering what happened to the green-shuttered Victorian house of my childhood dreams, with its wraparound porch and distance from neighbors. Or perhaps a flat in some foreign city, where I’m a regular at both the corner cafe and the nearest wood-lined pub.
Somewhere embedded in our association’s bylaws is the edict that we all must have well-maintained front lawns. Grass can only go so high before cutting, lest we trash the neighborhood with our weediness. Some people living here go all in, leaving me to wonder if there’s a prize for greenest, lushest lawn of which I’m yet aware. I hate lawns. While I admire the strange sort of beauty found in consistency, a chemically lush, green lawn is like cosmetics on a corpse–just because you make it pretty doesn’t mean it’s not still dead underneath.
A few neighbors do try doing it organically, but too many simply saturate their lawns with poisons, killing the soil and bugs, and adding to the toxic runoff found in our waterways. All for the sake of appearances. The history of lawns reveals what I’ve long suspected–they started out as a sign of wealth. Well, I never plan to be rich (at least, not in a monetary way), so I’d like to be excused from this particular type of insanity.
I’d rather put a garden out there, with a meandering path and a wooden gate: a country cottage garden, brimming with roses, peonies, bellflowers, foxgloves, delphinium and salvia; well-maintained but still wild and tumultous. I’d sneak herbs and veggies among the flowers, and feast on both the scents and the tastes of nature. We all should grow gardens and share the fruits of our harvest with those that are starving, not halfway around the world, but halfway across our own towns.
The art of creation, whether writing or gardening, brings me nearer to myself. Lawns are not creations: They are a visual reminder of the value our society places on conformity and appearance.