Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lawns Redux

Not to beat it to death, here's a few more thoughts on lawns.

I was walking the dog this morning in our partially developed subdivision; which is to say, among vast lawns. Fortunately the mowers haven't come in a while, and I was treated to the mottled, textured acres bending gracefully in the plentiful wind. The tall seedheads, in places taller than at others, random patches of almost red colored grass, a liberal sprinkling of pale blue flowers... I can't believe people can look at this and think it looks unkempt and undesirable.

One of the most irritating things about lawns, for me, is the spirit of them. The monolithic idea of them. It's such a dictatorial, fascistic mode of landscaping. It is as if an edict had been passed:
Henceforth, there shall be but one species of grass growing here, and a ceaseless, unrelenting war of attrition shall be waged against dandelions, clover, sedges, and all other plants, through the use of mechanical removal, or the targeted and/or general application of poisons. Furthermore, said grass shall be uniformly cut, and cut often, to a short height, eliminating all or most reproduction via seed, as well as drastically reducing movement in the wind. We shall have nothing but flat green textureless squares, unless these squares be striated by the mowing implements. Thus shall the world know that I am the lord! Mwa ha ha ha ha!
It's all a little ridiculous when you stop to think about it. Here's a poem I wrote years ago. I was working then as a courier, picking up medical specimens (blood draws, urine vials, etc) for analysis at the lab. There was this field behind one of the doctor's offices on my route; that spring, every evening I'd admire it getting longer and longer, the variously taller or shorter tufts, the occasional deer even, and always birds. Then one day I showed up and it'd been cut; massacred was more like it. Now it was shorn evenly, no play in the breeze, and there was ugly heaps of dead grass laid out in lines. Yet, no one was using the field, and it was behind the offices in an undeveloped area. Why? Why cut it?

A Forgotten Lawn

Free to be a meadow.
Free to go to seed.
Free to grow hip-high,
and to give full speech with the wind,
waving and bowing when it comes.
Free to be habitat, half-light
for field mice and the hidden snakes.
Free to be many shades of green,
also russet red and purple
Free to love rain.
Free to brown in drought.
And free at last, to make friends
with weeds who are themselves free
to be wildflowers again.


  1. My pet peeve is people who spray weed killer all over the place, especially around here where they're mostly destroying weeds that are short-lived anyway, but also yield beautiful wildflowers and add some pleasant greenery to an otherwise drab landscape. I swear there must be something about all the heat and dust that makes people in Arizona a bit crazy...they seem to prefer the barren look, you know, concrete, sand and rock, over natural greenery. I too sympathize with you about green lawns, preferring a wild meadow to a manicured lawn, but I'd take any greenery, even a green lawn (though certainly not here), over all this barren dusty rock and sand.

  2. Yeah, I hear that, seems stupid to kill any green thing when you live in a desert. I'm all for xeroscaping, but obviously it should include whatever native plants you got.

  3. It's a class thing. European lawns and controlled gardens with mazes and topiaries were of the aristocracy. Fields going to seed were of the peasants. Everyone in a suburb in a McMansion fancies themselves landed gentry, not farmers.

    The contrast with Asian gardens is interesting. The Chinese or Japanese garden is very tended and designed with rules and principles, but with an eye to beauty, not so much status. (Not that rich Chinese didn't install amazing gardens on their fief.)

  4. And the field that was cut with no reason...probably some zoning requirement.