Emmaville Store, circa 1969

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mowing Season

It's Mowing season in northern Minnesota. It's one of four seasons, the others being Raking season, Shoveling season, and Watching Mud Dry season. Mother Nature has her way with us in every season, but especially during Mowing season.  She plays a cruel game, getting us excited about the first green grass after the yard glaciers recede and then trapping us in an endless do-loop of mowing. Of course the fertilizer and mower companies aid in this ruse, baiting us with the idea of the perfect lawn, billions of green blades uniformly cut, a lawn so perfect it should hold gravestones.  Fools that we are, we chase this mirage.  We mow...and mow...and mow.

In Minnesota, we believe a large, correctly mowed lawn is a sign of domestic tranquility, moral rectitude and wisdom. Conversely, "weeds", otherwise known as grass that has been allowed to live its natural lifecycle, is a sign of poor character, questionable politics, a dysfunctional home or all of the above. We mow every blade of grass we can find.  We mow the ditches. We mow the neighbor's ditches, lest anyone think we live in a poor neighborhood. In dry years we mow the slough grass at the bottom of the hill. We hope the DNR won't notice. If our houses had sod roofs like the ones our great-great grandpas were born under, we'd mow them.

A typical Minnesotan spends three days out of the week mowing the lawn. Often when rain precludes mowing, we find ourselves finishing up one end of the yard, only to find that we need to start on the on the other end again. If Sisyphus were Minnesotan, he'd be pushing a lawn mower instead of a rock.

When the typical Minnesotan does finish, he turns and looks, hoping to see a glimpse of perfection. He doesn't look in that corner where the dandelions wave in yellow defiance. He averts is eyes from the area where the dog has created a moonscape. He looks for that one spot, where the ground is level and the tractor sprinkler doesn't get stuck.  That 90 square feet is a source of pride. When the sun hits it just right, he can imagine himself there, starring in a fertilizer commercial. Not the one with the annoying Scottish guy, but the one with Jennifer Aniston in a bikini.

Jennifer Aniston in a bikini - on the lawn? He wakes up and looks out the window.  No Jennifer. No perfection. He sees the dog scouting a new, craterless site to do his business and notices the grass is up to Spot's spots. He thinks back - what was that sound he heard last night?  Sort of a creaky, stretchy sound and some rustling. Was that the sound of the grass growing three inches?

And so he mows again.  His wife complains he's spending more time with his mower than with her.  He notices she's been eyeing that Scottish guy on TV. He can't blame her - he's bought more accessories for the mower than for her.  If they had purses down at the hardware store, it would help.

He thinks these thoughts as he mows because he doesn't have to focus on mowing.  He's memorized the route, analyzed all the angles. He knows the right combination of inside and outside turns needed for maximum efficiency.  He has perfected a tight figure-8 to finish with a flourish.  He thinks he is Picasso with a lawnmower.

He thinks Mowing season is not so bad.

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