Mowing the grass: a spiritual experience | Rockin' a Hard Place

I just mowed our grass for the fifth or sixth time so far this year, repeating a routine that will extend until at least late October.

By the time the season is over, I will have mowed our piece of paradise 50 times or more.

Mowing is a holy ritual here on the Rock. It defines a covenant between we mortals and whatever causes the grass to grow.

For most of my adult life, having lived in (bite-my-knuckle) big cities like Los Angeles and Dallas, I hired “others” to mow the grass. (“Others” is code for people of uncertain immigration status who work very hard and get paid in cash.)

Mowing was dismissed as something “I don’t have time for.”

But on the Rock, mowing our grass is a personal obligation not to be trifled with.

We have customs associated with it, and they must be strictly obeyed. Check the weather forecast; it’s embarrassing to get caught in the rain with the mower running.

Mow in the afternoon after the marine moisture dries; it alleviates grass clogging the mower.

Re-mow as necessary if dandelion stems refuse to be sliced.

Plot the yard in your head in advance. Mow the driest part first and the wettest part last.

Mowing grass can also be a transcendental experience.

It offers the instant gratification we get from our impatient 21st neighbor yelling as she drives past while I cruise on my riding “lawn tractor.”

I feel satisfied and warm all over. It offers the instant gratification we impatient 21st  Century humans demand in effort we undertake.

Century humans demand in effort we undertake. “Your yard looks terrific,” a neighbor yells as she drives past while I cruise on my riding “lawn tractor.” I feel satisfied and warm all over.

Wearing my sound-blocking ear protectors, I withdraw into a mystical realm of private thoughts, tuning out the sounds of jet noise, motorcycles and the neighbor’s weed whacker.

It gives me time to ponder big thoughts, such as why God made nettles and Canadian thistles.

And why cell phone coverage can be spotty on the Rock.

Growing up, I was given the assignment of mowing the yard under my dad’s tutelage.

But our old mower was the push-it kind, and the work was sweaty – especially on the steep bank in the front yard.

I had many more important things to do as a teenager and found excuses not to mow.

Thus the grass grew too long, making my eventual suffering worse.

But on the Rock I have come to understand what some have called the “zen” of mowing.

And I have found the pleasure in it.

It’s a connection between human and machine that tames nature but doesn’t destroy it.

A freshly mown yard gives a sense of accomplishment that I imagine an artist feels when she finishes a canvas or a pastry chef feels when he finishes a wedding cake.

When Captain George Vancouver first set eyes on the Rock in 1792, he wrote this about the area around Penn Cove: “The surrounding country, several miles, presented a delightful prospect, consisting mostly of spacious meadows … In these beautiful pastures, bordering on an expansive sheet of water, the deer were seen playing in great numbers. Nature had here provided the well-stocked park…”

And 222 years later, while riding my lawn tractor and wielding my weed whacker, I am doing my part to tend that delightful prospect and well-stocked park. Now if I can just keep the deer out of the roses.

Harry Anderson is a former journalist and Central Whidbey resident.


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