My neighbors have an obsession.
And their obsession has become my new favorite metaphorical life lesson.
This obsession is shared by many, and perhaps you, too: grass, as in the growing of it.
Friends, I share no such obsession. I am fully aware verdant swaths look mighty nice and feel softer than sitting on cement or dirt. Dogs like to roll around in it. Picnics can be shared on it.
But it also must be diligently cared for, to the point of compulsion. There’s watering, fertilizing, mowing and deterring foot traffic and wildlife. To top it off, there’s all that time spent admiring said lawn, whether from the privacy of your home, or while you proudly stand on your sidewalk and gaze upon your vast green kingdom, secretly hoping for nods of approval from neighbors. But also, let’s not forget the time spent in self-flagellation when your lawn doesn’t resemble the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.
Raccoons are hindering my neighbors’ summer fling. With their lawn, that is. Apparently, the adorable rascals spend their post-dusk hours digging holes in the struggling rectangular-sized patch of grass in their backyard. It’s a source of trauma this year, unlike any I’ve seen in the past five years since they moved in.
The nice couple is channeling much energy and precious mental space into thwarting the masked critters, and it’s become the bulk of our short neighborly exchanges over the last couple of months. I try to be empathetic, though I harbor zero desire for grass, as this would require watering. And the only watering I’ve done this summer was plunking the hose at the base of my burning bush for a quick drink, and promptly forgetting about it until I returned to the yard hours later. I cursed myself for the rest of the day. My deepest apologies, water gods.
My neighbors do seem to understand the potential fruitlessness of their grass situation, though. The husband confessed if he couldn’t get the square patch of grass in the front yard to grow in normally this summer, instead of its current scattered clump look, he’d give up and xeriscape.
And that’s when I bit through my tongue. I wanted to mention to the fine fellow he should consider swallowing his yard pride, cut ties with his pasture dreams and move on. Being that we live in an alpine desert, why spend so much energy trying to grow something that doesn’t really want to grow here? Native grasses, yes. Kentucky bluegrass, which comes from Europe and the Middle East, and is now the most favored American lawn grass, according to the Scientific American website, no.
I suppose a sweet patch of green is also about maintaining appearances and subliminally telling people you have good grass juju. It proves your worth to the neighborhood. (I’m hoping my quiet nature and cute dog can substitute for my lack of yard beautification.) It provides endless hours of conversation. People like a yard chat, I’ve noticed.
Hold your weed whacker — I’m about to tie a bow on this. My neighbor’s Great Grass Drama of ‘22 got me thinking — what else in our lives are we forcing?
Grass is now a metaphor for me. So the next time you and I have a conversation, and I say, “That’s all grass, baby,” you’ll know that’s code for, “Why are you forcing this job, relationship, activity, hobby, way of life, fill-in-the-blank when you’ve made a huge effort and it’s just not working?”
Here’s another juicy phrase: “Try easy.” I heard it first in the context of yoga, but it’s got a vibe I like for everything. Stop pushing and forcing what doesn’t want to be pushed or forced.
Learn to flow, which reminds me of martial artist Bruce Lee’s alleged quote: “Be water, my friend.” He said more than that, but essentially don’t be rigid. Flow in and out of the cracks. Adjust to the object and find a way through.
May you have the courage to let your grass go fallow.
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