I don’t like yard work. I don’t like yards.
Part of this is because I’m a ginger. I burn easily, meaning time spent outside has me looking angrily up at the sky, knowing every minute I’m stacking up my skin-cancer points like “Hunger Games” characters’ names in the reaping bowl.
Part of it is because of the years I spent in the Army performing “area beautification”–cutting, trimming, hedging and combing through grass, hand picking clover. The idea of spending time maintaining a lawn because I’m supposed to now triggers my oppositional defiant disorder (link), which I have apparently.
Now I’m not above working outside. I’m not too good for it or too prissy or whatever. I’m as much of a man’s man when it comes to swinging tools, shooting terrorists or generally hewing life from the wilderness. A part of me actually enjoys the zen-like state I can slip into while working outside.
However, again, I don’t like lawns.
I don’t like how we’re addicted to them. Thank Lancelot “Capability” Brown (link) for that one. He’s the chap who introduced manicured lawns to England in the 18th Century, which spread in popularity around the world, landing with our suburban penchant for the modern lawn. Now, any self respecting homeowner must maintain a suitable lawn. It’s a matter of pride, decency and status. A well-manicured lawn is but a small sign of a successful life–like well behaved children and a perfect, functional family. It ends up being part of the pose that covers over the mess of the actual human condition.
Part of me wishes our homes were cordoned off like houses/compounds in other countries. Let me maintain a wall and gate–perhaps a mailbox or street light. Let the inside of my property be as it is. No need to flaunt the lushness of my green patch of natural earth for the world. I mean…we don’t showcase our living room to the outside world as a sort of trophy, right? Seems strange to do that for our outdoor suburban property.
I don’t like the allergies that come with cutting the lawn. The sniffles and the sneezes. My nose gets stuffed up–and I’m just a casual allergy sufferer. I know my lawn cutting contributes to the misery of others. I don’t like that. I’ve seen the bleary eyes and sadness in the faces of more severely allergic individuals. I’m sorry! Phoenix and Las Vegas–in yesteryear lauded as places for allergy sufferers to migrate to to ease their suffering, now are the worst cities for those with allergies (link). So many lawns, trees, golf courses and pools have teraformed the natural landscape into a smothering cloud of irritants and pollen.
I don’t like the pollution. Each weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns (link). That amounts to guzzling down 800 million gallons of gas through a year. The EPA estimates we spill 17 million gallons of gas per year while we try and refill these machines. That’s more than the Exxon Valdez. Every year. And lawn mowers are terrible polluters themselves. They burn gas and oil, churning out crazy levels of naughty greenhouse gases (link). One hour of running a lawnmower can produce the emissions of up to 11 new cars.
All to cut grass. And just this week. Because plants being plants, we’ll have to do it again in a few days–our own Sisyphus-like punishment (link).
I don’t like how unnatural lawns are. Americans pump millions of tons of chemical fertilizers into the soil every year to maintain their patches of little green lies (link)–this old report cites we used 2.6 million tons of fertilizer on non-agricultural land (i.e. lawns) in 1996. That is a lot of chemicals we’re putting in the ground water. And it’s not exactly good for the forests and animals who drink that water (or us, for that matter). Moreover, the region’s natural vegetation is carefully pruned and picked out, leaving little habitat for local species (link). I live in Texas, but is the grass growing on lawns all around me native to Texas? Hell no! These plants are from out of state (Kentucky Blue Grass…Bermuda…Zoyisa) and requires inordinate amounts of water to maintain in drier climates like mine. Which leads me to mention…
I don’t like how much water we spend on watering our grass. Many parts of the country are in severe drought (link). Here in San Antonio, our lakes surrounding the cities are down dozens and dozens of feet (see above). We’re guzzling inordinate amounts of water and our environment can’t handle it. Then, to add insult to injury, we’re using as much as 200 GALLONS OF WATER PER PERSON PER DAY to feed our damned lawns (link). And much of it is potable water! Our lakes will be gone and our kids may die of thirst in the streets in 20 years, but by God let’s keep our delicate grass alive through the harsh Texas 2014 summer months, right? And it would be one thing if we lived outside or lived on our lawns in some way, but…
I don’t like how little we use our lawns. Now I’m not a parent. I realize I don’t have little children running through the yard, but everyone around my house has a family. I bet most people around your house have a family. Proportionately, what percentage of time spent in your/their house is spent out in the lawn? I wager it’s not very much. Sure, there’s the occasional birthday party or cookout, but compared to living-room time or video games or time in the kitchen, how much time do any of us really spend out in our lawns? I mean out there, rolling around, feeling that beloved grass in our fingers, breathing in the smell of it? 10% of our time? 5%? 2%? 1%? Just seems like a big money and time sink for something that just sits, unused.
I don’t like how I let everybody down because of my lawn. My lawn, my property, my business, right? But not really. An unkempt lawn is an eyesore, right? It reduces that “curb appeal” that keeps homes desirable and property values up. It classes down the neighborhood. No one likes to be THAT GUY/GIRL who doesn’t keep his/her lawn clean. Especially when the person next door works outside as much as a second job to make his/her patch of greenery the envy of the Garden of Eden.
I travel. I go out and do things. I work with people. I have a long list of hobbies. I’m a generally good person. But one look at the house where I stay and I can feel the judgment–the weeds, the dead patches, the crab grass. It’s very different from my neighbors. And I know it. And it bothers me, even when I’m away on business or vacation. And I don’t like that it bothers me.
I don’t even know most of my neighbors, but I feel the lawn becomes this first line of interaction. I’m a good or bad neighbor, depending on how much of my financial budget and spare time I spend slaving away at my patch of manicured unnatural grass.
In our crazy world, full of hunger and brokenness and a struggling environment, lawns just seem to be the craziest thing to worry about. Add in the fact that I sunburn at a drop of a hat and I circle back around to my initial postulation: I don’t like yard work. I don’t like yards.
Summer had sprung. Something about a solstice–energies, alignment, whatever. It had been hot already (this is Texas we’re talking about), but the official arrival of summer was sort of like natures way of saying “sorry” and making that face after flatulence. You know it’s coming and in some strange way, it’s expected that you excuse the circumstance.
But whatever–it is HOT!
I’m a man of relatively few hangups in life. I’ve cultivated my chill to epic levels. People can insult, yell, curse, even accidentally spit in my eye while drunkenly lecturing me on why they don’t vote, and I don’t even bat that eye. Things don’t usually bother me. I abide.
But heat? Yeah that gets a crabby face from me. I just don’t like it. Some people go on about how they love the heat. I don’t get those people. I don’t get how you can actually enjoy stewing in your own sweat, feeling it run down your back and soak through your shirt, knowing that the odor-causing bacteria is multiplying across your pity bits.
There’s the whole “It’s better than being cold” routine–and I get that. Hells yes, being hot is better than being cold. But I still don’t get how you can LIKE the heat.
So when there are rooftop gigs in a Texas city AFTER the summer solstice, that gets the THBBBPPPT from me. It’s because organizers know better. The allure of being outside to hear wheels rubbing on pavement from passing traffic while my legs gain a few mosquito bites is somehow supposed to cover up the fact that I’m a hot boy who gets hot. Doesn’t work on me.
And jazz. It’s always jazz at the classy spots. Jazz gets the “Oooh, we should go” from enough lady and gentlemen types that it’s an easy sell. I know enough about jazz to know that there’s a lot to know about jazz, but that I don’t know anything about jazz. I would even gather that the crowds of people there clamoring for the complimentary beer and hot dogs, chatting loudly along with me, don’t know all that much about jazz either. And it’s too bad, because I know the DJ likes jazz. It’s his job. It’s why they got him there, why he spins for a jazz radio station, and why he set up his turntables, crates and hung his sign. The guy even gave a speech about the history of playing jazz–or spinning jazz, I should say…. I didn’t altogether follow, but it was supposed to kind of legitimize spinning records as comparable to playing instruments…as spinning had a history and all.
I am a bad patron of rooftop parties that feature jazz, played or spun. I’m Mr. Grouchypants to start with, taking my cue from the hot-as-balls outside situation. And I’m there to enjoy the company of my friends. If it’s supposed to be a concert, then call and let it be a concert–I’ll shut up accordingly. But I feel bad when a DJ (who I do consider an artist…maybe not as artisan as a full musician…but okay…an artist) is trying to convey his enthusiasm for his passion to a crowd of people like me.
But all in all, a lovely time. And I mean that. I didn’t jive with the music very much–not knowing what the hell is going on with jazz in the first place. But it was a fun time. Got to see friends. Got to dance. Got to meet new people. And there was an after party. What’s not to love, at the end of it all?
The murmur of the trees mention rain.
In the dark, the paved lanes glisten lines of light in rippling pools.
From far, a cricketing, then gone to calm murmur.
Small orange suns cast cones of dappled gloom on shining metal steeds.
A light of distant dull gray drapes its arms atop the trees.
In staggered groups, drops, distinct splashes of sound in the constant conversation, add effect to the script of misty evening. Pause. Suspense. And then a rolling wave of shaken leaves as breeze arrives.
Leaves in shadows one and two play upon the layered glass—a flattened forest in reach, upon the layered glass.
In the chair, across from open screen, bathed in the scent of rain, there, at last, is sleep.
There it is. May. Last post…February. Wow, how about that?
WordPress has grown more svelte. Nice little buttons and do-hickeys on everything. Looks like they’re continuing to expand their features, which is awesome, considering it’s all free.
A lot of things have been going on in and around Josh Salmons. I won’t get in to everything, suffices to say I needed a break from blogging, obviously.
There’s an interesting dynamic when people around you begin to absorb your blog. I fancy book authors experience this on a deeper level, yet more infrequently. Running into a random person and discussing the intricacies of the kitten in chapter four or the choice of detail on the sunset before the protagonist suffered a setback…that sort of thing; verses having a blogger who just has people pipe in daily and drop a few sentences, constituting a “yea” or “nay.”
In Iraq I was spoiled, concerning readership. No one around me cared about the blog, so only those searching for either my name (friends/family) or for keywords surrounding content found it. Here, students, coworkers and an expanding litany of family, church friends of family, and family of friends all send emails, asking about things.
And that’s great, albeit a little stifling. Have to keep things PG. Can’t really talk about anything that would remotely offend anybody who might remotely be on the RSS feed. For a cynical SOB like me, that limits things to a discussion concerning my choice of a lunch venue.
So, as the winter continued, I allowed the blog to fall asleep. Not that I’m trying to shake loose unwanted readers—everyone is welcome. I just needed a break.
Once or twice I caught the itch—even wrote a couple of posts in the interim. The first tickle of desire came at a traffic light, the second one day at work. Though I hashed out some sentences, it never grew into anything more than a few paragraphs of nothing.
I was worried I had lost the fire.
I heard an author on NPR the other week. She was finishing her fourth or fifth novel—romance writer, very popular and unorthodox, considering she’d just decided one day to become an author. The host of the show read some submitted comments and asked for the romance writer’s feedback. One comment was from a person who was a technical writer (someone who fills the pages of all those operator manuals no one ever reads). The commenter was asking how he could break out of his doldrum routine into create writing. The romance author said she thought this guy’s job was perfect, despite the drudgery of it. His job taught him to produce coherent work, despite whatever his disposition or feelings were for that day. Regardless, he had to write.
There was something to that. And something to this blog, despite itself.
So, here we are, those that are left 😉 We’ll keep at it.
Roommate Adrian just purchased his own copy of some Adobe toys, which is inspiring me to dig out my own. Maybe I’ll start incorporating some Photoshop creations on this thing. More artistic expression will probably be what I need to get out of the rut.