As I trod back and forth across my front yard this morning, trailing behind my “personal pacer” lawnmower, I paused to pull the bottle of water out of my pocket and took a deep swig. While I was at it, I eyed the grass catcher that was bulging like a spider’s sack filled with babies. How was I going to get that grass-filled bag off the mower and lift it to the top of the large plastic can that I use for mulch? My back was already complaining after I stooped to pull a weed out of the gravel next to the rose bush that needed trimming.
And why was I making mulch? I have only four small garden spots left, each filled with dead zinnias and wilted radishes. The soil is too hard to dig in mulch anyway. Last year’s mulch is still lying fallow at the bottom of the circular wire container that I built three years ago. Somewhere under that layer is an archaeological dig of melons from Luling, Texas that were too awful to eat…advertised as especially sweet and grown just for discerning Texans. As if I’ve met very many discerning Texas.
Will mowing the lawn, Everyman’s Task, be denied to me? What about the smell of fresh cut greenery, the hot buzz of grasshoppers leaping from grass to garden? What about chiggers? I scratched absently and wished I weren’t wearing my Crocs.
Men are told that as they get older there are certain functionalities that will, sooner or later, be lost. “Be resigned to this fact,” my doctor told me the other day, raising her eyebrows when I asked if she’d refill my prescription.
As I found out, the biggest deterrent to experimentation along these lines is the cost of 20 dollars per pill. Outrageous. The cost of a gallon of gas for an hour of pleasure with my lawnmower is still less than 4 dollars. That was when it hit me. I’m actually standing out in the hot sun comparing sex with mowing grass. While I’m contemplating this, a bright red dragonfly mates with his brown companion. She’s off to lay her eggs in the pond at the back of the house where her progeny will busy themselves eating mosquito larva.
This is what the young whippersnappers mean when they whisper about querulous old men that forget what they are doing and stand about looking like philosophers lost in deep thought. We’re not that deaf, we just like to say “What?” I look at the elderly man down the street. Why, the poor sod must be nearly ninety-eight. He weaves back and forth across the front of his house, following his young wife as she rides the lawnmower and cuts the grass. I suppose that’s keeping your foot in both worlds. I shall call him spry, which is the worst insult I can think of.
Meanwhile, my water bottle is empty and my grass catcher is full. The shade out back is calling me and there is iced tea in the fridge. If I leave the mower where it is, perhaps one of the kindly joggers passing by on the street will finish my yard for me. The serious choice before me stops me. Which side yard will I use to get to the back? At one end of the house I left my shears where I was going to trim those roses. On the other end, a sprinkler is thwicking away in a nervous circle. Perhaps I should knock on the front door and see if my wife will let me through the house.