Zen and the Art of Lawn Maintenance

garden grass meadow green
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

When I was young, one of my chores was mowing the lawn. My father was a feminist that way, especially as I grew older. He dispensed chores, not based on sex, but availability. And since I was the youngest of seven with all the older siblings either gone or working,  the lawn mowing chore fell on me.

I liked mowing the grass. We lived in the city and, our postage-sized lawn was easy to cut. By the time I broke a sweat, my chore was complete and, it wasn’t difficult. It got me outside, and I held pride in its completion. When I married, moved to a town and bought a house where the lawn was about three times the size of my childhood home, I took on the job of cutting the lawn, and, again,  I enjoyed it.

Mowing was my Zen moment. It was my alone time, just me and the lawnmower, with my thoughts, my daydreams, and my time away from the kids in only for awhile.  As I pushed the mower, I thought about what my life would look like when I went back to work outside the home. I would daydream of being a writer. I replayed conversations with adults in my head to prove I could still discuss things other than Barney or Legos. Mowing the lawn was my time, and I dug it.

Eventually, I gave up mowing, stubbornly, when Peter criticized my cattywampus technique of mowing. He told me I should be cutting the grass in different patterns for reasons he explained, but I listened like Charlie Brown to his teacher – wah, wah, wah, wah, wah – much like he did when I told him about a romance novel I was reading. Anyway, after he completed his explanation, my quick temper and sharp tongue cut out the words “okay, then, you do it.”  Peter, always calling my bluff, did. For the last eight years of his life, mowing became his chore. And can I just add, reluctantly and swallowing some pride, our grass did look better?

Now, with Peter gone from life, the mowing goes back to me. Actually, all the chores go back to me. Oh sure, my kids help out, but they have their own apartments, their individual tasks, their own lives.  So, I’m doing everything, conquering one chore at a time, and mowing is the first one.

As I cut the grass, I laughed at the visual of Peter’s head shaking as I tackled the lawn with no rhyme, no reason, no pattern. I cried how I wanted to see that head shake again. I thought about how much I have done by myself in the past three weeks, things I never thought I could without my superhero. I thought about how I was getting the lawn done, and while it didn’t, probably would never, look like the masterpieces Peter created, it was getting done. And I thought I made it through these past three weeks, not smoothly, not without mistakes, not without acid tears of pain, but I got there.

I also grew angry. I was upset with impatience as I plowed through the pumpkin vines embedded in the grass, making it difficult to maneuver. I got pissed off because the damn lawnmower was not cooperating in the thickest areas of grass without a challenging push or pull.

Then, in a Zen moment, I realized mowing the hardest parts of the lawn, cutting through the irritating vines, were perhaps metaphors for my life these past three weeks.  Perhaps my most difficult challenges – the thickest parts of grief ever in my life, and the vines of my life’s deepest sadness – need my most profound strength. Feeling the pain, crying, reaching out, writing this blog, basically me doing me, in any pattern I chose, will, maybe, hopefully,  eventually, get me to some sort of completion.  I understood, like grass, all of this, all of the pain of my new norm lived in deep torment, will keep coming back, and I’ll have no choice but to mow over it, every time.