MOWING THE YARD
Michael Ellis

OK it’s true confession time. I hope you all appreciate how difficult this is for an environmental, eco-hippie type like me to divulge but I really enjoy mowing my yard. Now I don’t water it so I only have to mow it in the spring. Oh there’s something so male in the activity a big, vibrating machine under my total control that is loud and destructive. I get to run over helpless plants and chop their heads off. And one of the best parts of this testosterone inspired behavior is that it’s socially acceptable.

My yard looks great and the neighbors are happy.And then there are the aesthetic pleasures of mowing, the feminine side if you will. The smell of newly cut grass instantly transports me back 30 years. It was what my father got to do rather than attend church, while my mom hauled us kids off every Sunday on those beautiful summer days. I’d still rather mow than pray.

As a kid I spent hundreds of hours pushing mowers around my neighborhood yards, lost in thought and contemplation. It was almost like a Zen Buddhist walking meditation practice. I was regularly able to achieve total mindfulness through the miracle of Briggs and Stratton. And when I successfully completed each yard, I got paid a material reward for a spiritual experience.And now many years later just the sound of a lawn mower quiets my mind. And as I mow along I get pleasure by witnessing the immediate fruits of my labor, a well-mown lawn. The feedback loop is short, I see the results.

Recently I learned that while the EPA has regulated emissions from automobiles and nuclear power plants they never got around to lawn mowers. Did you know that mowing for an hour creates the same amount of air pollution as driving 50 miles in your car? Now I really feel guilty that I enjoy mowing my yard so much. It like environmental pornography, the forbidden fruit of enjoyment. Hopefully in the next year or so lawn mowers will be fitted with catalytic converters and I can continue my spiritual practice mowing guilt-free.

With a Perspective this is Michael Ellis.

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December 1, 2010