Lessons from the Lawn Mower

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Fifteen years ago, one of the things I swore I’d never do in a marriage is use a lawn mower. In sickness and in health and in long, grassy lawns that will never get the attention they deserve — from me. I’d tackle the gardens and keep those pesky weeds from cropping up, but the grass was not, in my mind, going to be my turf.

And turf, it ain’t. Because that shizz can grow.

Lo and behold, as it turns out, if you find yourself living without a partner and the grass is growing up around your ankles and you’re pretty sure the ticks are going to come join you for dinner on the patio, the lawn needs to be trimmed. For a good chunk of the summer, I have a college kid who comes weekly, only leaving occasional grassy mohawk stripes here and there. I’m pretty sure he won’t be setting out for a career in Golf Course Management but until mid-August when he leaves for college, he gets the job done.

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During the grass growing —  let’s call it — shoulder season, it’s all me. Just a few pumps to prime it and a quick seventeen pulls on that thingymabob and we are off, the old biddy and me. It’s still kind of a new relationship. Blowing grass all over the state and into gardens throughout the land. It’s like synchronicity if you consider huffing, puffing, sweating, cursing and kicking machinery to be a match made in heaven.

A few weeks ago, as I started her up, I thought to myself, what a beautiful day. So grateful to be outside in the sun. And then I accidentally mowed over a plant. What can I say, turning on a dime is not in its vernacular. Wrangling this old lawn mower is not unlike pushing a mighty dog sled loaded with bricks — but with no dogs. For two hours. It’s a sweaty, laborious task that has nobody jumping up and down to say, Oooh, me me me! I’ll do it!

But I rallied, saying to myself: This is a first world problem, get over yourself.

You are WOMAN. {Mowing around the lavender bush – whoops, nicked my Liberty apple tree.}

You’re from hardy stock. {Mowing the perimeter of my vegetable garden.}

You are, like, Laura Ingalls Wilder. {Mowing below the grape vines.}

Get it DONE.

So, I did. And I checked it off the week’s To Do list.

The next week, the mower broke down. It needed a part, so I borrowed a neighbor’s.

How do you start it? I asked her.

Oh, you just push that button, she answered. I just looked at her. Say what?

Wow.

So I pushed the button and got her started up. Began mowing and realized right away that this thing was SELF PROPELLED. I could have traveled a hundred miles to Boston, mowing the whole way, it was so smooth.

You’ve GOT to be kidding me, I thought. I pretty much push an old car around my yard, hoping it will manicure those grassy tendrils around my garden, and there are lawn mowers out there that don’t suck? That don’t drop screws and washers every ten minutes? That actually catch the clippings?

On what planet had I been living?

My dear Dad, I should mention, generously gave me a check for my birthday that was meant to buy me a new mower. I’ve sat on it all summer and even now that I know mowing doesn’t HAVE to be a solo CrossFit workout, in a weird way, I kind of like it. In fact, I kind of missed my mower. What the whaaa? I know. I don’t love the frequency in which the grass needs to be cut. And I don’t love being the only person in my house capable of mowing said grass. But I do know that I’m strong. That when times get tough, I can make things happen. Not just peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and back tickles or homework and dance parties. I can get shit DONE.

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It’s a good reminder.

Doing things that are hard — that are less than savory or scary, even — is good for the spirit. [Mowing, I realize, is not scary.] And doing so reaches into your solar plexus, that area below your ribs and behind your stomach, into your power center. Tapping into this is what stimulates our hearts and our brains and our quest for a life well lived. Doing the hard stuff is what motivates us to do better. To be better.

I’m pretty sure life isn’t going to get better by chance. I think it takes optimism and, often, change.

So, I got the part. Fixed the old gal, who has a few good years left in her. And I vow to myself: until death do I part, I’ll be taking on the hard stuff in search of a better tomorrow.

 

13 thoughts on “Lessons from the Lawn Mower

  1. elizabeth m cooke

    OK, I am writing my comment now:

    What makes a good piece of writing:

    If it’s humorous, I laugh out loud. (check)

    If it’s poignant, I contemplate the serious beneath the humor. (check)

    If the words and lines show serious talent, I read over almost every line a couple of times, I pause over certain phrases and say them aloud–in my head–and I think: Yikes, I wish I could write like this. (check)

    If it takes me into my own life experience, I am deeply touched. (check, and I must be honest, I was the lawn mower wife extraordinaire in most of my marriages, but there are marriage tasks that were comparable to mowing for this writer, one of which was vacuuming…in my first marriage–to the writer’s father, my then husband. During my second pregnancy–my daughter, the writer, in this case– I asked for help for this task, and he–the writer’s father–took on the task for exactly 3 weeks before he decided it was time for a brand new, fancy, super-duper extreme-sucking-model vacuum cleaner that sucked up grit, dog hair, cat throw-up’s, tacks and paper clips that were too hard for me to pick up in latter stage of said pregnancy. That vacuum cleaner survived at least 25 years, battling the floor debris with great courage before it finally suffered some sort of heart attack).

    If I want to email it to all my writer friends, I share it. (check, but I wasn’t able to do this because I don’t remember The Two Words)

    And in this case, when I think about the fact that the writer of this piece is my grown daughter, then I smile inwardly and outwardly, so grateful for this talent of hers is. I believe she inherited her sense of humor from her dad, a humorist equal to Bert and I, who, in his younger years arrived at parties with a moth held gently in his mouth which he would release once he was in amongst all his friends.

    Keep these pieces coming, please! from, the writer’s mom

    Like

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