A Striped Lawn

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Every few years, the American Psychiatric Association updates its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The fifth edition is slated to come out in 2013, and includes such newly classifiable disorders as “hoarding.”

I’m hoping the sixth edition will add “lawn maintenance” to the list.

This article will not be a breakdown of why lawns are wasteful, pointless and lead to obsessive and dangerous behavior. Highlighting all the useful things people could spend time and money on is already the subject of much writing, and I shan’t repeat it. If you are looking for a series of arguments about the harmful effects of synthetic fertilizers and various poisons, may I suggest the Internet?

A summary of what there is to learn about pesticides goes something like this:  All pesticides are cancer causing, endocrine system disrupting, miscarriage and birth defect causing toxins. As soon as one is proved dangerous, it is pulled off the shelf and replaced by a different “safer” variety, which is later proved dangerous and pulled off the shelf to be replaced by a “safer” one, and so on.

The current and safest synthetic pesticides are merely the ones with the subtlest toxic effects. Seventy million pounds of these poisons are used on lawns in America each year, but this article will not be a regurgitation of numbers. The research is out there – this is an emotional appeal to a rational mind.

Gardens win!

I am well aware that this article should be a balanced look at the subject of lawns and gardens. However, the fight between these two concepts ended in the first round of research. Lawns are a bloody mess, and gardens stand victorious like a classic Venus holding an eggplant shaped baby aloft in a crown of healthy light and practical glory.

I found only one plausible explanation for the attraction people feel towards their lawns. There is no evidence to prove this is true, but it has been suggested that human beings may have a deep psychological interest in short green grass. This attraction stems from the period in our evolution when we became bipedal, leaving the trees for the grasslands of Africa. Short because tigers can’t hide in it, and green because it implies the presence of water.

These days, large predators are pretty low on America’s list of concerns, (bears notwithstanding) and the presence of water isn’t really a concern since I don’t live on the African savannah.

Heck, there’s so much water in this country we drop 270 billion gallons of water a week onto our pointlessly decorative status-signifying non-food producing lawns.  But we’re not here to dwell on numbers.

This essay is not for the already converted.

It is for anyone who has spilled gasoline on his or her pants while filling a mower, and wondered, “why?” For the person who has just told a child they can’t play on the lawn, and carefully put away the pesticide sprayer.

In the beginning…

God did not create humankind in “The Lawn of Eden.”

Choosing a lawn over a garden is like saying, “You know what God? I’ve got a better idea.” It’s offensive and insulting, whether you find your concept of God in dogma or dogberry.

Maintaining a lawn is the ritualized castration of nature.

Taking fertile soil and putting grass over it is giving the earth a hysterectomy.

Lawns are a cultural hangover we’re still nursing from our rowdy past with England. The founding principle of a lawn is insulting: “I’m so rich, I don’t have to grow food on my property.”

We had a revolution to escape the English power structure, we embraced religious freedom, and started driving on the other side of the road just to piss them off.  Then we kept their non-sensical system of weights and measures (that they don’t even use anymore), and we kept their lawns.

It makes me sad to watch “free” people subject themselves to this kind of hedgemony.

Is this what we work for all day?  To be a serf in our own backyards? If I’m going to work in the dirt, I am sure as hell not going to spend all that time just to make it into a sterile piece of decoration.

Why neuter nature? The vegetable-less and fruitless lawn is an arrogant attempt to separate ourselves from life itself.  This trend in humanity over the last few hundred years has led to every single large-scale environmental problem people face on the planet.

While it may seem I am implying that lawn-owners are to blame for the world’s woes, this is only half true. Not their lawns, but their attitude towards the stewardship of land is to blame.

If you absolutely must have a lawn, wouldn’t it be nice to spend less time wrestling it? No seeding, no weeding, no mowing, no fertilizing? An evergreen lawn that popped up again each spring without any encouragement, required half the water, no pesticides, stayed low to the ground, pulled nitrogen out of the air and into the soil, and released the pleasant scent of mint, thyme or oregano when you stepped upon it?

Welcome to the world of grass alternatives.

Instead of listing a few options, I’m going to give you every option the world has to offer you in three words: “Alternative Lawn Cover.”

Put that phrase into a search engine, turn the key and open the door of creeping herbs, moss, clover mixes and fescue grasses. Just a few days spent researching could save you the rest of your life in pointless maintenance.

Unless you’re just one of those people who needs to mow. God knows you’re out there.

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