Why is your lawn con­trol­ling your life?

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - OPINION - CAM FULLER

A sign of spring we take for granted is the En­vi­ous Neigh­bour lawn com­mer­cial.

Gary has a great lawn. So lush, so thick. “How does he do it?” Steve next door won­ders. Poor Steve. He hasn’t even edged yet. Gary’s se­cret? He uses Bla-bla in the spring and Bla-bla II in the fall.

Our grass has a bet­ter diet than most mid­dle class sub­ur­ban­ites, who gladly gob­ble drive-thru burg­ers but wouldn’t think of spread­ing no-name fer­til­izer on their blades of ver­dant won­der.

Steve can’t help it. He must com­ply. Shame con­trols his be­hav­iour.

There’s some­thing all too 1958 about the En­vi­ous Neigh­bour lawn com­mer­cial. You know you’re be­ing played, right? How long does it take to twig to it?

Well, let this be said while the air is spring-fresh and we’re still think­ing clearly: lawns are stupid.

Brag­ging about your per­fect lawn is like brag­ging about your truck hav­ing the worst gas mileage. You haven’t done any­thing but squan­der pre­cious re­sources.

What are lawns good for? They look nice. But at what cost? Af­ter three years of drought, Cape Town is per­ilously close to run­ning out of wa­ter, forc­ing three mil­lion peo­ple to use but 50 litres a day — three or four flushes of an old-style toi­let.

But here, the first sight of a brown lawn is cause for panic and fran­tic wa­ter­ing ses­sions, of­ten at the dumb­est time of day when most of it evap­o­rates. The goal of wa­ter­ing and feed­ing is two-fold. A “healthy” lawn has fewer weeds — the ones that don’t die from the chem­i­cals in­fused in the feed sim­ply per­ish from low self-es­teem.

And once your lawn is nour­ished and hy­drated (it sounds like we’re talk­ing about an Olympic ath­lete here), it grows. It grows like stink. In June, you can stick a ruler in the ground and watch it dis­ap­pear. You are thereby com­pelled to em­ploy an­other form of mois­ture — sweat — to mow that which has just grown, dump­ing ex­haust fumes and of­fen­sive noise into the air along the way.

The more work you put into it, in other words, the more work it de­mands. Noth­ing else in or around your house is for­given such tyranny. You think you own your lawn? Your lawn owns you.

Yet we hold it dear, like it mat­ters. The snow leaves mould be­hind. If you found mould on any­thing in your fridge, you’d be dis­gusted and pitch it out. Not so grass, which is painstak­ingly mas­saged back to life. It’s aer­ated, it’s de­thatched. The al­ter­na­tive is un­think­able.

But all that hard work and money and wasted wa­ter pay off in a car­pet so per­fect that if you caught the Dalai Lama walk­ing bare­foot across it to drop a flyer in your mail­box, you’d kick his arse. That’s right. It’s a piece of veg­e­tated dirt too sa­cred to touch. Maybe it would bruise, like James Bond’s mar­tini shaken harshly.

And so your re­ward af­ter seven months of win­ter is to take ob­ses­sive care of a patch of grass for the next five, pu­ri­fy­ing it of all clip­pings which go into the com­post where they ferment and ex­ude a gag­ging, sickly stench that would knock a skunk off a gut wagon. Oh, but the new-mown lawn it­self is won­der­fully fra­grant. Un­less you’re an al­lergy suf­ferer. For you, sum­mer is can­celled.

And all this, all this to keep up with Gary when all you re­ally need to do is get some liq­uid fer­til­izer in a spray bot­tle and write “Go Rid­ers!” in a tidy cur­sive on his front yard at mid­night. Who’s green with envy now?

Cam Fuller is a colum­nist with the Saska­toon StarPhoenix. cfuller@post­media.com

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