A Feminist Approach to Lawn Care

I can remember vast tracts of fresh mown grass in even stripes when I was a kid. My grandfather would cut the lawn that led down to the water at the summer cottage on Shelter Island. It always seemed so effortless and organized.

 I now use a wonderful John Deere self propelled mower to mow about 2 acres around our house. The mower is truly wonderful, but still something of a mystery to me. As soon as it doesn’t just start, I feel completely forlorn and utterly mystified. Don’t get me wrong, it is a really good mower and often does “just start”. But it has a way of not “Just starting” when I am the most desperate to get the grass cut, like when we have not managed to mow for 2 weeks and we have just been through a hurricane and then 4 days of bright sun and the grass is over a foot tall. Then of course, if we do manage to start the mower, we stress it out as it really would require an industrial highway department machine to do the job properly. Other times, I finally get the mower to the repair place, and it turns out that mice have built a nest in some engine part. It all seems so mysterious when it just doesn’t “turn on” even when I get one of the teen age sons to pull the cord with all the force they can muster.  It runs through my mind that I really must take a small engine course. Must check the Continuing Education courses for that one.
It is a formidable task keeping that much grass short. Well-intentioned people say to me “I hope you have your sons mowing that lawn for you” or even, as Harry over at the horse farm would put it; “Get those boys off their ass and out there mowing the lawn”. I explain to those people. that the lawn mowing is my activity; the boys can unload the dishwasher, hang the laundry, and vacuum the downstairs while I mow. By claiming mowing, I avoid the need to buy a gym pass, attend exercise class, walk for an hour, etc. It is rigorous physical exercise mowing our lawn; I can tell you. It’s even a more demanding work out when this mower doesn’t “just start” and I have to push the back-up non-self-propelled mower. It is so hard to push up the rises in our lawn that sometimes I have to get a running start.  I definitely sleep well after those episodes. 

Spiral mowing

No matter how I start a given area of mowing, I end up mowing in a spiral, methodically eliminating corners as I mow round and round the perimeter. It is even more dizzying when I think I may be running low on gas and I am determined to complete the spiral before running out; then I mow really fast in tightening circles. I think about how spirals were claimed by feminist artists in the 70s, but then of course it took a male artist to get really famous off of one; Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. My spirals are largely an outcome of how the lawnmower works; expelling the cut grass to  the right means that I always want to be steering to the left so as to avoid traveling over all the hunks of freshly cut grass to the right. So a spiral seems logical. I just don’t see so many other lawns cut in spirals.

Dr. Suess specials

When I am done mowing, I revel in the look in of the fresh cut grass leading up to the edge of my flower garden. I have weeded enough by now so that the paths through my garden are quite inviting. The pale pink peonies are the last color of peony to bloom,,,the long stalks weighted down with their opulent flowers. And my Doctor Suess specials are blooming right now…I must try to figure out what these are really called one day….

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