I enjoy mowing, and while this may not seem unusual to you, I assure you, to my parents, particularly Daddy, there is humor in this. Summer jobs are a way for teenagers to earn extra money, learn responsibility, and develop good work habits. Daddy got me my first summer job, mowing a churchyard and I did everything possible to avoid this weekly task. I wasn’t responsible, didn’t learn any good habits and the money, I have no idea where it is now or what it bought.
I can easily hire my yard mowed and have for years, but this summer mowing my yard seemed like it might be fun. Fun is a push mower making calluses on my hands, bits of grass sticking to my sweaty arms, legs and neck and feeling like I’ve spent years on the desert without water. I’m not so sure.
It had been so long since anyone used our mower that it needed a tune-up. Once completed, however, one sunny afternoon struck me as the best time to see how this new summer job and I would get along. I set the mower as low as possible, after all the shorter the grass the longer between mowing times and I didn’t intend for this to take up all my time. I began to push the mower across my yard. I mean really push. I could only go for about five feet before I had to stop, catch my breath, and rest my arms and legs. I knew I was out of shape and my body middle-aged, but this was harder than I remembered. Maybe I would only mow half of my tiny front yard at a time and there was always the kid next door for hire. I pushed and fought that mower, my arms ached, my calves felt like I had run a marathon, but I was determined to finish, besides quitting shows weakness. Convinced that I was more out of shape than I realized I discovered the bar, which engages the self-propelled part of the mower, and I completed the yard with less effort. Perhaps now I would finish the front and maybe even, make it to the back another day.
From my kitchen window I can see the grass and weeds of the back yard. When I am not looking they grow inch by inch in a vain attempt to prove the grass always wins. The back yard is like an obstacle course, trees, sandbox, birdbaths, doghouses and concrete walkways spread out for me to maneuver around as I mow. I convince myself that mowing this yard over several days would be best, and I should get the shady part first, saving the sunny part for a late evening, after all, I do not want unnecessary sun exposure at my age either.
Each time I start to mow in the back, my two large Weimaraner dogs, mother and son, are ecstatic that I have joined them to frolic. They run around the mower to investigate their new toy I have brought. As I yank with all my might, the dogs move back and bark at the noise. They stop after the mower has settled into the steady put-put that means the blade is whirling and ready to cut grass. Blue, the male, moves into the shady part of the yard and lies down, bored that I will be busy and not scratching his ears or telling him what a wonderful dog he is. Jazz, his mother, however follows me step for step, often jumping at dust and grass particles as if they are fairies turned loose by the mower and catching them will bring extra treats for dinner.
My life is spent in air-conditioned comfort, using my intellect more often that my physical body. This mowing, my middle-aged aerobic exercise, gives me time to think, time alone, a precious commodity in my current life, and time to contemplate where I will go from here. It is a kind of communing with nature. I don’t claim to understand it, something I spent many of my adolescent hours avoiding is suddenly back in my life. I believe you reap what you sow, and perhaps I am paying for the times Daddy did my mowing while I stayed in the air-conditioned house to watch afternoon TV. If so it is not a difficult debt to repay. I just wish I had one of those portable televisions I could watch as I mow.