Spent Sunday planting grass seed in my front yard. It is, I think, the most positive statement of my faith in the future. And the dumbest. After all, I plant grass seed in my front yard every spring. Out on the parkway. Surrounding the shade garden we created. Under the village-owned tree.
We planted the shade garden, lousy with sun-shunning hosta and impatiens, because we couldn’t grow grass there – because of the village-owned tree. You see where this is going, don’t you? It is the village’s fault that I can’t grow grass on my parkway. This damned tree is just too perfect, too full of leaves. It reeks of shadiness.
But – and here is my dumb optimism – this tree is a late bloomer. No leaves yet. No buds. Just branches. And in this early, verdant spring, when the other plants in our garden grow by inches a day, I’m grasping for rapid pollination, fluoridation, whatever it is that happens when little grass seeds sprout.
I bought special grass seed that is made for “dense shade,” and which promises to propagate, proliferate, whatever, rapidly. So I’m heading home at lunch to see what has happened, to see if my grass seed can win the race against the inevitable leafing out of the village’s troublingly wonderful tree.
Elsewhere on the grass front, I have conclusive proof that, when you leave a tent pitched in your back yard from August until April, it kills the grass under the tent. Counter-intuitively, the grass beneath our trampoline is growing faster than the grass in the non-trampoline portions of the estate. You can tell I’ve made a study of grass.
To my shame, I’ve actually become quite obsessed with my lawn. I know green, lush lawns are not in the natural order. They take too much water. The water I pour on my lawn all summer should rightly go to those poor miserable parched folks who accidentally built Las Vegas in the middle of a desert.
I grew up on S. Taylor, lawn-deprived. The elm canopy blocked even passing rays of the sun from May to October. Then there were the six kids and all our friends pounding the turf with bikes, baseball, kickball, dodgeball, wrestling, and baby strollers. In those days, grass was for suckers.
But here I am with my organic fertilizer, and my weed digger, and my peat moss, trying to recreate the lost moment from eight years ago when we moved into this house, defoliated the overgrown garden and then laid sod in the front yard. For one proud, passing moment, I had the lawn of lawns. Green, thick (even, toe-inviting), weed-free, and with precise seams that reminded me of the hose my mother used to wear.
And, yet, even in that perfect homeowner’s moment, I knew my lawn was already beginning to atrophy into the cacophony of crabgrass, thatch, clover, bare spots and weeds that I now call mine. It is a life lesson. As Chinua Achebe noted, “things fall apart.” Dogs pee. Bumblebees spread little pods of clover pollen with no thought to your lawn. Whirlybirds fall delicately from the village’s trees and their seeds impregnate your lawn with little trees that have no damned business there.
But I wouldn’t trade that first summer, The Summer of ’03, for anything. It is golden in memory. Why, the sod under the village’s perfect tree didn’t even die until the following spring!
Now, I’m stronger for the pain and loss. If the grass grows this spring, great. If it doesn’t grow, I’ll just sit on my porch swing with a bottle of bourbon.