NR Digital

Country Life

Grasping the Thistle

by Richard Brookhiser

Fifty years ago my parents had a lawn — half an acre, surrounding their post-war ranch house. It was mowed (by me, when I could not avoid it). When it turned crisp, we moved an oscillating lawn sprinkler from quadrant to quadrant to refresh it. Those bright unwanted visitors, the dandelions, were carefully dug up; when they proved too stubborn, weedkiller was applied (a stinking metal canister with a hose and wand lurked in the garage, amongst the bicycles and the cans of paint thinner). We could not have an old mansion, or its staff, but we could have a bit of its turf. Our lawn was the ideal of the country gentleman, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, Americanized, suburbanized, and democratized. Down our street marched the lawns of our neighbors, some shaggier than ours (we disdained them), others more meticulous (we resented them), most identical. The background buzz of lawnmowers is the soundtrack of my summer memories, along with ice-cream trucks and transistor radios playing Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

Now I have a lawn — an acre, falling gently downhill from my house in the woods. It would be twice the work of the lawn of my youth if I were not more than twice as old. I love my lawn, and I love not taking care of it. God is my gardener, and the man who plows my driveway is His assistant. He (the man) mows it whenever the grass becomes very shaggy; if He (God) withholds the rains, the lawn must fend for itself. I will rake the leaves when they fall, but that is it.

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