Ronald Brak

Because not everyone can be normal.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Lawnmower Person

I mowed a lawn today. What the hell is up with that? Lawn mowing is a concept I have trouble getting my head around. (Probably because my head possesses very little elasticity.) As far as I can work out, it seems that after the agricultural revolution and the enclosure acts, the new industrial cities in Britain and later Europe filled up with people who went kind of insane after being removed from the countryside and spending twelve hours a day working in a mill down a coal mine full of phossy jaw from the age of four. In the time they weren't working they did their best to drink themselves to death, get hanged, or get transported to Australia. Apparently having a tiny patch of ground on which to grow something made them feel better. Quite possibly because the food they grew resulted in the only contact their bodies ever had with a vitamin.

But then in the 50's things started to change. In rich countries having a little patch of land to grow something on changed from being a source of an improved chance of survival to being a source of status. Wealthy people had always had gardens that were just for show and served no practical purpose and almost everyone started imitating the rich and building gardens that were of no practical use. But of course the lower classes didn't imitate the most important thing about being wealthy, which is never do the actual real work of gardening yourself. My parents, after a 60 hour week of lower middle class work, would often spend a few of their precious off hours each week working in the garden so that everyone could see how stupid they were. Sorry, I mean, so that everyone could see how respectable they are. Although I must admit that in my experience the word respectable has always been a synonym for stupid.

My father believed in a hands off approach to foreign policy, but for some reason I could never convince him of my position on gardening – let the plants fight it out amongst themselves. Because once you pick a side there will never be an end to it. Only a fool meddles in age old rivalries among vegetation. Sure you can try to keep your flower beds free of weeds, but once you pull up one weed, another will grow, and then another, and another, and there are more weeds than there are days in your life. To chase freedom from weeds is a fool's errand. The tree of freedom, watered with the sweat of exertion, only sprouts the seeds of future labour.

My solution was both simple and semantic. Do nothing, and declare the plants that thrive to be ornamental and declare the plants that don't grow to be weeds. Simple. The war is over and we can all go home. Which is easy because it's that building right next to us.

Now, with the maturity that comes from not having died, I see that what my parents were doing was their own thing. When they worked in their garden they were doing what they wanted to do, not what their jobs required them to do, and so they enjoyed their freedom to do as they wished. But I wasn't free. I was expected to do as I was told and so gardening seemed stupid and pointless to me. To this day I don't think my father realises you can get better results by letting people do what they want rather than just what they're told.

One day my father told me to pull up the weeds growing by the side of the house. He told me to make sure I got all the roots otherwise they would just grow back. Well, we were on rich volcanic soil and those roots went down a long way. I spent most of the weekend digging a 13 foot deep trench next to the house. I never did get all the roots because late on Sunday afternoon the side of the house fell on top of me. Luckily I was in a 13 foot deep trench which provided excellent protection. Actually it was a relief. It was cool and dark down there and I had an excuse to stop weeding. I could have dug myself out as I still had a shovel, but I didn't bother. I figured that there would only be trouble waiting for me out there.

Now normally when I caused property damage I would get in trouble. But it seemed that if I caused enough damage it would break something inside my parents so that not only would I not get in trouble for causing massive damage, but they would even forget about other punishments I had coming to me for previous transgressions. Of course, it helped to be bleeding profusely or to show them a bone sticking out of your skin. I somewhat blame this incentive for the way I turned out. Or to be more precise, I blame myself for taking advantage of it and making a habit of it.

Actually I only had a bone sticking out of my skin once, and it wasn't my own. It belonged to the kid that had been standing next to me. Fortunately, when I say kid, I mean young goat, so it was more hygenic than if it had been a human kid. The young goat had got exploded by a rather convoluted set of events that I had set in motion. It was probably fortunate that I got injured, as Plan B to avoid punishment was to hit myself with an axe.

Anyway, I mowed the lawn today. I burned fossil fuels so that nutrients could be removed from the soil and dumped elsewhere. I suppose I could say I composted the grass clippings, but it would be more accurate to say I hid the grass clippings where no one was likely to see them. Before I mowed the lawn the property looked distinctive, but after I finished it looked just like every other one on the street. And it was hot and the lawn mower required pushing and I couldn't figure out how to turn the air conditioning on. I think I may have actually perspired. And for what? In a couple of weeks of weeks the lawn will be back to the way it was. Christ, if Allah had meant us to closely crop grass she would have given us four stomachs.

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