Friday, September 17, 2010


I have a confession to make. I like to mow.

In the Florida summer heat, mowing can be more than a challenge--it can be dangerous. Stay out too long, and you risk not only sunburn but also dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, the last of which can be fatal. So you have to be careful, take a lot of breaks, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I alternate Gatorade, when we have it, with water.

I'm not a big lover or supporter of the idea of "a lawn." I think grass is highly overrated; it requires too much water, for one thing, and we are moving into a time when we are all going to have to conserve water. I'm much more intrigued by the idea of using native plants for landscaping, thereby cutting down on the need for watering with the added benefit of providing food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.

But when I bought my house, there was a huge lawn. Converting it is going to take time; I can't afford to pay thousands for a landscaper to come in and re-make the yard instantaneously. So for now, we must mow.

But we are heading into the time of year when mowing can be a joy. Even though the love bugs are back, it's less humid now than it was at the height of the summer. The quality of light is less harsh; it has more of a golden hue than the white heat of July. And there's more of a chance for a breeze.

I like mowing because it gives me an excuse to get outside and move around, and immerse myself in these changes of late summer/early autumn. I have a really sedentary job, so any opportunity for physical exercise is a welcome relief.

When we first moved back to Florida from California, we rented an old cracker shack on about 130 acres. Next to our house was a picturesque old barn where, we were told, neighbors used to gather for weekend dances and parties. There were a couple of huge, old live oak trees next to the barn--some of the biggest trees I've ever seen, one of which came down after the fourth hurricane in 2004, the season of Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.

One autumn afternoon I was out mowing behind the old red barn. The sun was going down. The moon—a harvest moon, not quite full but close—was rising. Somewhere in between the sun's beginning to set and the moon's rising, a breeze kicked up and the weather shifted, and the oak branches started to wave in celebration. It was one of those unexpected moments that happen sometimes--and that take my breath away--when I find myself suspended between earth and sky, caught up in the beauty of the world and marveling at Mother Nature's magic.

I couldn't stop mowing—I had to finish while there was still light—but mowing at that moment ceased to be a chore and became a joy. The sun, the moon, the oaks, the barn, the breeze, the welcome shift in the weather all combined to make a kind of magic.

It was then that I realized I like to mow.

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