Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Used to Have a Lawn

I used to have a lawn, but now I have my freedom. Often, I don’t realize how limiting something is until it is gone. Several years after converting to Buddhism, I gave up celebrating Christmas altogether. I had always loved that time of year. I loved decorating my home, wrapping presents, and baking cookies. But after following my own path for several years, it started to make less sense to me. All that holiday prep was not without its own stressful limitations. Trying to find the perfect gift for everyone in my family could be difficult. Budgetary concerns limited my shopping for friends and coworkers. Decorating the house, and then later taking it all down, could leave me exhausted. But I did all of this because everyone else I knew did it too. It was expected. I wasn’t sure how they would react if I would suddenly just stop. One year I decided that I would never know unless I tried. That year, I told my family and friends that I would no longer be exchanging gifts at the end of December and wished them a wonderful holiday season. Then I sat back and waited. I waited for the fallout. My parents didn’t understand entirely, but they respected my decision. Friends seemed almost relieved that they could cross one more name off their list. None of my neighbors even noticed the absence of lights on my home. The decision was made and that was that. But how would I feel? Would I miss it? I can honestly say that without all the stress, I had the best Christmas of my life that year. I still went to holiday gatherings and was relaxed enough to enjoy my friends' company. Instead of baking cookies for everyone on the planet, I learned to bake bread. And on Christmas Eve, I took a long walk through my quiet neighborhood and enjoyed the holiday decorations more than ever.

The decision to give up my lawn was a similar process. Growing up, I had always loved lying out on the lawn in the summer and looking up at the clouds passing overhead. I loved the way the damp grass felt against my skin. I loved the way it smelled when freshly mowed. But as I became an adult and grew as a gardener, my priorities started to change. I had very little time to just lay on the grass and daydream. I started to worry about the amount of water I used to keep the grass happy in California. I was running out of room in my yard and there were so many cool new plants left to try. I made a choice and the lawn was removed. Again, I waited for the comments from neighbors. Oddly, there was none. If they thought ill of me during that time, they were polite enough to keep it to themselves.

During the next few years, the front yard went through a couple of changes. I planted a gorgeous perennial garden and loved it. But then the city took out a pine tree and the sun exposure changed dramatically on over half the yard. As I relocated the struggling shade plants to spots in the back yard, I found myself marveling at the simplicity of the bare dirt. Did I want to expand the complex color combinations of a sunny perennial planting to the entire yard? Or should that change too? Was I still enjoying the plants enough to continue with the weeding, deadheading and dividing that they required? About this time in my life, I was starting to explore other hobbies in graphic illustration and design. As I tended my yard, I could feel myself being pulled back to my office to work on a new project. Something needed to give.

The front is now in the beginning its journey as a low water, minimal maintenance garden. The grasses planted from pony packs are starting to fill in beautifully. Their feathery seed heads are a relaxing sight as they wave in the afternoon breeze. The creeping thyme is filling in nicely around the pavers. The newly planted Erigeron and Gallardia are blooming their hearts out as best they can before the season closes. There are bare spots that still need to be filled in and soil that still needs to be amended, but it can wait. I no longer have to run out and water before work to make sure plants make it through our summer heat. In fact, most mornings I can stand on my porch surveying the garden and realize I don’t have to do anything. And that is the beauty of it. Because I am no longer tied to the care and nurturing of my garden, I find I enjoy it more. Just like that long walk on a quiet Christmas Eve, I can now sit on my porch and listen to the bees as they buzz about the flowers. I can watch the robins as they scratch at the dirt looking for something tasty. I can just be.


  1. I loved reading this! Adding you to my Southern Cal blogroll.

  2. I can stand on my porch surveying the garden and realize I don’t have to do anything.....this is the most wonderful sentence a gardener can utter, write or think! Congratulations on the simplicity of life you have embraced. :-)

  3. The way you equate giving up Xmas and lawns is very appealing. So far we have only achieved the former. And it was extremely liberating to go for a long bike ride on the motorway (forbidden fruit as no cycling allowed) when everybody else was sitting down to Xmas dinner: not a car to be seen and we availed ourselves of miles and miles of smooth empty tarmac. That was about ten years ago and these days more people seem to have chucked a 'proper' Xmas too, so it is no longer quite as novel and as peaceful.

    Lawn is next, although I fear tall weeds will take over before we manage to organize the ground. But what would we walk on besides the clover and moss that has already crept in?

  4. jo©o Who knows... sometimes wild can be good. Corn gluten can certainly help cut down on some of those tall weeds though.