Green Grass and Dandelions

As soon as warmer weather hits, I, like many I know, get the itch to make things beautiful.  Last weekend, I spent 8 hours cleaning up, digging up, and planting up my front yard.  Every morning, I get tremendous satisfaction seeing that the new things are still alive and the old ones are thriving.  I’m aching to get going in the backyard… the weather needs to warm up a bit again.  Soon.

In the midst of the planning and planting, I find myself  pondering my lawn.  About four years ago, we used a chemical lawn care company to turn our grass into a lush green carpet.  I was never entirely comfortable with the idea of chemical fertilizer, but the compliments were enough to assuage my cognitive dissonance and I convinced myself to buy into the claims that the stuff they sprayed on the lawns–the stuff that stunk like chemicals–was surely all right.

Would we die from this stuff?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  But the larger question was:  Do I want chemicals sprayed all around my house, around my children, for the sake of an artificial standard?

I know… lawns are the stuff of summer.  When I envision the scene, it’s loaded with soft focused close-up images of toddlers’ bare feet in deep, green, soft grass.  There’s enough lemonade and puppies and sprinklers for everyone.  The image is Americana.

When I was a kid, our lawn was a conglomeration of dandelions and clover humming with honeybees; occasional blades of grass filled in the rest.  Our next door neighbors were far more diligent than we.  The mrs. would be on her hands and knees with a screwdriver, prying out the golden dandelions and dropping them into her large metal bucket.  The mr. would thatch every spring and fertilize.  Their lawn was beautiful.  A carpet of July heaven.

We didn’t walk on our neighbor’s lawn, much less play on it.  They discouraged it for fear it would be ruined.  And who could blame them?  If I worked that hard on my grass, I’d be protective of it, too.

And so, the neighborhood kids played Kick the Can and Capture the Flag and Red Rover and Running Bases at our house; and we did it barefoot and we stepped on bees and cried and had my mom slather her baking soda paste on the bottoms of our feet and out we went again, running well-worn paths along the shortest distances to “base.”  Yes, we knew the neighbors had a beautiful lawn, but it never occurred to us that ours wasn’t.

Don and I stopped using chemicals on our lawn two years ago and it’s not perfect anymore.  It’s thinning and the dandelions are dotting themselves recklessly throughout.  I don’t know how the neighbors feel and I don’t have the time or inclination to yank them.  I’m remembering the beautiful impromptu bouquets these named weeds became when I wanted to tell my mom that I loved her.  I remember how magical it was to blow their soft, fuzzy orbit of seeds away in the wind.

I guarantee that when my kids are grown, they won’t remember the state of beauty of our lawn.  They’ll remember Tag and soccer and volleyball and zip lines.  And maybe it’s not too late to get a dandelion bouquet.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lara on April 18, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Growing up in the south-towns of Buffalo my parents lived on an acre. We were one of very few houses, and were surrounded by mostly farm land and fields. Like you, I have fond memories of the “pricker weeds” and dandelions peppering the landscape as we rode down the slip-n-slides, played flashlight tag and so much else. I remember helping our neighbors and my mom tend to the gardens and even stealing all the raspberries off of the neighbors bushes one year. I remember a brief stint in my teens when my dad had our lawn sprayed. It was impeccable. But then our childhood dog came down with horrible tumors which lead to us putting her down. Coincidence? I’m not so sure. Our neighbors son who was a couple of years my senior, took a job with FMC which provided chemicals to companies such as ChemLawn. I remember bumping into him while I was in college (around the time we put our dog down) and we talked about jobs and in particular, some of the “secret formulas” he was putting together. I talked to my dad about what he said and what I was learning in my environmental elective “Toxic Terror”. My dad canceled later that week. Rest assured Lori, you are doing the right thing. I’ve often said to Tom, if you want nice grass go play a round on the Blue Course. The dog and the boys aren’t worth the risk in my mind.


  2. Further evidence about the problems with weedkillers… We need to rethink our values:


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