Lawns. Don’t you just love the way they sprawl over the back yard, adding a touch of greenery to the grey blandness of footpaths and driveways? Well no. Not nowadays. They’re a pain in the you-know-where and not just because of the pin-pricks of Onehunga weeds.
Put it down to age which separates lawns from what they once were to us long ago: footy, rugby, backyard cricket, schoolboy races, wrestling, grass fights… Lawns were where on warm summer nights we played commandoes, creeping through the dew to pinch the juiciest apples from an unsuspecting neighbour’s tree. And when lawns turned white with frost they tested the bare feet we all wore to school before we graduated to bikes. Then of course we skidded over frosty verges, leaving trails behind us, aware but not really taking any notice of tut-tutting adults who revered lawns as if they were outdoor carpet.
Perhaps because it’s commonplace, we don’t notice that grass and the way we regard it – with pride, resentment or acceptance, indicate life stages. Most boomers we know wanted a first home like the ones we’d grown up in – ones with a large backyard and lots of lawn in which the kids could play. Then, all too quickly, the kids abandoned their games, grew up, left their little fields of dreams. When that happened, we had more time – but surely not to mow lawns. They became a chore when pretty much all we wanted to do was relax on the deck. Let it grow, we said and watched dandelions turn green into gold, signalling another life stage.
We called in the local mower man, forgetting we’d come from an age of egalitarianism and it just didn’t feel right having a man doing the man’s work, any more than it would if we’d hired a domestic.
We grumbled as we once more dragged out the Masport. All this exercise, we kidded ourselves, was really healthy. And then one day the New Zealand Herald told us how wrong we’d been to resent the nuisance of a lawn with all the maintenance it involved. A real estate assessment in the paper assured us that it was now highly prized because, with infill housing, there were so few of them left in suburbia. Another stage reached, one that said ‘there’s gold in them thar lawns’ when we retire. That was about as far removed from our childhood as we could imagine.
Sometimes though it takes a moment to change all that. At the right time and in the right place, grass remained the pillow of our dreams, and it happened for us on a ramble up Mt Eden one rare (this year!) sunny summer’s day. The much maligned buffalo grass was everywhere and recalled how I once loved to lie in its cushioned warmth and chew on a stalk of paspalum as I gazed up at the sky. I threw myself down on a clump and watched the grandkids follow suit. They grinned as they looked up into the blue sky and nestled into the grass. Poets and the Scriptures alike, tell us there’s heaven in a blade of grass and for a moment it felt like that.
Hell too, when you realise it’s time to mow the lawns again…