Monday, August 22, 2011

Mow down your sadness, take pleasure in growing things

I was supposed to be somewhere else on Saturday, or, rather, on the way to somewhere else. With my four kids and my handsome man, I was meant to be driving north through Arizona toward Nevada. On Sunday, we were to meet family in Idaho - a whole lot of family including my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles on both side, a slew of cousins, my beautiful sister's family, and my brother Nate and his wife Natalie who would be there from England.

Instead on Saturday I was home thinking about all the family in Idaho. Plans had changed for reasons we could not have anticipated, and we would not be joining my family for this reunion. Though I understood that it was not best for our family to travel, I was sad and restless. I tried to keep busy, My man and I hatched a last minute plan to switch our kids' rooms around. Unfortunately, that whole project only messed up the house and unsettled me more. From that project I leapt into laundry and picking up, vacuuming and sweeping, hauling out trash and recycling, but eventually I had to give vent to my feelings in words. Noises of discontent I had already spread around our home like wicked fertilizer set to increase unhappy feelings. But I wanted the harvest to be clear.

"I hate this day!" I blurted out.

Then I cried.

I know that people used to head west in America a hundred plus years ago, and they would never see family again. That story has played out all over the world all throughout time when families have migrated. If you got news about how loved ones' lives were going, you thanked God for that small comfort, I suppose. But nowadays, if you get along with your family, you expect to see them at regular intervals, and Facebook doesn't count.

There were many things I wanted from this vacation. I wanted to introduce my Ella Belle to my grandparents, because she is the only one of my children they have yet to meet. I wanted to see my kids run around like little rapscallions with my sister Vinca's children, wanted them to experience camping together. I wished to talk with my brother Nate, because I see him now so little I feel that England has a larger claim to him than I have, and I can't remember the last time we had a long conversation about our lives. I hoped to spend plenty of time with my parents. I wanted to laugh with my relatives and eat good food together. And I yearned to raid a storage unit in Boise where tapes of my Dad's music repose in dust and dark, to snatch those tapes and gloat over my victory in salvaging them.

But the practical details of life sometimes crowd out the hopes or, if we're lucky, replace them with new ones.

I found an opportunity to make peace with my disappointment that evening. I concentrated on one of those practical little details of life. I got into holey jeans and tight, sundried sneakers that had been left on the patio too long, donned my sunglasses, and went out my back door to mow the lawn.

And that's when my sadness and I settled things. We mowed that grass together. It was work, but all things are better when you can see the green world. Better yet when you can smell, see and touch it. We began awkwardly but soon found our rhythm - pacing to and fro, backing up over stubborn clumps of vegetation, and chasing over small lowlands of dirt and patchy places more populated by pebbles than Bermuda grass. We squinted at the lawn to look for strips we'd neglected while the sun shone straight into our pupils from the west. And we smelt the sweet smell of freshly cut grass with each new swath of shortened blades. That smell was like balm, the incense for my meditation with disappointed hope.

When my job was done, not too exquisite but fine, I brought out my toddler son to walk on his little bare feet through the lawn with me, pointing out what Mama had accomplished.

Then we took a picture of our sumac tree's beautiful branches struggling beneath the August sun, and we went to inspect my pots of mini roses that are among the elite few flowers that I have succeeded in keeping alive and blooming.   My sadness didn't leave me as I roamed about my yard. It didn't fall away to nestle in the fluffy piles of grass clippings, content to decompose and grow into something new. But it did settle down and find peace, no longer struggling against reality. And that's a blessing.


  1. I'm a really firm believer in the soothing powers of mowing the lawn! I'm sorry you didn't get to see your family - hope that happens before too long - but I'm glad you found a way to settle.

  2. Sharon, I love mowing the lawn, and I'm glad I had the lawn to mow that evening. Thanks for your kindness.


I love your comments!