“For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.” – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
I paid a friend to mow my lawn for ten years. I traveled often and didn’t have the time to keep up with it, so I’d simply throw money at the problem and it would be done. Something happens to your yard when you aren’t out in it doing the work. It pulls back from you, feeling shunned perhaps, or maybe reasserting the wild tendencies that were always there, but corralled in suburbia. Walk in the woods and count the cellar holes and stone fences and you’ll know the truth: The land has a longer memory than our lifetime.
Over the last few years I’d walk about the yard on some gardening task, looking at the state of things. The lawn was cut well, with fine lines at expert angles, but the lawn itself was in a sorry state. So we’re the beds and walkways. In fact the whole yard was feeling a bit worn down and neglected. Sure, I’d rake or spread mulch or pick up the fallen branches after a storm, but the land was slowly returning to a wild state. I’d spent all my time at home on the garden and potted plants, and was getting the cold shoulder from the rest of the yard. No, this won’t do.
The first step in repairing a damaged relationship is to put in the time building trust back. So I bought a Honda push mower that forces me to walk every step of the land and with the warmer weather I’m out there walking the property. You notice things when you walk every step of the land, things like the quality of the soil in certain places, and weeds you don’t have a name for, and chipmunk holes, and roots and stumps from experiments gone bad. Each step brought me closer to the truth, and forced me to reconcile my decade of indifference to the land. I’d have to do better.
Eventually travel will return, and weather windows will make mowing an inconvenience. But other excuses like soccer games and basketball tournaments and dance recitals have given back time I’d used to justify the hired help now that the kids are adults. And I’ve found that I enjoy getting to know the land again. It keeps me honest with myself. It’s a form of penance for a decade of neglect, and I don’t seem to mind at all. There’s work to be completed, seasons to mark, tasks at hand, projects to do. A slow march to the infinite, one step at a time. The land might reject me still, but I’m back on it anyway, trying to keep up with the state of things and learning lessons along the way.