I bought my first lawnmower on Friday. It was super hard. I logged onto Lowe’s website, browsed through the selection of available lawnmowers at the Bellingham store, and then paid for the one I wanted. My plan was to breeze into the store after work, pick up my order at the Customer Service Desk, and roll on out without any hassles.
People* would take notice as I strolled to my car, knowing I am successful enough to afford a house that has a lawn that needs mowing. They would stop me and give unsolicited advice, and I would feign interest in what they had to say. My mental fortitude would be rewarded when these people* offered to
assist do all the mowing. I’d then give them bottles of Corona from my optimistically stocked refrigerator as a reward.
*People: Noun, plural. Young attractive men.
Unfortunately, all my dreams came to nothing when the employee at the Customer Service Desk delivered my lawnmower… in a box!
I didn’t want to assemble anything. It wasn’t sexy. Plus, I just wanted to get to the mowing. Even the idea of stopping at a gas station to put fuel in my new, shiny red gas container seemed like an insufferable delay. See, some birds had moved into the wall in my living room, and I’d been listening to them scratching and squeaking for a few weeks. Recently, a trail of poop had appeared across the deck because of their frequent trips beneath the eaves. A friend’s weird little dog ate some of it! I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer.
So what does this have to do with mowing?
Well…I rent, and I couldn’t let the landlord see the condition of the lawn, tall with grass and burgeoning with ecosystems usually found in the woods and not suburbia. I’m too old to be looked at sideways for not doing things I’m supposed to do. So, in order to tell him about the birds, I first had to mow the lawn.
Arriving home from Lowe’s, I assembled* the lawnmower and managed to mow half of the lawn.
*Assembled: Verb. Past tense. Service completed by friend Andy while author plays with new weed wacker.
And then, due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. busy social schedule, cleaning the condo I’d recently sold), I didn’t finish it. Of course, the birds weren’t aware of their impending doom and had, therefore, neglected to move out of my wall, saving me the inconvenience of calling the landlord. I heard them there this morning.
Because today was my work from home day, I decided to finish the rest of the work over my lunch break. Honestly, I was looking forward to it because I discovered that mowing is actually AWESOME. There’s a good chance I may never share the duties with my roommate, Anne, either. I’ll pretend like it bothers me, but secretly I’ll love it and do it every work-from-home-Tuesday. The neighbors, as it turns out, have a rather nice-looking landscape guy, and it’s fun to catch his eye as I’m slaving away with the weed wacker under a heaving branch of tent caterpillars.
But I digress. Back to the task at hand. The winds were intense this winter, and evergreen branches were strewn all over the place – big ones, little ones covered in pine cones. I walked through the lawn before mowing, picking up all the larger branches.
Finally, I powered up my new toy and mowed on! I hadn’t gone five feet on my first pass when a bird flew out of the grass in front of me. It startled scared the shit out of me and I dropped the throttle, stopping the engine. As I reached down to start it again, I noticed another branch sticking out of the jungle grasses. I picked it up and flung it onto the patio.
I turned back to the mower and there, where the branch used to lie, was a little grass nest. Inside of it were four peach-colored speckled eggs.
If I had found diamonds there in the grass, I wouldn’t have been more excited. What treasure! Of course, I dropped everything, sprinted inside, and grabbed my camera. Mamma bird worked herself into quite a frenzy as I danced around the nest, snapping photos.
Finally, when I’d taken enough pictures, I realized I needed to finish the lawn, but I couldn’t move the nest. The mother would abandon her babies. I couldn’t mow over them either, scrambling them all over the yard. What horror! I felt attached to their little unborn lives now that I’d photographed them.
There was really only one choice. I mowed around them.
Afterwards I carefully placed the branch over the nest again. Hiding inside and peeking out my patio door, I waited with my camera for the mother to return. She circled the area for a minute and then landed on the neighbor’s fence, cautiously hopping sideways until she was directly across from her nest. Finally, she glided down to the branch, inspected the area, and then ducked inside to check on her little eggs.
First, I was glowing with the excitement of getting to witness this whole thing – for finishing the lawn without displacing or murdering any of God’s creatures. And then I had the deeper sense that I had the power of life and death in my hands this morning. Maybe they were only birds, but I heard the desperation, the powerlessness in the mother’s chirping. Her terror. It was sobering.
How often have I felt like some giant mower hovered over me threatening to chop all of my dreams to pieces? And sometimes it does. Eviscerated hopes have hung out of me, still pulsating as the life drains out, and amputated bits have been scattered across the lawn of my life. So great is the emotional carnage, I wonder about the existence of God.
But then, as I put down my camera and walked away from the patio door, I felt something stronger. Peace. In the quiet, most insignificant moments I feel like there’s Someone out there who still sees me. Someone who keeps me safe when I’m at my most vulnerable and can’t save myself any more than those eggs could sprout legs and run away.
Maybe these are extreme thoughts to think just because of something that happened with a lawn mower, but I feel that life’s lessons are hidden in the most ordinary of tasks. Today I knew that I’m not alone in this world. Something bigger than myself sees me and cares about my dreams. At least, I’d like to think so.