Monday, May 9, 2011

my friend, the lawn mower

This acre of rough ground undulates in vegetative psychosis -- the grass not really grass, but evil-green tufts of troll hair erupting from the dark netherworld. One year (naive me), I got the bright idea to spread pre-emergent weed killer. The next day, I heard sarcastic snickering rise up from the spring ground. It would take gamma-spectrum irradiation to subdue these sinister roots.

My yard is odd...

If I just walk around the yard in silence, I look like a pensive, dramatic fool. I can't even think straight. My "thoughts" ooze out into the bored air only an inch or two in front of my dimming eyeballs. Then my thinking falls to the ground, impotently. Me just walking around the damn yard trying to figure out the nature of my being is so stupid. Nothing ever comes of it. A waste of time. I end up staring out at the vast cotton field, which is waiting for some farmer to slice it up into new furrows. Staring out at the field is like thinking about nothing. Damn...

Things are different in the yard when I'm with my friend, the lawnmower.

I don't have nor will ever buy a riding lawn mower. How preposterous! When I see someone on a riding lawn mower, the aspect of utility dissolves from my consciousness. Instead, before me is some kind of clown circus act. Yes, a preposterous, bumptious haughtiness. Like a skeleton walking around in a top hat. I laugh involuntarily, as if something is tickling my viscera.

I'm the kind of masochistic guy who will always torture himself through summers with a walk mower: sweating, panting, nearly heat-stroking. The mowers last two or three years on this rough acre. Until the last one I bought. He is my special friend. He has lasted four years now, and I think he will keep on going. Four years -- starts first pull every time. No exception.

He was pretty beat up after last year's sessions. I sent him to the shop for a complete makeover: new starter rope, new spark plug, new throttle cable, new front wheel (it had cracked and wobbled all last summer), oil change, blade sharpened, a weld to take care of a missing motor-to-frame bolt, welds to mend the back struts supporting the handles. Now, he is restored to health for the new, grueling season.

He has 10-inch rear wheels, which makes my previous self-propelled mowers look like mediocre idiots. He is not self-propelled. He is Tim-propelled. But those rear wheels provide a wonderful, almost graceful leverage of motion and impulse of momentum over this rough ground and mutant grass.

May I introduce you to him? He is a Craftsman Model 917, 22" cut, 6 HP Briggs & Stratton, side-discharger. We don't bother with a grass bag -- this is not suburbia.

Thinking takes on a whole new complexion when I'm mowing in the stifling heat with my friend. The yard and the air become an envionment of contemplation. He churns out a din of fabulous white-noise. I can think when immersed in white-noise. Images, notions, memories, and possibilities arise through the droning aural dimension. I said I was thinking. It's more like observing this stuff as it drifts around inside my brain. On the outside, I'm sweating and pushing. On the inside, I'm floating off to worlds of melancholy or delusion. It's great!

My lawn mower is my friend. He gives me something tangible to hold onto during sweltering existential summers. He helps me cut through the absurdity of living with an acre of aggressive, stupid grass. With him purring just ahead of me, who knows? One day I might think up the answer to a question that no one would ever ask.

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