The Lawnmower Chronicles – Episode 11

This is the new addition to the house – a screened-in porch. Bugproof. Luxurious, right?

This may be the final edition of The Lawnmower Chronicles this season. I only mowed the front lawn, however, because the construction of the new porch means many things are lying around in the back yard. And truthfully, the back yard is really not in need of mowing, so I may let it lie for the rest of the winter.

As I cranked up the engine and began criss-crossing my way across the lawn, the sad little man with the sad little dog went walking by. He lives somewhere up the block from me. He scares me a little. His dog looks like it weighs about seven pounds, and one of its ears was flapped back against its head this day. It hardly seems like it needs its leash. The man and the dog are in perfect sync with one another: the man strolls at a slow pace, and the dog walks very precisely behind him, with enough tension on the leash that it does not drag on the ground, but enough slack that he does not choke. I see this pair often, walking down one side of the street and coming back up the other. I have noticed lately a number of older gentlemen walking small dogs around the neighborhood. I fear I may become one of them, a man whose daily highlight is walking a small dog down the street.

My lawn is in sad shape at the end of another summer. I do not so much mow the lawn really as suck up leaves. Watching the new porch go up made me once again painfully aware how completely incompetent I am at building things. I do not like middle-class life, and despite the fact that I like my house very much, I hate being a homeowner. As I was chatting with the carpenter building  my porch, a very affable man probably in his late 40s with a daughter just starting college, he was giving me tip after tip about how to take care of small things around the house. He admired my roof and the choice of interlocking shingles I had made. He told me how to prevent an ice jam up in the corner of my roof: take some panty hose, fill them with calcium flakes, and throw the filled-up hose into the gutters around the troublesome corner. The snow will melt away like magic and head on down the gutters. He was quite impressed with my big tree in the backyard, mostly because he has no idea what kind it is. No one does. I felt the need to reciprocate all the good advice I got from him, but I felt he had no need of tips to hone his acting technique.

There is fall maintenance to be done. The air conditioner needs to be wrapped up. The wife suspects one of the basement walls is leaking, but she is prone to exaggerating everything, and like the good Italian she is, everything becomes a disaster waiting to happen. As she sees the porch go up, the “honey-do” list is recited, containing a collection of errands I will do my best to put off in the next few weeks. Part of the backyard nearest the house has become a dirt patch. The pop-up camper is still set up – I never did get the ad into Craigslist to sell it. There is literally grass growing in my shed because a bag of grass seed opened up onto the extremely damp floor, and the seed sprouted. I consider running the mower over it.

Most of the leaves now have turned yellow. MacBeth’s line – “My way of life has fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf” – sticks in my head. I get the front lawn done just as a little rain shower passes. The temperature is actually warm, around 60 degrees, yet the wind howls and makes it feel much chillier. The gas in the lawnmower will have to be stabilized for the winter. I consider once more the backyard. Too many things in the way. It can keep until spring, I decide.

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