Cut down, dried up and blown away
I’m on the verge of failure. It’s a project that was doomed from the start. I beg your forgiveness for my naivety for ever taking it up. I didn’t need anyone’s help to set myself up high on a lush, grassy hill to begin with. Any fool could have seen that the progressive forces against nature would eventually pull me back down to a humble place amongst the mulching masses. I’m on the brink of giving up my push mower. Oh, the pain of even mentioning this cuts to the quick of my naturalist soul! It all started with such grandiose high hopes. In this very column, I proclaimed to the world that I was going greener. On an uncontained explosion of optimism I spewed forth all the politically popular jargon. I sounded authoritative on green house gasses, global warming, environmental awareness and eco-friendliness. It was all about doing my part to save the planet. And, I was going to get ultra-fit along the way, too!I boldly advertised my ambitions and in my fervor failed to realize that the simple act of maintaining the American mythical Cleaveresque front yard is an insult to environmental decency. I turned a blind eye towards the factories where they veritably pour oil by the barrel into stinking vats to make the fertilizer that turns grass green. I willingly ignored the amount of resources used to pump and treat water for irrigation, or even that water itself is a resource. That I had to fire up the two-cycle weed whacker to trim up around the places my push-mower couldn’t reach was self-selectively viewed as only a minor breach in eco-ethics. Worst of my sins, though, was the utter contempt I not so secretly held for those continuing to cut their lawns behind the roar of gasoline-fired machines, especially for the fat, ostentatious fools sitting proudly on the wide-bladed riding mowers with built-in baggers.”Who really needs something like that?” I asked rhetorically, scornfully, judgmentally. Those ego-driven contraptions were blatant displays of power and prestige, an affront to the minimum amount of respect due humankind.So each Saturday morning I made it a ritual to pompously show my ecological superiority. I timed my yard work for the busy neighborhood times to gain maximum exposure for my heroic efforts. The first thing I would do is peel off my shirt and coat my body with sun tanning oil. I pictured my glistening body with reverence previously held exclusively for Michelangelo’s “David.” Next, I slammed a Coke and plugged in the iPod to give rhythm to the caffeine’s effect.For the next hour I jogged across the expanse of my eighth of an acre, flexing muscles at the turns and moving lithely along the straightaways, my machine and me giving graceful flight to neatly sheared blades of grass. Of course, I would stop the production when admiring neighbors wandered over to have a close-up look at the marvel taking place within my property lines. The conversations would invariably begin with me lifting up my cap, satisfyingly swabbing my brow with a forearm while staring down proudly at the sweat-soaked brim. I accepted the compliments and awe with barely disguised false modesty. I was an authentic Saturday morning hero with a resting heart rate of 37! I played the role well. But, it was all a charade. Nobody but my family saw the ugly side of this: the exhausted, moping hours afterwards, the recovery, the sore muscles, limping to the couch on the verge of dehydration. I would awaken those nights after a good mow to the strain of cramping gastrocnemius and gluteus maximus. When I did manage to sleep in short fitful spurts, my peace was haunted by the indelible hum of that human-powered contraption and fretful visions of the ubiquitous missed swath. To keep up the appearances of a conservator of gas, I had to give up my regular Friday afternoon mountain bike ride so as to have enough energy for the next day’s production. I no longer ambled the few blocks to the pool with my kids for a weekend dip. To their chagrin we now drive everywhere, I being too tired to walk. In fits of honesty, I admit to myself that perhaps my failure was hastened because my motives were not entirely pure. After all, I advertised my good deed in the most obvious way. Did I think this visible act of fashionable awareness would change people’s opinion of me? Would the roar of my paper lion bring attention, along with a good measure of new business? If the answers were “yes,” could I have expected the deception wouldn’t eventually become clear? The buzz has died. My push mower is no longer a novelty. I spend my Saturdays mostly alone now, straining against the progress humankind has made. After I am finished, my yard looks no different from the neighbors’. The noticeable effects of my deed are more ephemeral than the conviction that I am actually doing anything positive for this world.Alas, things may not be as dire as I state here. The week wears on and I regain some strength, which gives way to a brief flicker of optimism. Yet, I sense the cumulative effect of my weekend exertion. Just as I begin to feel better, each mow takes a greater toll than the last, and I find myself slowly stumbling backwards into the fossil-fueled butt-kicking machine.I’m weakest now as the six-horsepower, self-propelled mulching bagger machines are coming on sale. Yes, I do look at the ubiquitous True Value, Lowe’s, and Home Depot advertisements. I’m only human and though I understand the illusions created on Madison Avenue making convincing arguments for me to need more and more and more, I can’t keep my mind from drifting off to thoughts of leisurely lawn care. What makes it more difficult to resist is that I have lived that life before; I know that it is not a complete fabrication.I haven’t given up completely yet. I meditate daily. I will continue to look for answers in hopes of fortifying my resolve to continue doing the right thing. In substituting a tank of gasoline with my own energy, I have discovered its value. The problem is that now in my weakness I am comparing that to its cost. Three dollars for a gallon of gasoline has never looked so cheap.Roger Marolt is in the midst of a personal energy crisis. Send all karma, return receipt requested, to firstname.lastname@example.org
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