Roger Marolt: Like an ostrich with its head buried in the lush grass
Saturday afternoon I was doing normal summer stuff around the house — mowing the grass, spraying Roundup on the dandelions. You know, the things solid Americans and neighbors do to keep in good graces with their homeowners associations.
I was humming a Bee Gees tune that had wedged itself in my brain and spraying weeds when I saw my neighbor across the cul-de-sac. I waved and he waved back and then he had a double take before rushing over. “Jeeez!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
He said it like a question, but it really wasn’t.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled meekly since I knew what he was getting at.
He reminded me of how toxic the stuff in my hands was.
“Yeah, I know,” I ah-shucked. “but…” and couldn’t finish, because I knew about the lawsuits, the cancers and the billion-dollar jury awards against the manufacturer because they were convinced the stuff actually did kill more than just weeds and yet, there I was with a 2-gallon jug of the stuff in my left hand and a pump sprayer in my right at the end of a tube hooked up to it.
It’s a habit, like beer. I don’t mean that I am hooked on the nauseating smell of Roundup or anything like that, although the odor does bring back pleasant memories from my childhood during that time of year when school is letting out, registration for summer baseball is on and dad is out getting the yard ready for admiration. It is that I am addicted to the idea that a lush green lawn completes my existence.
It’s been that way for as long as I remember and probably since the dark ages ended and people began mimicking kings. My dad took great pride in our lawn; that and a clean car. There wasn’t a chemical he wouldn’t try if it promised the lushest grass on the block, just like the stuff on the golf course, which was, and come to think of it still is, the benchmark for those afflicted with turf envy. If a visitor to our house remarked, “Wow, Max, your lawn looks just like a putting green,” I can still see him getting almost choked up over it. I would be lying if I claimed words like that didn’t make me beam, too.
But, those were the days when chemicals were new and exciting. They were like computers today — if you weren’t over-using them, you were falling behind the times. There was no such thing as a bad chemical. They were created by scientists, after all. Every other adult had a cigarette on their lips, a tube of airplane glue was common in kids’ desk drawers, the smokestack was a symbol of American industriousness, and we used DDT to keep our produce looking like it was made of plastic.
I know there are many good chemicals without which we would live shorter, less comfortable lives, but when I think about the stuff I use to exterminate dandelions and all else it touches, that burns my nose when I get a whiff, that comes with instructions to immediately seek medical attention if I get it in my eyes or ingest it, just doesn’t seem like one of them, at least not used in the place where my family plays barefoot with the dog.
I have begun to scrutinize yards more carefully. Why is it, I wonder, that we see a natural field at Maroon Lake and believe it is a magnificent sight and when we see a neighbor’s yard in the same condition, we call the HOA president to complain?
Two things I admired about my dad were that he wasn’t an idiot and he was more philosopher than conformist.
I think the best way to make him proud is to try to be the same. I am certain he would not be ignoring the state of the planet. He may not have been the type to join Greenpeace or drive a Prius, but he would not have ignored their positive impacts, either.
I finally see that not tending the greenery the way he did does not make me a slacker. As proud as he was of his yard back in the day, I think he would be prouder of me today if I figure out a way to keep my own sanctuary organic. I popped dandelions out of my yard by hand all weekend in his honor. If that doesn’t turn out to be sustainable, I’m sure I can get used to a natural look.
Roger Marolt hopes all-natural, organic yards catch on. Email at email@example.com