From the Blog

Mowing The Lawn Made Me A City Girl

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I don’t have a lawn. I have never had a lawn. I haven’t touched a lawnmower since I was a teenager. And when I was a teenager, I HATED mowing the lawn. More than anything. I have absolutely no desire to ever own a lawn. If I buy a house, I will likely rip out the lawn, plant native plants, and let them grow wild until they swallow the whole property. I will be a fantastic gardener.

Yet last weekend, I was at a Home Depot, and at the check out line, there were bags and bags of some kind of lawn care product. I don’t know if it was dirt, or seeds, or weed killer, or fertilizer or poop or what. But there were images of sparkling emerald carpets on these bags. Clearly, these bags were selling the types of lawn you NEED to have.

I was already feeling guilty for even going to Home Depot. I popped in, sort of casually, to see if they had any little succulent plants that I might use to make a little indoor succulent garden. I was out somewhere east, in the triple digit streets, which I forget exist. Home Depot was right next to Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I went to buy a scale because I’m trying to eat better and the scale will help me obsess. I had a coupon.

I felt guilty about going to Home Depot because Pistils is right in my neighborhood and I love Pistils, plus they have chickens and baby chicks. But the last time I went to Pistils, they didn’t have just what I was looking for, something low growing that spreads OUT instead of UP because I have a bastard cat that thinks any vegetation in the house is a salad. I love plants and I wish I could have some in our house. But the cat eats them then pukes on the bed. Bastard. Eff-ing. Cat.

I am familiar with Home Depot. Like many big box stores, there is a Home Depot every five miles in southern California. When I lived down there, and I had a “Home Depot” type purchase to make, I made an effort to go to smaller, local stores. Because there is nothing more charming than small, hodgepodge, family run hardware stores. I can get fishing bait, a VCR, and a toilet seat cover all in one trip!

But the smaller stores are sometimes hit or miss, or the store hours are funky, or the parking is impossible. And it was sometimes easier to go to giant, predictable, generic Home Depot. Or Bed Bath and Beyond. Or Target. None of this was ever good or bad. It’s just how you buy things when you live in southern California. Probably most other places too. You get in your car, you drive on the freeway, you buy stuff, and you bring it home. That’s how it works.

Now I live in Portland. And I’m not sure if it’s possible to be more opposite of southern California. Now it’s a huge pain in the ass to go to those big box stores. It’s so much easier to go to a small store, a hardware store, a garden store, an art supply store, even if it’s a couple neighborhoods over. If I need gifts or books or clothes, or breakfast, or even succulent plants, I don’t need to go further than one block in my own neighborhood to find them.

However, I don’t have a lawn. I’m supposed to want a lawn, right? Isn’t that what we are supposed to want? So you can mow it, and sit on it, and your kids can toddle around on it and eat bugs? I see cute little houses on little patches of land and think “I could do that.” The lawn would be emerald green and free of weeds, and neatly trimmed, and make my neighbors gnash their teeth and wonder how DID she get such a lovely lawn?

I grew up with a yard. It was an acre. I had to goddamned mow it. I’m not sure how I came from rural/suburban heritage and became more of a city person. Mowing the lawn may have done it. My mom told me of how we visited Boston when I was a kid, and I proclaimed that I would one day live in the city. She dismissed my remarks as babbles from a dim child. My parents never dreamed the fruit of their loins would ever turn into a city girl.

There are probably people who shudder to think that my “front yard” is a sidewalk that leads to other places. I live in a building with neighbors in all directions, above, below, on either side. I know some people who think this kind of existence is absolutely wretched. I admit that I get tired of it sometimes too. I need to have occasional getaways to the woods or the coast. And as much as I enjoy those places, when I drive back to town, I’m still happy Portland is home.

The piles of lawn care products at the big box store reminded me how much my life has changed in the past three years, and how much I have changed. Visiting Home Depot feels like visiting another planet. Albeit, a planet with very nice lawns, but a different planet nevertheless.


  1. Meredith says

    Oh yeah, I totally remember mowing the lawn too. Ugh, that whole yard, and being on the main drag, everyone in town saw who was out there, slaving away behind a mower. Soooo glad those days are over.

    Cute garden!! I’m wondering if we could get/make little succulents as wedding guest gifts.

  2. funny. it sometimes freaks me out how you and i get on the same wavelength, independently. i was just in LA for a working visit, driving along the congested freeways and boulevards, and I found myself smiling. Smiling! in LA! I came to the realization that i now like to visit (visit being the operative word) the mega-metropolis and it doesn’t make me batshit.
    and honestly, if you have to live in a city type place, portland is a mightly fine city.
    I live in the country, well in the city in the country, and i have no desire for a garden. weird right? i loved my lawn and garden in LA. Here, i just want to have a low-growing, low-water consumption springy cover over the dirt in my yard. i don’t even need flowers. too mcuh damn work. bulbs are the way to go. you pant them and some time in the future, they pop up and arre pretty. sorry bout the typos. long story.

  3. Well I know lawn bashing is politically correct but let’s not forget that it provides a ecologically friendly place for our furry little friends. Think how happy that future little bulldog will be when the door is open and that lawn beckons.

  4. Whenever I see someone doing lawn chores I give a big encouraging smile and wave, especially when it is a kid. When our older kids were young, we spent entire weekends teaching and supervising chores. Specifically, lawn chores. Both my husband and I thought it was important. My husband, trained as a mechanical engineer, wanted everyone to understand the basic workings of a lawn mower, a simple small gas engine. “Anyone can push the pedal down on a Mercedes,” he would say. “But I want you to understand what happens when you push down on that pedal.” He also wanted them to know how it feels to do a good job and get paid for that job. “Anyone can push the pedal down on a Mercedes,” he would repeat. “But I want you to be able to pay for one.”

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