May in Seattle; a curdled gray sky, bruised with rain on the horizon, yet somehow admitting sunshine to highlight the fresh new leaves, blossoming gardens and emerald lawns of my suburban neighborhood. Spring here is warm and wet; everything grows like mad, particularly grass.
I’ve settled on a day of indoor chores and computer work. But, beyond the narrow slit of open curtain (Apple thinks iMacs should have shiny screens because they look nicer in the Apple Store that way), a burst of sunlight floods the maple tree above the back yard.
Good grief, where has the time gone? I whomp up a grilled cheese and turkey sandwich in the kitchen. The clouds lining the horizon still look bruised; but thru the window the wind chimes beckon softly.
I hurry to the garage, gather up the mower’s 100-foot cord and roll the mover up the driveway. A few doors north, another mower and an edger have started up; somebody else thinks they can get away with some yard-work too. No need to trouble with the catcher, this “grass-cycling” mower grinds up its leavings into a beneficial mulch for deposit on the grass behind it. No time for it anyway. I guide the mower around the front yard, keeping an eye on the cord.
A couple of months ago I happened to look away from the cord for just a moment while maneuvering around a sump drain. The mover sensed my inattention thru a biometric scanner in its handlebar. Stealthily, it sidled up to its own cord, like a shark next to a wind-surfer, and took a big chomp. A kindly neighbor mended the cord and shrink-wrapped it in plastic. If the mower succeeds in another of its nasty little tricks, that neighbor might be less disposed to volunteer his services again. So, vigilance! Vigilance! Never mind where you’re going or what you’re mowing over; the bright red cord with the incriminating black patch is the thing to watch.
The neighbors’ gardening devices have suddenly gone silent. I don’t hear the wind chimes. I don’t hear any birds boasting about the advantages of their trees to any potential mates. Not a good sign!
I shove the mower as far into the crabgrass under the blue spruce as I dare. Its motor slows, and my house’s electric meter spins deliriously, as the mower chews into the tough fronds. And, the job is done! I turn it off, and now I can hear the gentle tapping noises of tiny raindrops on the brim of my hat.
Now it’s time to scrape off the grass that’s adhered to the underside of the mower. I unplug it, I’m not stupid, and I roll up the cord. My shirt starts sticking to me, and it’s cold. I turn the mower on its side and scrape out its undercarriage with a wayward tongue depressor that has been so abused that I doubt it will never see the inside of a mouth. The undercarriage near the blade is coated with thick green paste. If I put off scraping it for a day, this will turn into green cement that would take a hammer and chisel to remove. The chute intended to lead to the catcher, whose end is blocked with a little hatch, is stuffed with grass. This too I remove, wondering whether any remnant of ready-to-be-mulch grass shavings has actually gone into the lawn. Now my shirt is soaked, my pants are getting damp and cold, and the sidewalk has turned dark. The leaves of the maple tree, whose root emerges out of the front lawn like Moby Dick looking for Ahab, are bouncing up and down, juggling raindrops.
I gather up the cord, clipping bucket, kneeling pad and mower, and run into the garage as rain hisses down. Done at last! Except that the tongue depressor is somewhere on the front walk, floating in a sea of grass clippings. I run back, find this critical tool and bring it safely inside. I have no idea where it came from, nor how to get another one.
Now I’ve accomplished something (never mind the globs of grass shavings on the pavement), so I can justify taking it easy for the rest of the day. I get a beer and sit down at the computer to write this. Something bright catches the corner of my eye. It’s sunshine, turning the back yard an unwholesome shade of bright green.