Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Volcanoes on Harrison Street

The landscape service for the house two doors down gave the street tree maple a little love. Tucked it in like you might tuck a child into bed. All nice and snug with some mulch around its trunk.

Looks so right, and yet everyone knows it's the wrong thing to do--everyone except the workers charged with taking care of people's yards. It just goes to show, once again, how much land is left in the hands of people who don't know anything about plants. Cut the grass, trim the hedge, spread the mulch--what more could there be to know? It's like dispensing with doctors and nurses, and turning the medical profession over to barbers.

Now, I actually feel a lot of sympathy for the guys who are charged with going out there and mowing grass all day. Grass is a hippy after all. It wants to grow its hair long and make love in the sunshine. Keeping all those proclivities in check is a major production. I put in my time, mowing yards as a kid, and then a brief stint as a groundskeeper at a golf course, perched on a tractor, pulling the gang mowers up and down the fairways. I love the smell of fresh-cut grass, and spent much of my youth playing one grass-tread sport or another, or just feeling the joy of running full tilt across a field of green. Summer evenings we'd have pickup games. When it got too dark to see the softball, we'd switch to soccer--the ball being bigger--and play some more, then find our ways home in the pitch black, by distant glimmers of light and instinct, as if navigating across constellations.

But all those memories are far removed from current realities, where so many lawns are neither used nor taken care of by the inhabitants of the house, and essentially serve as obligatory, sterile frames for the buildings they surround, their tidiness enforced by roving crews wielding pesticides, whirling steel, and raucous leaf blowers. So many barren hours spent tending to barren landscapes. At least it's an outdoor activity.

Suburbia tells us we must have yards, but what are they for exactly? It can get pretty existential. Native plants is one answer, for me at least. Give them a place to grow and show off their stuff. And chickens. Chickens know what to do with a yard, examining every little speck to see if it's food. They have no existential quandaries to grapple with.

So, really, I don't get too worked up over mulch volcanoes. It just seems way too easy. True, they are annoying, but they are only the pesky peak perched atop an implacable mountain of convention and indifference. Nature is often counter-intuitive. It takes awhile to get to know. Trees don't like to be hugged by mulch.

In this case, it was easy enough to pull the mulch back from the bark and be on my way. If only the underlying problem were as easy to fix.

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