Zen and the Art of Lawn Maintenance

how-often-should-lawn-be-mowed[1]  As I was walking my dogs yesterday, I began paying attention to the different lawn mowing techniques of my neighbors. This got me thinking about border lines and “zen and the art of lawn maintenance”. There is a saying that fences make good neighbors, but what about the green borders between yards which need to be mowed? Here’s what I have noticed.

Some of us make the “friendly gesture”. That means we try to seem helpful or return a favor. On the days that I mow, I’ll go an extra 6″-12″ over the border to where the neighbor’s driveway is, so they don’t have to mow that side. Of course, if you do this you have to be careful not to make it seem like you are claiming those extra inches because that could ignite “the border dispute”. This can be seen when neighbors constantly overmow the area around the border in an effort to control it.



Another trend that we see is “the meticulous mower” vs. the “too busy to care mower”. The yard of the former is kept short and weed-free. Often there will be yellow flags up warning that pesticide has been used. The yard of the latter has long grass and often is full of dandelions, making for an obvious contrast in gardening styles. Is there a correlation between the yellow flowers in one yard and the yellow flags in the other? Probably and hopefully it is not a hostile one.




Lastly, there are the types of people who mow their lawns in a variety of patterns: on the diagonal, in a circle, like a checkerboard. Are they doing this because they are creative or bored, or do they just want to be different? I only want to get the job done, not turn it into a competition over whose lawn looks the most well-groomed.

In fact, lately I have turned the position of chief lawn mower over to my son. For a fair wage he is happy to clear the yard of sticks, balls and dog droppings and cut the grass, including all the odd-shaped parts around the garden beds. The first time he did it he did not make the “friendly gesture” I previously mentioned. After I praised him for his hard work, I pointed this out to him. A few weeks later, my neighbor approached me about “the accident”. She was almost apologetic as she explained that she had recently seeded an area of her yard and my son had mowed it before it was ready. Ooops! The art of lawn maintenance sure gets complicated.

Here’s to mowing a fine line to keep the peace.




The Importance of Staying Connected

Friendship 7

Friendship 7 (Photo credit: NASA on The Commons)

In this age of Twitter and Facebook, we tend to have a false sense of how connected we are to other people. I don’t care how many “friends” or followers you have. Do you have a friend who will help you when you have a problem? Is there someone readily accessible to you, who will jump in and come to your aid? An unfortunate incident happened to my neighbor and friend yesterday which brought this discrepancy to my attention. It served as a wake up call that we should all take an inventory of our real friends, not just our online connections.

Yesterday evening, she was driving to pick her child up from school. En route, a deer crossed her path and collided with her windshield. Twenty minutes later, my husband discovered her voicemail on our phone. Not knowing what had happened or why she said she needed help, he immediately called back. By then the police had arrived and she had been able to reach another friend for assistance. Her child’s teacher had kindly offered to stay after school until she arrived and my husband went next door to check on her older children. Everything turned out as well as could be expected. Her car was drivable so she was able to retrieve her kid and return home safely. Today her insurance company is coming to replace her windshield and I have offered to run errands for her and pick up dinner.

She is fortunate to have the support of people she can count on- those who could be there to help her if needed. Are we all so lucky? As the Latin proverb tells us: “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. In these times, we all think we can handle it ourselves. We don’t want to burden others with our problem, or we have too much pride to admit we need help. I tried thinking back to the times I have needed help and to whom I have turned.  (I am not including family members, who often live far away, but can offer emotional support on the phone.)

There was the time when my husband was out of town and we received over a foot of snow. I called a friend to assist me in clearing the driveway. He graciously offered to come as soon as he got plowed out and spent over an hour helping we shovel.  Another time, my car battery died in the school parking lot. My child’s teacher spotted us and asked the gym teacher if he had jumper cables. When that didn’t work, she drove us home in her car.  One evening we had to take our son to the ER. I called the mom of my daughter’s best friend. Even though it was a school night, she was more than willing to help by having my daughter sleepover.

On the other side of the coin, neighbors and friends have called us for help. My husband has a knack with repairing things, so he regularly gets asked for advice. He has fixed cabinets or light fixtures and assisted with flooding or car troubles. I have checked on people’s pets when they have been delayed getting home. When my neighbors or I are away, we take turns bringing in trash cans or newspapers for each other.

Over time, relationships change. People move away. Bonds strengthen or weaken, depending on how much they mean to you. It is important to not take friends for granted. Don’t assume that they think about you if you think about them. You have to reach out and connect, at least a few times a year. And you can’t expect to count on someone, if you would not do the same for them. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

So let’s all do a self-assessment of our friendships. Are we being good friends? Have we given clear messages about our willingness to help someone else? Among all the levels of relationships- co-workers, club members, neighbors- do we have an elite group of true friends? If not, it is time to find someone whom you can count on when your need arises. You can’t rely on a tweet from someone in another state or country. You need someone who can pat you on your back and hold your hand. It is not a sign of weakness; it means you are human. You don’t have to handle things alone. Take your cell phones out and make sure you have at least two numbers programmed in, just in case…

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”  – John Lennon