Pioneers used buffalo turds for fire fuel, y’know. They had too, there’s long stretches of treeless-ness in the middle of America. But “buffalo chips” are Nature’s Duraflame logs. Grass digested, compacted, dried by sun with a spark friendly infusement of methane perhaps…the words of one pioneer diarist I’ve read said “You might think it unpleasant, but the rain and the elements have washed away anything one would consider disagreeable.”
This was the logic I was using this morning, crawling around my back yard, flinging dog crap with my bare hands. I’ve got a tool…of sorts. It came with the house and I imagine it’s somehow for the moss-choked and twisted fruit trees I accidentally own (it was winter when I bought the place…I didn’t know all the 50 year old scraggle trees in the backyard were load-bearing). It’s a small spindly rake, and I use it to scrape and scoop the crap left by my three dogs off my grass.
Or I mostly do. It’s September, I haven’t de-pooped the back yard since April. I was bad at balancing the poop on the little rake and badminton-ing it into the bushes. So I considered history and relative hygiene practices of the world at large, and then proceeded to hold myself to a very low standard.
I began to consider each turd on an individual basis. If it appeared to be of an age at which the elements had washed away all…or most…of what would be disagreeable, I just snatched and tossed the clump of sun-cemented hairball, bulk kibbles and bright undigested food wrapper shreds with my thumb and and pointer.
This is not how I want it. Not really.
My lawn and my life should be a glory. I have all the basic parts. A guy that mows it and keeps it trim. Sprinklers, though our dog ate the wire that connected the automated system, so someone has to put their head fully into a hole by the corner of the house and twist one of four pieces of plastic that control random banks of sprinklers. I can never remember which way to twist and which tiny wheel controls what area of the land. I bet he pooped that wire out somewhere in the lawn, too. I should have that fixed.
I love grass. But you’d not believe me. Mine is every shade of sadness. Crispy brown neglect, dog-pee acid yellow, and random, lush patches of mossy fairy-tale green made sad by their earnest and unsupported existence.
“This is what is wrong with me,” I said. “This yard is my life. O, the potential. The beauty. The sturdy round picnic table modeled on the indestructible sort Dairy Queen uses. The double wide hammock with heavy duty frame. The foodstuffs falling from trees, sweet and burrowed through by bugs more industrious than I. I could have cans of home preserves. Ciders. I could have a fort deep in the laurel trees for the children. I could fix the sprinklers and lay in my hammock in shade and sun, cracking the hazelnuts that fall into my lap. They are always green or rotten with worms because I’ve never learned how to harvest them. I could run my dogs with tennis balls and colored ropes twists so they’d stop digging out from under the fence from boredom to be picked up by the cops down by the college stadium.
I’ve set the components up for to have all that is Splendid.
But I leave those parts out there in the sun and I am in here, in this room. Only staring out at one tree. And even it is more of a bush.
I could I could I could.
I don’t. I roll myself around until the sun is too high (11am) scratching dog feces loose from the grass and throwing it into the nearest bush. When I’ve shuffled too far from bushes…I stop collecting the poop. It just doesn’t matter and my back is sore.
I have been waiting for this lawn since I left the one my father tended to precision care 25 years ago. Lawns are a privilege. There are no obstacles to glory. It’s all in place and it waits for me to descend and innervate it with love and life.
But my life’s motto is layered across my neck, my tongue, my chest, in leaded paint. “Don’t go outside. It’s just easier to wait for the elements to dry up all the shit. Stay put til then.”
But when that happens, the it will happen because the dogs will be dead and the children grown and the fruit trees dried out and exhausted.
How do you figure out how to care?