Mowing the lawn is on my list of worst things to do. I love the feel of grass under my feet, but I don’t mow. Occasionally, however, it’s a necessity or a kindness, and for both those reasons, I found myself mowing the lawn on Wednesday.
Around 2:30 pm, the smell of impending rain invaded my office. I briefly resisted, but eventually made my way down into the basement – three times because for the life of me, I couldn’t even figure out where the mower was located. I eventually found it, carted it upstairs into our small backyard, and placed it wrong way around on the grass. Oops.
Ours is a push mower – quiet as a mouse, okay to use at 7 am on weekends, and when I have it the right way round, quite easy to use, even when I’m weighed down by reluctance and dislike for what I’m about to do. I’m not sure why I hate it so much. I mean, how hard is it to mow a flat, unadorned, small-squarish area of grass? Not such a big drama – outside my head, at least. And while I’ve long wanted a garden, a refuge filled with local native plants, for now there is only grass.
I decided which direction to cut first, found some kind of pace and rhythm, and watched the blades of grass fly free from their holdfast as I trundled along.
After a few minutes of east and west, I turned north, and then I saw it. A welcome visitor. A winged companion. A calm observer. A slender sparrow of some kind, studiously watching me mow the lawn. I’m not sure how long she – or he – had been there, but she was no more than five feet away at any time, seemingly intent on choosing a vantage point of close proximity – random places atop the four-foot-high wire fence, the holes in the wire, eye-level branches in the small lilac tree, the rubbish and recycling bins – and talking for at least 10 minutes.
At one point, I tried to talk back, in my language not hers, and a conversation of sorts took place that neither of us likely understood but engaged in nonetheless.
Was it something I was doing she didn’t like? Couldn’t see a nest in the tree, so probably not disturbing her family. Was she thanking me for making it easier to get to the worms? The grass was quite long, so maybe. Was she bored, or intrigued, or in need of something she thought I could provide? Only speculation on that question.
Eventually, she stopped talking, flew up to the roof of the neighbour’s garage, chirped in my direction a few times – a kind of farewell? – and then took flight to yards or trees unknown.
No idea why I had a visitor in the backyard on Wednesday while mowing the lawn, but after that and after finishing there in the back, I found myself mowing the front lawn, which was not at all part of my plan. And all the while I looked for another visitor, although I was pretty sure that moment – treasured in my mind as it still is – was rare and over.
Thinking about it later, as the rain came down and the worms came out, I decided she wanted me to know that she would visit more often if we had an actual garden instead of a yard filled with grass, and that she would bring some friends, and maybe even her family.
So between now and next spring when we finally enact our long-held plan to dig up all the grass and plant prairie grasses and milkweeds and prairie clovers and coneflowers, and whatever else will offer a small and safe haven for birds, bees and other most welcome visitors, I will look for that little bird and invite her to stay a bit longer so we can really get to know each other. Hopefully, no mowing will be required.