Being a suburbanite—a classification that gnaws at the very fabric of my bohemian soul—I find myself more and more obsessed with the vegetation that surrounds my mid-century modern home.
It is as if there is some hidden sequence buried on the double helix of my aging DNA that has been triggered—some drive to surround my humble abode with a flawless blanket of lush, manicured, green carpet. But why?
I suspect this growing compulsion is rooted in the most primitive parts of my brain. I’ve read articles by anthropologists who theorize that our love of lawns is an expression of our evolutionary history. These deep thinkers say that when our furry ancestors came down from the tree branches and ventured out onto the savannahs, we were compelled to stand erect on our hind legs so that we could see over the tall grasses and spot large saber-tooth predators before they snuck up on us.
Standing tall, we were thus able to minimize the numbers of clan members who were snatched and dragged off to some stupid, sharp-toothed quadruped’s Sunday dinner. The upside of this was that, as a species, we thrived. The downside was that many more of our bothersome relatives also survived to make holiday gatherings, like The Invention of Fire Day, emotionally challenging for the rest of us.
Walking on our hind legs, the scientists surmise that our forelimbs were freed to learn to manipulate tools. Thus, we could also develop weapons to defend ourselves against the large variety of meat eaters I referenced earlier, with the added benefit that we could on occasion dispatch a few of the aforementioned extended family members, or even strangers, who offended our bipedal sensibilities.
So, 4 million years ago we dropped out of the branches of an ancient Ginko biloba tree, stood up, and looked out over the tall grasses of a primitive world full of existential threats. We acquired digital dexterity. We learned how to make sharp sticks and to throw rocks. That was basically the story for 4 million years, though our sticks got sharper and the rocks got bigger. Bottom-line—we killed most of the animals that wanted to eat us, and a good number of our fellow primates on the side.
Nothing much changed until that defining moment when evolution took another quantum leap. One hundred and eighty-six years ago Edwin Budding invented the lawn mower. Human beings could now cut down the tall native grasses and rest secure in the knowledge that, even though they are mostly extinct, large hungry carnivores could no longer sneak up on us or our children.
I mow because I am.
Je tonds parce que je suis.
I hope the Toro starts this week. The neighbors are starting to complain. They are beginning to suspect there may be a hungry Sumatran panther in my front yard.