Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Zen of Lawn Mowing

Gumpy loved mowing the lawn.  It was almost an obsession.  Things needed to be just so over the two acres he mowed during the summer.  The length of grass was different depending on the season.  Spring grass was usually cut at the highest setting because the yard was full of weeds that had been cut for decades, so it grew too quickly for a short trim.  Late fall trimming always meant Gumpy would cut the grass as short as possible, almost scalping the yard.  In theory, this allowed the leaves to blow freely off the property, making leaf raking unnecessary.

I never really understood this obsession.  As a kid, it was fun to mow because it was almost like driving.  I mowed faithfully in college because Gumpy asked me to do it, not because I liked it.  Truthfully, I hate mowing the law.  I guess that makes my lawn mowing epiphany last week just a little ironic.

Since Gumpy became ill, Ema has relied on various friends and family members to do this vital chore.  Most recently, a gentleman from church had been doing the mowing.  What his work lacks in perfection is more than made up for by his dedication to fulfill his obligation to my grandparents.  Unfortunately, a heart condition has knocked him out of commission for a few weeks.  So I decided I might as well mow again.

The day I picked to mow was fairly rainy.  Conditions were less than ideal, but the job needed to be done so as soon as the clouds broke, I hopped on the John Deere riding mower (Gumpy called it the Cadillac of mowers).  The wet grass was just too heavy for me to mow at my regular breakneck pace, so I had plenty of time to think.  When I reached the stand of pines on the east side of the yard, I finally realized why my grandfather enjoyed mowing.

It was HIS time alone.  It was his time to think without interruption or distraction.  It was his time to reflect on what God had given him and what he would do with those gifts.

He was always busy; working for the railroad, farming the family farm, being an active Union member and his favorite duty of all, being a loving father.  He was devoted to his family, often making the two hour drive to his hometown of Waldron after work to pick up his mother so she could spend time with her grand kids and great-grand kids.  When he retired, he stayed active playing golf and helping me learn how to act as a man.  The Vermontville United Methodist Church and the Maple Valley Memorial Scholarship Foundation were always close to the top of his mind as well.

When I reflect on just how busy he kept himself, it made perfect sense that he needed a few hours each week to himself.  He regularly got that time sitting atop his riding mower.

Mind you, he never told me this explicitly.  The answer just felt right when I was mowing and as I continue to reflect on it.  After being his Best Buddy, Number One Farm Hand, Vice President and General Manager of Outside Affairs Eastern Division; I like to think I have a little extra insight into his thinking.

This epiphany points to something I constantly struggle with.  It is easy for me to just keep working instead of take a little time to consider my actions.  Maybe I need to mow Ema's lawn a little more often.