If aliens are watching us from another planet, they are observing some strange behaviors.
For example, we spend 364 days a year telling our children not to talk to strangers, not to go into a house or car with a stranger, and to absolutely, positively never take candy from a stranger.
And then on the 365th day, we dress them up in costumes and take them to stranger’s houses for candy.
We call it Halloween. The aliens call it strange.
Halloween is one thing, but our relationships to our yards is positively schizophrenic.
Think about it. We have a plot of ground filled with a bunch of hearty, native growing plants. They don’t need any care from us—no water, no food, nothing. Do we sit back and enjoy the wildlife?
Oh no. We designate these plants as weeds, and spend our summer in an epic, never-ending clash to destroy them. We spray them with chemicals. We yank them out by the root again and again. We cover them with lawn cloth and mulch. The mulch, by the way, attracts bugs and termites. And we do battle with the insects in much the same way.
Once we’ve temporarily slayed the weed dragons and claimed our little plot of dirt, what do we do?
We dig hole and put new plants in the ground. But we don’t call these weeds, we call them flowers. And these flowers aren’t nearly as hearty as the weeds. They need pampered—they can’t get too dry or too wet. Not too much sun or too much shade. They need their dead buds plucked off. We spray them with chemicals to fertilize rather than kill them.
The aliens must be scratching their heads.
Then there is the grass. Our insanity there is like the flowers on steroids.
We plant the seed. We water it constantly. We have a four step program of repeated fertilization and feeding. If we don’t want to do it ourselves, we hire a lawn service. We segregate the grass. Kentucky bluegrass—good. Crab grass—bad. Zoysia grass—good. Dandelions—the devil.
Out on their planet, the aliens are munching on the alien-equivalent of popcorn as they watch this show. A father alien is watching with his young son, who has never seen a human summer before.
“Is it going to grow?” the young alien asks.
“Oh it’ll grow,” the father alien says. “And you will never believe what the humans do once it does.”
“Wait and see.”
Because you know what the humans do after they’ve spent all their time and money making the grass grow?
THEY CUT IT! Every week, with a big smelly, noisy machine.
Sometimes, especially in July and August when the weather is hot and dry, they cut it back too far, and the grass turns brown. It doesn’t grow.
“The humans will be happy they don’t have to cut their grass, won’t they Daddy?” the baby alien says.
The father alien just shakes his head.
Because as soon as the grass turns brown and stops growing, the humans are out there furiously watering, fertilizing, and spreading chemicals on it to make it grow again.
This is insanity, right?
Yet I do it. You do it. We all do it. And if you don’t do it right—if you don’t cut it enough, or weed it enough, you are the scourge of the neighborhood.
Believe me, there are no exceptions.
I have a friend who lived all her life in the city and recently moved to the suburbs. She and her husband had never before cut grass. When I asked her how she liked living the American dream, you know what she said?
She said that everyone says the suburbs are so quiet, but that all she hears on lazy Saturday mornings when she is trying to enjoy her coffee on the porch is the buzz of lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and weed whackers.
“It’s an obsession,” she said. “A competition.”
Well said, old friend. Well said. The aliens no doubt agree with you.