Mowing the Lawn ?

 

He loved being outside. Always had. Spent most of his young life (in short trousers) wandering around country lanes, across fields, beside hedges, in the wood opposite the farmhouse where his family lived. A country family; farming stock. He would find any excuse, as an adult to walk outside. To the brook, to the pool, to the land-locked canal. Stand in the back garden, listening to the song of a thrush after getting wet in a thunderstorm. Shelter in the greenhouse that bulged with plants for the allotment and flowers for the garden, the hanging baskets. Sit on early spring evenings with a log fire roaring in the fire pit and candles in glass jars. He watched the suburban bats fly their jittery dance hunting flights in the darkening sky, the sun go down, a hedgehog roll around snuffling from beneath the shed. The shed that was packed from  dry timber floor to rafters – and, incidentally back again. With bean canes, with bicycles, with empty hessian sacks, with tools (left where he knew where he could lay his busy hands on them – and invariably failed to do so). With reclaimed nails in tins, half-finished bird  boxes, seed packets, the scavenged hoses from two long-gone washing machines, tins of paint, chairs, a table, charcoal … and –somewhere – a  lawn mower.

Now he didn’t like cutting the lawn. Too conformist perhaps, truth to tell he had never thought about it, just plain didn’t like doing it. So, this year as all previous years he had put it off. Then off again. With pale, easily transparent excuses. The lawn per se was fine, they had had a swing on it and a seesaw when the kids were growing up. Now there were two apple trees in and island bed, a wildflower section (not the most gloriously successful idea he had to admit, and certainly nothing like the illustration on the expensive seed box) and there was a lot of moss too. But, he always smiled, at least the moss was green. This year he’d already spiked the lawn, hopefully spread the contents of a probably exhausted out-of-date soluble fertiliser over it. Now, he couldn’t avoid it: time to mow it.

He cleared some of the chaos in the shed (or perhaps just moved it into new piles of mayhem waiting to happen) to uncover the lawnmower. The grass box was nowhere to be found. He had a cup of tea and, looking for someplace to sit and enjoy it he sat on – you’ve guessed it: the grass box. It had been there all of the time. He didn’t recognise it because he had been looking for an orange one … and it was actually black! It was while – the last of the procrastination strategies (maybe?) – he was oiling the parts that looked as if they needed oil and sharpening the blades with a “cigar stone” he noticed the tiny rosettes. In the bottom dark corner, beneath the Beauty of Bath apple tree and near to the tall fence he had slapped two layers of dark oak wood treatment last weekend. Next to the wildflower  border, with its burgeoning bluebells going up like green bladed rockets, the snakes head fritillaries, the Solomon’s seal …  and the cowslips. The ones they had bought four years ago – from an alternative energy centre in Wales – and celebrated their re-birth every year since. They did the thriving wildflower thing, expanding because, clearly conditions suited them. But this year – for the first time, there were seedlings actually growing in the lawn itself. And looking incredibly robust too.

cowslips

The closer he looked, the more he saw, then realised he was sitting in the centre of a galaxy of them.

Cowslips! Then, zip! He’s lost, gone cartwheeling back to another place, another time. Both linked to the lawn, to himself by cowslips.

Pitts Hill Farm. The home of his great aunty Ethel and Uncle Tom. A small holding they visited when he was much, much younger. His aunty Ethel, one of the first ever women to ride a motor bike in the county of Worcestershire (if not England!) the family legend had it. Their Tudor-framed house… the stone step down into the kitchen, the first place he had tasted Hovis bread.

But the smallholding… the big hay meadow that dipped down towards the stream where water cress grew in the rushing water below the osier carr. The first place he had seen a wild kingfisher, jauntily perched on a swaying slim branch. The cowslip hoards that busily bundled their energetic graceful routes to the skies, pale yellow flowers on long stalks between meadow sweet and trefoils peopled by butterflies and soldier beetles. Friendly cowslips that waved at people by the gaps in the hazel and copper beech hedge. Even when the passers –by failed to notice. The pond in the corner out of which sloped a cider pear tree, sometimes with roots completely submerged, often not.

He had always secretly wished to be alone by this pond, sans parents, so that he could throw stones into the water, or paddle or float sticks in the ways that boys are wont to do. The pond that had been to watering hole for work horses back in the day. Heavy, loyal beasts that had gone now, but whose hames and collars hung on the byre wall. The single cow that was hand-milked and the iconic barn owl that wafted across the evening as he climbed, always tired and satisfied, back into the warmth-ticking car to begin the journey homewards. A gentle punch of rain on his nose brought him back. The air was noticeably cooler now and he was a little shocked that so much time could have passed while he …

While he what … exactly? It had been more like being in a former life than just remembering, everything so perfectly clear.

But no responsibility for cutting lawns in those day; and the rain zigging from the skies now had put the hold on this for today.

He smiled. Maybe tomorrow, he thought, rather happily; because I so rarely visit yesterday in the way that I did today.

 

Picture source: www.pryorfrancis.wordpress.com

 

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Lovely, thank you. My “lawn” is full of seeding lettuce, kale, borage, calendula and marrow. I must dig the lettuces out and replant them before anyone mowes. (I too hate mowing and leave the grass to grow, bit my neighbour thinks he’s doing me a favor and runs his mower over my carefully neglected little meadow)

    Reply

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