30 June 2010

On mowing the lawn

As has become our custom this summer, Tal and I rise very early on mowing day in order to finish our work before the summer heat gets its daily grip on the landscape. This morning, while the early temperature was lower than it has been of late, the humidity was extraordinary, the dew so heavy that the decks, steps and sidewalks were wet and the downspouts ran with water coming off the roof. It was the sort of humidity that made breathing itself a noticeable chore.

Although our riding mower has at last been repaired -- the belt that runs the blade reattached and the deck leveled (sort of), I chose to walk behind the small mower, leaving a 19" swath of short grass in my wake, pass after pass. It's a meditative exercise, actually -- a "one foot in front of the other" plodding, uncensored thoughts slipping unto consciousness as, watchfully, I keep the front edge of the mower aligned with the ever so satisfying just cut row.

Today as I worked at outlining the edges of the back yard I became aware of an oak leaf on the grass toward the middle of the area I was cutting. My first thought was to get a photograph. My next thought was to self-scold -- a rather long and harsh "conversation." You need to get this job done, Janet. Stopping the mower means restarting it ... This is mowing time, not camera time. You get the idea.

Round and round I went -- on the grass and in my mind. It wasn't until the last possible instant, when one more step would have put the mower over the leaf, that I stopped walking and released the hand grip that cut the engine, the sudden silence somehow intensely loud.

Then it was across the lawn up to the house, into the garage, off with the wet, grass-covered shoes, through the house for the camera and tripod -- and back again. The result isn't great, but it's pleasing enough, I think more for the fact that the taskmaster in me didn't win for a change than for the image itself.

I had a spiritual director once who told me many times during the years that we talked together that what captures our attention is important. A slant of light through trees, the music of a mountain stream, the fringe of a baby's eyelashes against its cheek, the sound of a winter wind around the eaves of the house ... It is those things -- and millions and billions of others if we're paying attention -- that whisper to us something of the divine, that give us hints of the eternal.

For me today it was mowing the lawn and a single leaf spotted with beads of heavy dew on the wet grass.

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