Lawn Mower From Hell

Have you ever been awakened from a deep and peaceful sleep by the volcanic eruption of a lawnmower at 7:00 am in the morning (when you stayed up til 3am working)? Your own spouse has done this to you, you say? Mine too. Let me tell you, as much as I love him, this kind of unexpected behavior could constitute grounds for-well if not for divorce, enforced abstinence or a serious argument.

As I lay there in bed with my head ringing, trying to remember the dream I am in the middle of, other loving thoughts crowd in to claim my attention. "That jerk. Why does he have to choose this morning for this heinous act?" Then, "Stay calm," I tell myself. "Don't go there." But the ignoble mind-procession has begun, accompanied by the loud drone out the bedroom window.

I conjure up wild schemes of revenge: ice cold water dumped on the inconsiderate perpetrator in the middle of the night, the radio suddenly blaring at full blast as he dozes in front of the late night news on TV, two tablespoons of salt subtly mixed into his strawberries or sprinkled on his ice cream. By now the roar outside seems deafening. In spite of my best efforts to ignore the intrusion, I find myself visualizing the exact location and direction of the mower based on the level of intensity of the sound. Back and forth, back and forth. Then the grinding sound of running over a rock. All the freeways in LA do not sound this bad, I reflect.

"Forget it," I tell myself, still lying in bed, as the irritation turns to anger. Only fifteen minutes have passed, and I know I have another hour and a half to go. "Damn, there must be some way to transcend this." I know better than to try to meditate so I turn the radio on. The normal volume isn't loud enough so I turn it up. The announcer's voice sounds unusually grating this morning. Somehow a loud voice on top of a loud lawnmower doesn't cut it. Two wrongs don't make a right, they say. Correct. He's going to play a piece by Rachmaninoff. I hate that piece, at least today. I turn off the radio in disgust.

Then I try a more spiritual approach. Thinking of all the people suffering in the world, I offer prayers on their behalf. My dear friend's mother dying in Illinois, the child down the road who just broke his leg, the neighbors who just sold everything and moved to Ecuador last week, the victims of land mines in Viet Nam. There'a nothing like a global perspective to diminish the seeming importance of ones personal problems. I begin to feel a little better.

Then I look at the clock. Damn, only half an hour has passed. Will this acursed noise pollution ever stop? Why can't the technological genius of our age come up with a solution? They've invented gun silencers, quiet computers, and cars that purr like a kitten. Why not silent lawnmowers? Probably because men are usually the inventors, and they don't perceive this as a problem. Besides, they can wear their ear-protecting headphones when they cut the grass. Are the rest of us given our own headphones before the engine starts up? No.

It's seven forty now. I had planned to sleep until nine o'clock or so, or at least eight thirty, but I drag myself out of bed and put on my bathrobe. My daughter glares at me from the living room couch. Amazingly, at this early hour she is trying to read. I know she would have stayed in bed until at least nine thirty, maybe ten. After all, it's summer. Instead, she's endeavoring to use brain cells that are barely able to function, especially after June 15th. Why try to concentrate when it's not an absolute necessity? I steer clear of her.

Outside, the already warm day reminds me that I'd better water some of the flower beds. I search for the right sprinkler head and drag uncooperative hoses around, soaking myself in the process of trying to reposition things mid stream. The water runs like a river down the steep path and pools near the back door.

Then, for some reason, I decide to walk out to the refrigerator in the shed to check its ancient contents. I've been thinking it's about time for the annual blueberry picking trek to the organic blueberry farm on the west edge of town. The tiny freezer compartment is badly in need of defrosting. After chipping and scraping, I determine that the bulk of it's contents is in fact blueberries, very old ones. It's just that they are no longer recognizable. The lid pops off one of containers frozen sideways to the ceiling of the freezer. Fat little berries covered with ice crystals tumble onto my bare feet and roll into the spaces between boxes, as if they had a minds of their own. I'm not ready to deal with the freezer, and I decide not to go berry picking this year.

Walking back through the garden towards the house, I cast evil glances at the back of my loving husband, who by now is sweating profusely as he pushes the mower up the sloping path next to the raised vegetable beds. I've never pushed a lawnmower in my life. And I hope I never do. That's what fathers, brothers, and husbands are for, and barring those options- neighborboys.

I'm running out of motivation. It's eight thirty now. Surely he'll be finishing up soon. I go back in the house and pick up a good book that I haven't had time to read for weeks. He must be mowing the farther reaches of the garden because the noise seems a little bit more distant. I read a page, appreciating its witty contents, but realize after a few minutes that I'm rereading the same words over and over in a rather fruitless effort to concentrate. My stomach begins to growel, but I don't eat before I meditate. And I can't meditate until it's quiet.

At 8:45 am the lawnmower stops. "Is he really done?" I ask myself. The sound of silence seems too good to be true. Maybe I really can meditate now. I pull myself together and try to calm my mind. Then the machine from hell starts up again. This time it seems louder than ever. He must have found a spot he missed. This time I wait without doing anything. What would it be like if I lived in town again, and everyone started up their mowers at once? I try to imagine how that would feel.

Silence again. It's eight forty five on the dot. The phone begins ringing. Business calls, teenage shooting the breeze calls for our daughter, carpet cleaning specials in the neighborhood. Yeah, right. Forrest walks in the door sweating and exhausted. None of the well-rehearsed snide remarks and ultimatums see the light of day. I look at him, and though I don't exactly smile, I keep my mouth shut.

The sun is already hot as I walk out into the freshly mowed garden. The birds are singing again. At least I can hear them now. The flowers seem taller and the beds more organized with the grass short. Undaunted, the sweet english lawn daisies push their little white heads back up, knowing they're home free for another week or two. The entire garden looks more lush and beautiful than ever surrounded by this contrasting carpet of velvety green. It provides welcome relief from the amazing density of the planting beds, and it never, ever gets muddy after watering or long periods of rain.

What the heck. I guess an hour or two of lawnmower hell never killed anyone. Then again, I wonder if there's any way I can possibly expand the front beds any further so that the grassy area nearest the window can be reduced. Nah....that's even more work then cutting the grass!

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Tricia Narana McDowell