Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The suburban jungle

I mowed my lawn on Sunday, trying not to reflect on the sad fact that I have been sucked into the suburban vortex of competitive yardwork, trying to shame my neighbors into keeping up with me. It is not difficult in our neighborhood. We live in a brand new house in a small housing development, yet no one around us seems to care that their lawns are so overgrown with weeds that small children could easily get lost in them.

I shouldn't be critical of their unkept yards. Before we moved into this house, I was one of them. Water, weeding and mowing were signs of weakness to me. I would not be slave to peer pressure and the perculiar American obsession with domesticating weeds in the form of a lawn. But there is something about moving into a house with a nice yard that sucks you in.

Both Tess and I are infected. I catch her sometimes muttering at the beauty bark and snatching at the mere hint of a weed peeking out. And I've discovered her staring out the windows on some evenings with her head cocked to one side as if she is listening to something.

"Do you hear something," I'll ask.

"Can't you hear it," she'll reply.


"The weeds, I can hear them growing out there."

Yes, suburban jungle fever grips us both.

I catch myself mowing symetrical crop circles in my lawn while listening to Rob Zombie on my iPod. I imagine low flying aircraft will be able to read the messages I'm creating or at very least marvel at the symbols carved in my well coiffed turf. My electric mower purrs and mulches as I walk back and forth, cutting swathes of order out of the chaos of uneven blades of grass. Joseph Conrad would have called his book Lord Tim if he knew how I tamed my own jungle.

But as I cut the motor, and silence Rob Zombie, I can swear I hear a distant, yet steady drumbeat and I am filled with primative fear. Or perhaps it is the faint sound of a pan flute coming from my stone statue of Pan watching me from under the pine tree in my backyard that is taunting me.

In the back of my mind I know, that although the lawn has been tamed, the minute I put the lawnmower away and scuttle back into my house, the grass - and the weeds - will grow again. And the fever will return.
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