I’m interested in story: how we tell stories that happen everyday. This is an attempt to tell the same story twice, with dramatically different effects. It’s my yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday afternoon, I decided that it was time to assert my manhood over the lawn. A good lawn, of course, is one of the truer tests of a husband’s manhood: if you can spring healthy, soft green grass from the ground it shows that you are obviously a solid provider for your family, and more importantly, a man. The lawn-converted-from-patio behind our townhouse, roughly the size of a VW Beetle, has about 3 patches of healthly-looking grass. The rest is either: A) sickly-looking, pale green impish grass, or B) bare patches of dirt.
I went into our back storage space and found: an electric trimmer, a spade, potting soil, a hand-rake, grass seed, and a rusty, old pair of scissors. I add the rusty scissors because, unfortunately, I did not find a necessary EXTENSION CORD that would make the electric trimmer have any use whatsoever. Thus, I found myself standing, rusty scissors in hand, in the backyard while debating how long a trip to Lowe’s would take.
Lowe’s is about a 1/2 mile from our house.
After cutting a blade of grass with the scissors, though, I realized that immediate gratification was better than driving to Lowe’s. My wife agreed with me on this, as I could tell from her laughter when she saw me squatting down, cutting clumps of grass with an old pair of scissors. Yet, I managed to triumph over the grass due to my determination and commitment. Also helpful was the fact that only three clumps of grass were actually over 3/4 of an inch high.
Having successfully ‘mowed’ our backyard, I then raked the bare patches and put potting soil on them. This seemed like such a good idea, I decided to spread potting soil over all the impish grass everywhere else. Soil is good for plants, right? So isn’t more soil better?
I then started to water the soil. Of course, it makes more sense to water AFTER you’ve put the grass seed down, but I wanted to give the grass seed a nice bed. A water bed, if you will.
Very carefully after watering the dirt, since everything was quite muddy, I threw grass seed down. By this point, I had somehow managed to get dirt all over my arms and somehow large amounts of grass seed in my hair. Undeterred, however, I watered once again, this time WITH grass seed down.
I walked back into the house covered in dirt and grass seed, blister on my finger from cutting so much grass with rusty scissors, triumphant. As Brooke pointed out different places that had dirt or seed on them (how’d you get all that in your hair?!) I knew deep down she was thinking what a great provider I am. Her laughter told me all I needed to know.
Late yesterday afternoon, I walked outside into a hot, mid-May sun. The tiny lawn behind our townhouse was sad: a few healthy clumps of grass were surrounded by limp, yellow-green grass, which was patched with bare dirt. I looked into the back storage closet. We had an electric trimmer, potting soil, grass seed, and a couple small gardening tools: a spade, a hand-rake the size of my fist.
There was no extension cord for our trimmer.
My wife Brooke was upstairs and she didn’t know where the extension cord was. I thought of driving to the store to get one; we would need one soon enough. Yet, we are re-doing our guestroom and have spent enough money in the past few days. In the storage closest next to the hand-rake was an old pair of rusty scissors. I stood on the lawn for a few moments, deliberating. I cut a blade of grass with the scissors. Then another. This was the better way, I decided. Besides, we only have a few clumps of grass that are healthy. The rest wasn’t even high enough to cut.
Brooke came down and laughed when she saw me, stooped over and cutting, alone in the sun of the backyard. My finger quickly blistered from the friction of the scissors, and the grass was still uneven. I wonder why I make the decisions I do.
After cutting, I raked the bare patches and spread potting soil on them. I spread extra soil over the pale grass as well; since I wanted to thicken the sad grass with extra grass seed, it made sense to spread a little soil there, too. I watered it all, so that the grass seed would take better. Then, I spread the grass seed. I had to do it by hand and the lawn was wet. The wind blew it into my hair and my feet grew muddy.
I showered after my work, alone with the heat and steam, washing the lawn and dirt and seed off myself. I hope the seed takes.
There it is, the story experiment. Don’t worry, my attitude was along the lines of the first one; I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. Yet, this discipline is meant to remind myself both of the stories inherent in everyday, quotidian activities and the importance of language as we tell them. I tried to stay away from emotion-language — actually telling emotions I felt — yet the two stories have very different emotions in them. I’ll do more like this in the future, as it’s helpful to develop my understanding of words and word-choice.
Tomorrow: more thoughts on language, without any boring stories…