Winter was a dreaded season during my upstate New York childhood. The cold, snow, and inevitable illness every winter made moving south an easy decision. North Carolina winters still get cold, but I can’t remember a time when I had to dig out my mailbox or shovel a path to my backyard so my dog could pee without getting lost. A NC winter welcomes several months of mosquito-free living and a break from mowing my yard. (The word “yard” gives too much credit to my landscaping ability. It’s more of a free-range weed ranch.)
This year, spring started in late January, about two months early. Even though we still had some cold nights, the weeds threw a party and invited all their seedy friends. I thought it would be late March before the pollen started its ticklish torture of my sinuses. Instead, mid February, I mowed my lawn for the first time in the new year. I think it’s a record in the dozen years I’ve had a lawn to mow, and not one that pleases me. Also I received my first mosquito bites for the year. Bonus.
The weeds in my yard are pretty, from a distance. Some wear a distinctive purple flower. Others produce miniature strawberries. There are some, with running, red stems and leaves, that seem to find and cling to every tiny crack in my sidewalk and driveway. I hate them all, with total respect for their perfect adaptations to my lawn ecosystem. Worst are those that spread their leaves, like satellite dishes, to shade out the grass and gorge themselves on sunlight, leaving broad brown holes in my lawn if I pull them up. Their stems are flexible enough to defy mower blades and even the weedwhacker twine. They spring back in place after I’ve mowed and taunt me like hundreds of raised middle fingers.
Maybe it was allergy season sleep deprivation. Maybe it was frustration at mowing the same strips of lawn multiple times. Maybe it was the realization that there might be ten months of lawn mowing this year. In all likelihood, it was a mixture of all of them. It drove me to a breaking point of chlorophyll lust I had never before experienced and shudder to remember. It was like some Jekyll-Hyde transformation. One second, I was unspooling cord for my electric weedeater. The next, I was on my knees, grasping fistfuls of weeds and wrenching them from the ground. Dirt peppered my sweaty face, pollen assaulted my nostrils. My eyes streamed in irritation, and my throat begged for water. I couldn’t, wouldn’t, stop. They were everywhere, and I would not suffer defeat.
I ground my teeth, and I cursed them unto the seventh vegetation generation. Why had I
previously denied myself the satisfaction of rending them with my hands, instead depersonalizing the process with a machine? How much would it cost to just pave over my whole yard, perhaps adding a basketball or tennis court?
At last, I coughed myself to a standstill. Around me, piles of weeds were haphazardly strewn where I had thrown them in my landscaping rage. Did I remember to pick up dog poop before I began crawling around my yard? Thankfully, yes. What were the odds that my tantrum had only seeded the rest of the yard with more weeds? Probably good odds. I’ll know in about a week.
Raking and bagging the weeds allowed me time to reflect that I could probably pay some kid to wage war on the weeds for me. A win-win, if ever there was one.