Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lawn Watering and the Decline of Western Civilization

Daniel Cano

I don’t have lawn sprinklers. I should have. I can afford them. I just never got around to putting them in, and forget about an electric timer. That’d be downright embarrassing because my lawn is half the size of my parents’ lawn, the one I had to water and cut when I was a kid. So how can I complain about watering the lawn now? I mean, I even have a gardener, something unheard of for a working class Chicano family in the 1950s.

Sometimes, though, I enjoy watering the lawn. It gives me time to think, brainstorm about life, past events, and future stories. Still, it’s not like I skip outside to start watering. I need to talk myself into it. Other times, I straight-up don’t like watering.

As a kid, I hated it. All my friends were at the park waiting for me, while I watered the lawn. Dad’s rules. In the 1950s, sons obeyed Dad.

When I think about watering the lawn, I remember the writer Henry David Thoreau and his experiment at Walden Pond.

For those who need reminding, in the early 1800s, Thoreau built a cabin near Walden Pond where he planned to live for a year, off the “fat of the land”, as some call it, trying to do away with the unnecessary conveniences people thought they needed for a comfortable life, which raises the question, what do we really need for a comfortable life? The military taught me—very little.

I remember reading in “Walden” how a friend, or neighbor, visited Thoreau and seeing the roughly hewn wood floors devoid of any floor coverings offered him a rug. Thoreau thought about the offer. The rug would be useful during the long, cold New England winters. Then he gave it a second thought. If he used the rug, it would get dirty. When it got dirty, he’d have to take extra time to pick it up, take it outside, and shake the dirt out, or maybe even wash it. Too much wasted time, he thought. A rug wasn’t a necessity.

I guess that could be how I think of the lawn. Other than looking at it when I come home from wherever…or leave the house to wherever…I don’t get any use out of the lawn, so why have one and take the time to care for it? The kids are all grown and have their own lawns. The grandkids always want to go to the park or beach. My lawn, then, is purely aesthetic, to make the neighborhood look good. So, am I doing it for my neighbors? That’s a helluva reason.

Southern California isn’t Ohio or Pennsylvania where lawns are natural to the environment. I mean, like, dang, we’re in the Southwest, mostly plains, and when the sun hits hard, damn near desert.
No wonder we have water shortages. Chale with all of those who come from the northeast and want to replicate their lives back home. Why not just stay home and enjoy your lawns where they are natural?

Besides, who started with the lawn-thing anyway? In the 40s and 50s, most working class folks in Venice, Santa Monica, and West L.A. had dirt yards; that is, unless you lived in Westwood, Bel-Air, or Beverly Hills. Once my dad made it into the union and bought a house on the right side of the tracks, it came with a lawn. (Oh, don’t worry. I’m not about to write a piece on the history of lawns in Los.)

Now other gente might say, “Hijole, que flojera. You’re talking about an hour, max. Just get out there and water the damn lawn, flojo. Stop making excuses.” I answer, “They aren’t excuses. It’s dialectics, or at the very least, an analysis.”

But why not look at it logically? Let me defer to the Greek, Socrates, who, I’m sure, had no lawn in Athens—the climate too Mediterranean, like Califas. I don’t recall reading about lawns in Cicero, Dante, or Marcus Aurelius. So not even the Romans had lawns. How can we ignore the two giant civilizations of western culture? If they didn’t see the need for lawns. Why should we?

I betcha the Aztecas didn’t even have lawns, especially once Quetzalcoatl hit his zenith, and everything in Tenochtitlan wilted.

“Man, that’s Chicano logic,” I hear the voice of a cousin saying. He was a gardener for the rich and famous.

Here is a hypothetical syllogism for you. If I had no lawn, I wouldn’t have to waste time and our most precious resource caring for it; therefore, I’d have more time to write for La Bloga. That doesn’t even take into consideration pulling out poisonous mushrooms, dandelions, and other rapscallion weeds (which grow with too much watering, I might add). Best, I wouldn’t even need to think about it, or suffer pangs of guilt when the zacate starts to yellow.

After all, at my age (I am a seasoned citizen) the most important thing about life, I’ve come to realize, isn’t money, property, or objects. It’s time, and we don’t have enough of it as it is, which leads to thinking about the “Creator", my dear old gramps.

Grandpa was an old school Mexican, a ranchero’s son from Jalisco who arrived North when he was 18, and he went back only once, to visit his sister, who was then living in San Luis Potosi. Supposedly, the plan was for Grandpa to stay two weeks, but he couldn’t hang and returned to Sotel (the barrio between Santa Monica and Westwood) two days later. My aunt, who had planned his trip, said he never explained the reason for his quick departure.

My father once told me, “Grandpa was always bitter with Mexico.”

No, Gramps didn’t go by abuelo or abuelito. He didn’t wear matching top and bottom khakis, and he wore the same battered Stetson on Sundays that he wore the rest of the week. He saw himself as too modern for all that. He wore Levis and plaid shirts. On special occasions, he wore a dark turtleneck and striped, gabardine suit, never a tie.

Gramps spoke only Spanish, and we’d answer in English, or a messed-up version of the two. He was plain old Grandpa to us kids. His friends called him Maximiano. The younger generation, the pachucos, liked to call him Maxie. And he always kissed our forehead and make the sign of the cross over us whenever he’d first see us.

So, I’d be watering the lawn. I was about ten or eleven, and here comes Max up the street. He’d see me watering the lawn, all “gacho”, splashing water here and spraying it there, trying to finish-up fast, and get to the park to play with my friends.

He came up to me and took the hose from my hand. He wanted to teach me to do it correctly. He was strategic, and I thought him mad, as in insane. He said in Spanish, “Look, do it right or don’t do it at all.” Now I know where my dad got that dicho.

With the pressure from the water, Maxie made about a three-by-three-foot square imprint on the lawn. Then he flooded the entire square, which took about five minutes. Next, he scooted over and made another square beside the first one, and he didn’t stop until the entire lawn had been watered.
Of course, I had to be respectful and indulge the old man. So, whenever I saw him coming up the street, if I was watering, I’d start with the three-by-three foot squares. He’d smile and go inside the house. When he was out of sight, I’d slip my thumb over the mouth of the hose and start spraying to make the lawn glisten and look like it had been watered, so I could get the hell finished and make it to the park to play ball with my friends.

Funny, how all these years later I think about Maxie each time I go outside to water the lawn. I take the hose in my right hand, turn on the faucet and start at one corner of the yard. I make a three-by-three-foot square, fill it in, scoot over, and I don’t leave until I’ve flooded the lawn. Today, they call it deep-watering, and it is the best way to keep your lawn green and healthy—if you choose to keep a lawn.


Daniel Cano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JimWLA said...

Love watering the lawn. Gives me peace and time to think about life...