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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Moss Meditations


This is the time of the year when the neighbor's lawns start to green up, while ours remains a realm of sparse and ancient fescue battling yellow green moss for survival. The ground is highly compacted and sloshy as I squish my soggy path to the newspaper half soaked on the road side. This will be the year of the moss, I presume, gazing at the vast expanses of our yard sporting the yellow-green tinge.

We're neophytes to the American Way of the Lawn. We watched in awe as our neighbor industriously crew-cut his lawn without fail every two days. My husband pored diligently over catalogs, trying to identify the best possible lawn mower to deal with all the (to us) huge acreage of grass carpeting our yard. Rather than going for the lightest and cheapest model, he picked a massive self-propelled model (to deal with on our sloping yard.) Easy enough for him to maneuver, but I loathe trying to walk behind it as it drags me up slope and barrels off uncontrollably down hill. I sense my teenage son bears the same aversion, disappearing to write magically due reports the moment his father tries to enlist his help with mowing.

The lawn companies stop without fail at our mailbox, enticing us with deals to fertilize and 'regreen' the lawn for $50 a pop. We had been desperate enough to try them in the early years, but my husband got utterly disgusted that they would come and spray at inopportune moments, such as 1/2 hour before a thundering rainstorm that washed all the fertilizer down the drain, or before we had the chance to rake leaves fresh-fallen from our trees in autumn. The lawn looked no greener for all the money we were throwing at it. So I peruse the mail, and add the lawn fliers to the trash pile.

To my jaundiced eyes, even the yellow-green moss looks like a winner. It carries me back without fail to those days of listening to my botany teacher droning on about gametophytes and spores, haploid plants and diploid seeds, precise line drawings punctuating the paragraphs with italicized must-remember terms. I had never seen a moss up close, but religiously learnt to reproduce all those pictures of moss plants and cell structures of spores for the examinations.

Now is my chance to admire the moss, delicate lines of the almost plant, going back in history to the Permian era, c. 290 million years ago. They have the right to remain in my lawn, more so than the grasses, against whom they have won a hard-fought competition. I would definitely defer to the older species, who are so low maintenance as to require nothing but the space to grow, the sunlight and rain with zero mowing.

So I say nothing to my husband regarding removal of moss, nor complain about uncut grass. The moss will remain my secret friend, taking over the lawn inch by hard-won inch. One day, I will wake up to a magical soft and short green carpet under the trees, one that will be reminiscent of the sense of peace of the woodlands that our suburban backyard displaced.

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