That Final Time Cutting the Grass


No matter what's happening in my life, I always feel better after I cut the grass. Perhaps it's the hour and a half where I can simultaneously think and not think all at once, the prescribed walking back and forth along a perfectly charted route, the satisfying lines left in my wake, the sense of accomplishment from taming an unkempt and wild space and having just one thing in order.

Grass cutting changes with the seasons. I love it in the spring, when the greenness nearly hurts my eyes and the smell of fresh, earthy life feels so novel after months of dormancy. I love cutting grass in the summer when being outdoors is a natural extension of living. And I love cutting grass in the fall when the trees blaze with color and the lawnmower blades mulch the fallen leaves underneath my feet as I walk.

But that final time cutting the grass each season? That's another level of special.

All through the month of November, I raked leaves, dragging them on tarps from the backyard to the curb for the township leaf-sucker truck. The raking process moved in waves -- faster for the red oak in the front yard than the poplar, slower still for the Bradford pear trees in the back and side yards. And then at one point after an especially windy night, all the leaves that still had been clinging to their branches tenaciously were down.

Everything was perfectly poised: it was time for the final raking, the final blowing, the final time strapping on the cross-body leaf-sucker. Once all of this was complete and the flower beds and gardens had been cleared from the residual crackling-brown fall debris, it was then time for the best moment: the final grass cutting.

I can't tell you how much I savored this. The weather forecast had called for a dusting of snow later that afternoon, and I wore a tossle cap and heavy-duty hoodie to ward off the damp pre-snowfall chill in the air. With each line back and forth, I felt like I was tucking in the yard to sleep. Rogue leaves that had escaped the reach of my rake were chopped up, mulched into the grass, crunched underneath my feet as a perfect nutrient to lie dormant until next year's spring.

As I reached the final section of yard, the snow began to fall, first tentatively and then in earnest. My neighbor walked his dog past my house, his head tucked down to protect his face from the onslaught, perhaps looking at me crookedly for cutting my grass in the snow, and I shouted to him over the drone of the lawnmower and into the swirling snowflakes, "I am having SO MUCH FUN!"

And I was. It was an entirely true statement, one that gushed out of me and made me laugh. At one point (not too long ago in my mind), I was young and (maybe) even a little bit cool, and suddenly I'm 44 and inordinately excited about putting my yard to bed for the winter.

Oh, the simple things that bring joy! I'm probably right on the cusp of getting interested in bird-watching or some other middle-aged hobby. (Stamp-collecting? Pickelball? Who knows.)

I'd like to tell you that I reveled in the symmetrical lawnmower lines as I sipped hot tea after storing the lawnmower in the shed, but those lines quickly became invisible. That forecasted "dusting" resulted in four inches of snow that buried my final freshly-cut grass. But I knew. I knew those lines were there, that the yard was in order, that the leaves had been tamed, that our small parcel of land on this vast earth was perfectly poised to settle into its winter slumber.

And that was exactly what I needed that day.

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