The cliché of a perfectly manicured, weed-free suburban lawn has been mocked in many ways, but never so meaningfully, or so radically, as what’s being done by at least a handful of homeowners in Forest Park. To shun a clipped and hearty yard and risk admonishment from your neighbors in the name of Mother Earth sounds an awful lot like becoming a hippy. Trading your shiny red lawnmower for a package of wildflower seeds is enough to make people suspicious of what else you might be growing in that den of overgrown weeds.
It seems that since the 1950s when Americans sought the idyllic in the wake of war, neighbors have judged one another on the color of their lawn. As neighborhoods become more densely populated, we tend to our front yards with a fervor akin to parenting. Who doesn’t enjoy the lingering smell of freshly cut grass? Even the droning hum of a neighbor’s gas-powered lawnmower has a certain comfort to it. That sound tells us that all is well in suburbia. And the satisfaction of wiping your sweaty brow with a cold drink as you gaze at the lush piece of earth that grows under your care? You can’t beat it.
It’s OK. We’re lawn lovers, too. It doesn’t make us bad people.
But there is a level of blind stubbornness in insisting that every lawn, regardless of the climate, look alike. In southern portions of the country, particularly Arizona and Nevada where desert populations are booming, it’s not at all uncommon for homeowners to find their local government crimping hoses in the name of water conservation. Here, just a few miles from Lake Michigan, water is not in such short supply, but the world over is beginning to calculate where its next drink from the faucet will come from. Our lifestyles, our day-to-day decisions, do have an impact. Choosing to grow more sustainable grasses, flowers and plants in the front yard makes an awful lot of sense.
Kathy Caldwell, a homeowner on Ferdinand Avenue, abandoned her lawnmower years ago. She is just one of the residents mentioned in a front-page story this week who’s giving more consideration to the environment when it comes to landscaping. Caldwell comes from a family of farmers who never subscribed to the idea of soaking the land with chemicals to achieve perfection, she said. Without even realizing it, said Caldwell, she learned to appreciate nature’s offerings and resist the urge to throttle irregularities.
“What’s going on underneath the soil is more important than what’s going on above ground,” Caldwell told our reporter.
Perfection comes in many hues, and it’s a near certainty that “greener” thinking will shape our ideals. The planet is changing and we must change with it.