I have been living in the woods, but these days the landscape is looking distinctly like a meadow.
Now that the five minutes of spring have passed through New England, midsummer has taken hold on sunny days, and as usual I am unprepared for the transition to temperatures warmer than 75 degrees. But the vegetation loves this time of year, the grass especially, and it has grown several inches ahead of my planning capabilities. Soon it will be a crisis.
But the only mower on the property is one that was built during the Great American Dust Bowl era, judging from what the neighbors tell me. I haven’t actually tested it, you understand; I admitted defeat as soon as I heard, “It’s not self-propelled and that’s just the first problem.”
Apparently, there is also some cockamamie process by which one engages the motor to urge it to life. It involves blowing or sucking on a narrow tube of some kind — and right there, I can tell you, death would await me. I figure when your lawnmower requires a catheter to fire up, it’s time to move on.
But moving on isn’t quite the simple process it would be if the lawn were mowed. These days, I feel the need of a thresher to create a broad pathway through the thick green grass, lest a brief walk into the yard should leave me with 37 ticks attached and 26 mosquito bites and swelling enough to require an E-pack. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I have spent many early summers on Cape Cod — which, granted, is Massachusetts, a state (in every sense of the word) into which no true Mainer would ever want to step — and those numbers are right on target for a quick jaunt around an overgrown cranberry bog.
So I’m trying to find a handyman or -woman somewhere between Gray and Freeport who can help tackle this thicket of a yard. Someone was going to come over last weekend to assess the job but I have heard nothing yet, so I am starting to turn my thoughts to Toro.
I actually don’t mind mowing, but my next-door neighbor who tries to flag me down before I hit the wall on a number of home-maintenance points has warned me off taking on the project of the yard. It’s true, boulders and large rocks are impediments to an easy mow, so perhaps I should just leave it to someone competent.
It’s not in my nature to admit defeat, though, and I have seen the usual irrational signs of trying to keep the landscape under control sneaking into my repertoire of leisure-time behaviors. The other morning as I was loading up the car to get everything to the office, I found myself stopping along the path to the house to crouch down and yank dandelions.
There were hundreds.
I could handle about 20.
The dandelions are crowding in everywhere right now, even in the beds of now-languishing daffodils and narcissus, where the hardy weed puts up a pretty good show, competition-wise, with the other yellow flowers. Dandelions are so bright, so sunny, so strong; it’s hard for me to maintain the conviction that they are troublemakers, even though I know they are not the preferred population of the manicured yard.
I have friends who eat them, and I’m not just talking cottontails here. I have human acquaintances who swear by the culinary delights of dandelion greens for salad. I confess I have not taken things that far yet, but there is always the chance that old cuisine borders can be breached.
For now, though, I am sticking to admiration from afar. To me the dandelion is the casual gardener’s dream come true, a plant that requires absolutely no caretaking with a flower that can be picked by any child looking to hold beauty in hand — without getting into trouble from the next-door neighbor.
And, of course, you can’t kill a dandelion, not really.
That’s the kind of garden that works for me.
And there’s this. Nothing looks quite so much like the overflowing of sunlight on the lawn as a dandelion does.
One morning this week, I came out the front door and noticed at the side of the porch a dandelion bloom bigger than a golf ball. I’m not speaking of its fuzz. This was the actual flower, with florets big as a snake’s tongue. It was fabulous.
Every day we hear about how the world is coming apart at the seams; it is comforting to me that one living thing — a commoner, really, that few people pay any attention to — appears to be doing just fine. It gives me hope of survival, reminds me that there is a whole natural order out there that is unfolding, more or less on schedule, untended by human hands.
They always say one person’s weed is another person’s wildflower. I appreciate knowing the whole world’s a garden and its beauty is something I can imagine and even celebrate. But creation takes someone else’s touch, and the generations are holding their own.
North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: