Up front, just let me inform you that I’m a liar.
With spring soon to crawl out from under the covers of winter, once again I will be one of those countless landscaping laborers populating Berks suburbia professing to love it.
In fact, I despise every microsecond expended growing grass, cutting grass, pruning, planting, yanking weeds, mulching, sweating, sneezing and swearing.
Now that my back and knees now crack like walnuts, my bile rises into my throat.
I sometimes wonder if all the other backyard dirt-splattered warriors really do have an affinity and affection for yard work. Or are they grass-stained hypocrites such as myself?
I suspect there are more of the latter.
We are not bad people for feeling this way. Nor are we lazy. Rather, we are condemned men. Much like Albert Camus’ Sisyphus, who was condemned by the gods to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back on its own weight.
The gods thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. Tell me about it. The grass keeps growing, the weeds keep sprouting, the shrubbery keeps getting out of control despite our valiant struggle to keep this eternal menace under control.
How did we all get caught up in this endless cycle of madness?
We all get sucked into the foreboding and ruthless hell of social expectations. Since all the neighbors have gussied-up lawns and flower beds and gardens and whatever, we must follow suit or lose face. And if you lose face, how do you shave?
So there we are, grouchier than Cinderella’s stepsisters, outside looking in. Granted, nice sunny spring days are OK to toil in the yard. But just how many are there of those? Our Berks springs have the bleak feel of a Russian winter.
Much of my landscaping ventures in the spring are spent shivering in the wind. I like my drinks chilled, not my blustery breezes.
And the sun can be a most elusive partner. The sun is like a wife with a not-so-discrete passion for shopping. It’s never around. So I’m sentenced to do most of the grit-and-grime work under slate-gray skies.
Nevertheless, fueled by the great expectations of my neighbors and rationalizing in the belief that genius truly must be perseverance in disguise, I will continue to attack my yard chores with the outward zeal of a battalion commander.
Indeed, I consider my gun-metal lawn mower to be an assault vehicle. When I look closely, I can see the blades of grass flinching in fright as I approach with my trusty killing machine.
Any day now the symphonic percussion of lawn mowers, weed whackers and chainsaws will return to the air waves and continue breaking the sound barrier until late autumn.
As the days drift like leaves from the March calendar, I’m already psyching myself up to plunge into yet another treacherous whirlpool of lockstep social behavior or risk being ostracized.
After all, the nail that sticks out gets hammered. And we suburbanites are honeycombed for survival in an environment where conformity is as prized as lush landscaping.