Women Who Mow
by Paul B. Hertneky
When I do yardwork, I mutter. I'm usually cursing the grass or the leaves as if they are enemies hiding in foxholes. "Take that... Get over here you rotten bastard... hey, where do you think you're going... you can run but you can't hide..." On the other hand, my heart sinks when I behead a daisy or a violet that couldn't get out of the way. I apologize. I try to go around the rest of its family. Sometimes I can't. So my muttering deepens.
Fortunately, my wife mows. Coming home to a lawn she has just mowed offers no satisfaction greater than the image of what I missed. I conjure it: the posture, the pace, the rhythm, the sweat, the flattening calves, the pivoting, the woman directing the roaring beast and killing vegetation all at the same time.
When I drive through the suburbs, I see plenty of women mowing. They wear headphones and listen to songs that were hits at a time when they never could have imagined wrapping their tender hands around such a mundane vibration. Some of them ride, which does nothing for me, unless they're riding a combine or a hay rake.
On a hot day, a mowing woman will stop for a drink of water, and any passing man will melt at the sight. Exhausting the tank, she stops in her tracks, uncoils her fingers from the handle, yanks off her cap and either reaches into her back pocket for a kerchief, or, if you're lucky, grabs the hem of her t-shirt to mop her forehead.
With each blade of grass freshly severed and bruised, the bouquet rises by the acre, dancing with the lethal sweetness of gasoline fumes. Even the worst, weediest lawns glisten with grooming, beg for bare feet, and reveal the color of envy, complementary to any shade of flesh. Across the flat expanse, up the gentle slope, around the muscular roots, the blanket settles in a sigh of silence as soon as she kills the engine.
Men have denied themselves this pleasure for too long. But I have fallen in love with women who mow. All my life, I had seen it as men's work, since my mother never mowed. Now, I think of what my father missed. I never saw dad pouring fabric softener, and I never saw mom tipping gas into a mower.
I ask women about mowing. Most say they=d rather mow than vacuum, or do any of the household chores. They like what men like: the verdant aroma, the trim tidiness. Some like the sweating. But one woman told me: I don't pump gas and I don't mow grass. That was before her divorce. Another woman snarled at the idea that it was men's work. She said, there is no men's work and women's work, only work that needs to be done.
With summer upon us again, growth knows no bounds, but it is brought under the whirling blades to please us. And nature serves in unexpected ways.
Causes Paul Hertneky Supports
Monadock Area Transitional Shelter
Monadnock Humane Society
The Harris Center for Outdoor Education