Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dear Grass

Dear Grass,

You are not something that I give deep thought to on a daily basis.  Things that do occupy my mind everyday, for example, are the battles I choose as a parent or the twisting plot of an exciting book I am reading.  But I have come to realize that the notion of your being has been changing, for me, in varying stages of my life.  As ordinary and common as you are, I value your existence.

When I was little, maybe 5 or 6, I was very mindful of what my teacher told me.  I worshiped my teacher, and so everything she said was heeded.  She once said that we should be kind to nature, and to never hurt it unfairly to benefit our lives.  I took that to heart.  Way back then, when there was a lot more grass than buildings in the little village I grew up in Taiwan, I was mindful of the existence of grass.  I knew that grass was a living thing.  It can grow and it can die.  But one thing that I was not sure of was whether or not it can feel pain.  I knew I was a living thing, and if I got stepped on, I would hurt.  So I wondered if it hurt the grass when we stepped on it.  But grown-ups stepped on it all the time, and so did I when I was walking with them.  But somewhere deep inside my heart I somehow believed that stepping on it made it hurt, and we only didn't know it since it couldn't talk; it couldn't complain to us that we were causing it pain.  So whenever I could, I would walk only on dirt or paved paths instead of its neighboring grass to avoid inflicting pain on the poor little tufts of green beings.  It wasn't until much later that I learned about the intricate physiology and anatomy of nerves to be absolutely sure that only animals who possessed a nervous system could feel pain. 

Fast forward to young adulthood.  Living in the fast-paced city was a convenience as well as a necessity. But in an area inundated with buildings, skyscrapers, and streets after streets, there was very little grass to be seen.  At that time of my life, grass to me meant a special kind of luxury.  The kind that provides the opportunity for you to sit on a picnic blanket, enjoy some yummy food and wine, and listen to a musical concert on a bright sunny day or a starlit night.  Green, lush grass was the act of bringing spring and summer to existence.  Coupled with bright-colored flowers or large, shady trees, grass was the exuberance of life.

Now, having moved to the suburbs into a house that has grass in the front and backyards, grass has taken on a completely different meaning to me.  During our first two months living in this house, we watered the grass by the schedule the sprinkler company set for us: 20 minutes in each of 5 zones three times a week around sunset.  As soon as we received our first bi-monthly water bill, we turned off the automatic sprinkler system.  I believe that every single one of our neighbors did the exact same thing due to sticker shock.  Our neighborhood went from having abundant, dense, green grass to the sorry look it has now.  Parched, dry, and so near death that you can see the tracks made by the lawnmowers.  Green grass to me now means spending the extra HUNDREDS of dollars per water bill that we don't have in this atrocious economy; it is now an unaffordable luxury.  So since then, we manually set the sprinkler on for 15 minutes per zone only during days of high heat or long periods without rain.  We are only keeping our grass almost alive.  As long as we don't have the brownest lawn on our street, it is probably good enough.  Sad to say, grass in this period of my life has fallen to the depth of a financial burden.

I hope that grass will continue to change its meaning for me in the future.  When I am old, I want it to welcome me walking through it in my bare, wrinkled toes, whilst knowing for sure that I am not causing it pain.  I want to be able to smell freshly cut grass without having to first ingest Claritin as a part of my breakfast.  Above all, I want the responsibility of watering grass to be someone else' burden. 

But for now, on this night after a scorching, hot day, the little kindergartener-me again wonders if grass can feel...  And if it could talk, it would complain about how hot it is.  And as we prepare to end the day, I will hear every blade of parched, dry grass whisper to me, "Give me some water, you cheap homeowner!"  At which time I will turn to my Dear Husband and say, "Think we need to water the grass tonight?"



  1. That is a very interesting thought and funny enough that I had a conversation with an Indian friend of mine who is Jains. They definitely feel that all living things feels and that's why the monk would never walk with shoes on cuz they might acidentally kill some living thing while they take their steps. But with that water bill, I know how you feel. =) Nice enough that you even stop to think about it.

  2. I feel the same way.. At the end, my other thought always dominate my mind and speak louder: Hey, you and your kids are thirty too! Honestly, I hate the conflict. It makes me feel very guilty to see my lawn get grilled AND I have to be reminded it every day.