ON MISSING WINTER

DSCF7251                                                           ON MISSING WINTER

Steve Dresselhaus

The winter of 2013-14 is now over – finally.  The  discredited prophets of man made global warming are back  hiding in the caves and grottos of academia  dreaming up their next  computer generated  end-is-nigh sermon series with which to frighten,  fool,  bilk  and tax the masses.*    Spring, real spring, not just the calendar spring is finally here.  The shattered  records for cold temperatures, amounts of snow and duration of the cold are now recorded in the history books, hopefully never to repeated.     Coats remain hung in the closet, boots are dry, the snow blower is put away.  Warm sunshine, green grass, budding flowers, trees sprouting new leaves; ah life is so good.  But is it?  Now that it is warm and sunny outside,  the American dream,  or should I say the American nightmare is staring me down, threatening my happiness and I  no longer have any excuse to ignore it.  I gotta take care of the house.  I have to start fixing all the things that winter  broke but deceptively  kept hidden from sight under  its snowy cloak of invisibility.  I sure miss the snow.

In that nano second, at that precise  but immeasurable moment when the last flake of snow goes from white to wet,  dandelions, in some kind of pre-pasteurian spontaneous generation  of life magically erupt fully grown all over my yard.   Chemical companies which produce lawn care products have cleverly indoctrinated us into believing  those cute little plants,  which in a few days will have pretty yellow flowers on them should be considered  evil, a plague, a nuisance needing to be eradicated.  Dandelions are to the American lawn what Hirohito, Hitler and Hussein were to our national security.    Just like Hallmark, which has managed to create a marketable $4.75 card for virtually every category of people, occupation and event,  lawn care companies have successfully marketed  upon us a view of what the  American lawn should look like and which to attain and maintain requires an addictive dependency on their products.   Like a Washington DC politician’s addiction to crack and coke, we suburbanites are chemically dependent on lawn care products.   What will it take to reeducate America’s  suburban middle class into accepting  dandelions as  pretty and  desirable, something  to be nurtured and appreciated and for which we should be grateful?

As my yard thaws,  becoming  the northern extension  of the Okefenokee, it unfreezes into a soft, wet muddy  mess that invites skunks to come out and root and dig for grubs making my lawn look like the surface of the moon.   After a long winter’s fast,  grubs have already begun feasting on the roots  of my grass turning my lawn brown and as splotchy as a woman’s face in a commercial for age spot cream.  Oh yes, and let’s not forget the ash tree.   During the winter it’s branches, murdered by emerald  ash bore larvae,  looked like every other tree branch, brown, brittle and leafless.  Now that spring is here all the other trees in my neighbor’s yards have a furry hint of green popping out but my ash tree remains, brown, brittle and leafless.  I can’t pretend the tree  is not there this year like I did last year and the year before.  Broken branches keep falling to my yard littering it like confetti in a New York parade.    The ash tree’s remains  have  gotta go, along with $600 to make it happen.

A quirky American trait is that we like to dichotomize everything.  Like a well coiffured  TV preacher, not a sprig of grass can be out of place in our lawns.    Our lawns must be manicured to perfection with nothing to disrupt  the monochromatic green.   Like a nose pimple on prom night, any imperfection in the lawn, tiny though it be, screams for unwanted attention.   We like order, perfection, sequence and separation.   We are a nation of OCDers whether we admit it or not.  Two follows one and always precedes  three.  A, B, and C are always in that order.  Who made up that rule and why?  Chinese, Thai, Mexican, and Italian  foods are all delightful bits and small pieces of this mixed with that and drowned in some tasty sauce.  Our American food, on the other hand, is cooked as separate  individual units, and then compartmentalized  and served  in conditions not unlike  those  of the Ebola isolation wards at the CDC.   Cafeteria food trays always have dividers so that our foods don’t touch each other.  There must be no contact between peas and meat.   Potatoes must not intrude on the carrots and the salad must be in a separate bowl all together.  Panic ensues if the mashed potato dam breaks prematurely  flooding the Jell-O salad with gravy.

Nowhere does our separation fetish appear more blatantly than in our sports.   American football is a dream come true for people liking rules, order and dichotomy – 100 yards, 50 yards, 10 yards, four downs,  quarters, halves, off-sides ,  time limits to kicking the ball,  extra points, measuring chains,  touchbacks, holding calls, no head butts, no roughing the kicker, no taunting, no late hits, timed and counted time outs.  Even the  cheerleaders get into the dichotomy act by wearing uniforms with two distinct parts,  the upper  reductionist part and the lower reductionist part, separated from each other  by as much of nothing as possible.   Football is a game designed by a committee of  Obamacare bureaucrats.

Our lawns, like our football, and like our food reveal our  national  obsession with OCD.  Grass must be kept at least  half an inch from all hard surfaces such as driveways or sidewalks.  The green lawn must end where the flower garden starts and preferably be separated by some kind of divider, be it plastic, stone or old railroad ties.    Brown spots  in the grass are like a great big red, Hester Prynne  “A”  sewn to the front of your shirt, a  sign of shame,  embarrassment and infidelity to the American dream.    What all this means is there is a never ending battle between  Joe Home Owner  and nature.   Nature is our tireless enemy committed to destroying  us by ruining our lawns.    The average American homeowner now looks at the Grand Canyon and thinks, “Dude, God forgot to put a downspout in the right place.” Or “ the timber line along the western  slope of the Grand Tetons isn’t even.”  Or, “ like bummer man, that  white sand beach in the Caribbean  bay  is curved and needs to be straightened .”   Our OCD  with lawn care has turned us against nature.  Just as a woman will pluck out her eyebrows and then paint fake ones above her eyes, a lawn of artificial turf, immutable, perfect  and eternal  is becoming an item to be desired.

Am I glad winter is finally over?  Yes, I think so,  but I’m already looking forward to fall when yard work and the nightmare of maintaining the American dream can be laid to rest under a delightful blanket of snow  for another restful  four or five months.   Oh, autumnal equinox, oh winter solstice, wherefore art thou?

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*Serious note:  While I am a skeptic, bordering on total denial of man made global warming,  I do fear the overall damage from the use of fossil fuels. The degradation of the environment caused by drilling, mining, transporting,  making energy portable, habitat loss and habitat pollution  are all reasons to rapidly seek other forms of  clean, portable  energy.    However, the biggest  environmental disaster challenging the world today is unrepentant  materialism which causes us to accumulate more stuff than  we need, whether it be stored in our house, garage, rented storage units or around our waists.

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