But I’m not that neighbor


I have yet to figure out what my neighbor is doing with his lawn. And the reality is, that sentence says much more than you probably realize.

Since we’ve been a couple, Terry and I have tended to be the quiet neighbors. Friendly? Yes, I’d like to think we are. We wave and say hello. But we tend to keep to ourselves. It’s hard to describe because there really isn’t that much to draw upon. We work schedules that don’t readily match up with the Monday to Friday business week… have family that are hundreds of miles away… don’t have kids in the school system… I could go on, but it’s just the basic sort of stuff. For instance…

We both mean to head over, knock on your door and introduce ourselves. But for the same reasons there isn’t a knock on our door, we likely ended up busy with other things. In short, life happens.


What I am trying to say is that we keep to ourselves, notice what is happening and know our neighbors, but we aren’t sitting on our porch watching everything that happens while judging and being nosy and on and on. Weeks could literally pass before I’d notice whether or not the lights have been on each evening anywhere in or around the house next door.

And so it is that we arrive back at the lawn.

I’ve seen all of my neighbors out mowing. Like me being the likely person mowing ours, I can tell you who will usually be doing what yardwork where. Here’s the thing… I have a normal approach to how I mow my lawn… where I start and where I finish… an order. I have zero clue how my neighbors approach their yards. Except… well…

As I said to open this piece, I have yet to figure out what one neighbor is doing with his lawn. And the reason there is more to that statement is that what he does do is so amazing that I have noticed.

I’ve noticed him mowing his lawn when I am usually the very last person to notice anything going on in my neighborhood. I told you, if everything is business-as-usual, I’m a pretty boring guy. It’s the unusual that catches my eye.

He’s an older, retired gentleman. Nice enough, I suppose. We haven’t really chatted. But he waves to us and we wave to him. And… yeah…

First off, his lawn mower is an older ride on style. And he stores it in a detached building. Combine the two and that means a garage door being swung open, a loud engine roaring to life, and him taking off in a cloud of smoke. A quite literal, very big, usually trailing him for a few minutes as he begins his work, cloud of smoke.

The next thing is the directions he selects. There are rarely straight lines. Rarely the same lines. Where our properties meet he will mow from front to back, but that’s about the only one. And…

…that matters because the funny third thing is that he never finishes the yard. As in, never. You know how sometimes you might stop at some point during a project with about half of it finished? Maybe a quick lunch break? Maybe it started raining? Ok… not here. Picture this…

Around noon or so on a glorious day, we might wave toward each other while walking out to get our mail. A few minutes later, I’ll see him cross his lawn and open the door to that large shed. I’ll hear an engine start and see some smoke come out of the door, followed by him riding along on the mower.

He’ll cross along the front yard two or three times, in paths that don’t overlap, then turn for the back yard. He drives in a circle around one tree… any tree… makes a swooping and wavelike cross of the yard, then turns and brings the mower back into the shed. Door is closed and he’s done for the day.

Some days he’s out there for twenty minutes. Some days closer to an hour. Once, while working in the garden, I noticed him get moving and there was no way he was out for more than five minutes.

The areas he mows on one time are never the same as the ones he mows the next, with the order always differing.

And here’s the really strange part… over a few days, the entire lawn does seem to get mowed, though I have no clue how.

I have seen lawn service companies come in, perhaps once or twice a season, and they will mow his entire yard. But that service never comes more than once or twice a year. It’s usually him. Grass never gets ridiculously high or unmanageable. And yet, if you walked over toward his yard, my guess would be that more than two-thirds of the summer days you could clearly tell what spots had been mowed and what spots had not.

It’s chaos. A glorious, fun, and wonderful chaos. Makes… no… sense.

But, as I tried to explain, I’m not the type of neighbor that could possibly understand the whole story. I’m not watching him every day. I don’t check him out to see if there really is any method to his madness. I just happen to see that his yard usually has grass long enough that if you lived there you might say “I need to mow the lawn”… and that there always seems to be two or three clear passes where side to side or front to back or round and round a tree, the mowing was actually done.

It’s so quirky, I love it. It may not look pretty. It may often have us wondering about what the heck might be going on. But it shakes things up a bit. It makes me notice. And that is something I can appreciate.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com