A Yard Full of Gifts

A Yard Full of Gifts April 30, 2024

a pumpkin seedling in brown soil
image via Pixabay

I woke up to the sound of the lawnmower.

The sound of a lawnmower used to make me panic. The stalking neighbor who terrorized us got up to mow the lawn once or twice a week at eight o’clock in the morning. She would stim back and forth across the same spot over and over again for hours, and then she’d rake up every last blade of grass while cursing under her breath about what pigs her neighbors were. She had to get up every single stray blade of grass. She couldn’t abide grass clippings.

If we tried to mow our own lawn, she’d be out there screaming curses, and even assaulting and battering once or twice toward the end of our lives, because she couldn’t stand the thought of grass clippings blowing onto her lawn, but she couldn’t stand the thought of us using a rake to tidy up her side of the property line either.

The sound of a mower, ours or hers, meant something terrible was going to happen, every spring and summer for years. This is why it made me panic.

I am better now. I didn’t have a panic attack. I fell back asleep and woke again at nearly noon.

When I went out, I found that Jimmy the Mechanic had mowed most of the neighbor’s overgrown grass. He’d mowed ours as well, which irritated me. I like to let it grow up until the clover blooms. But he’d kept a careful wake around the garden, so nothing was disturbed that shouldn’t be. I just had to brush some grass clippings off the strawberry patch.

In 2020, I planted five strawberry plants, of which four survived; the neighbor tore one out of the ground and threw it away on a Sunday morning when she was especially manic. Since then, the plants have sent out runners and colonized half the garden bed. I have a four foot by six foot patch, and it was alive with white blossoms from one end to the other. I even have other strawberry plants beginning to creep into the vegetables’ side of the patch and onto the lawn. Strawberries propagate by sending out runners. I could have a whole yard of strawberries eventually, if I wanted. I’d had to dig out some of them like weeds just to make room for other plants.

In the vegetable side of the patch, I counted seven sunflower seedlings growing up robust and healthy. I had thought to transplant them into planters but now I’ve decided against it, in case any dried out. I’d just let them grow up among the peas and onions and get a surprise when they finally bloomed. Would they be lemon queens? Would they be Autumn beauties? Time will tell. They were a surprise gift for me from the birds who scattered the seed from last year’s flowers.

I thought of the neighbor cutting the head off my sunflower in 2020, just to be spiteful. I smiled a little too happily at the thought that she was gone.

There was also a volunteer seedling of some kind of squash growing near the peas: a pumpkin, if I’m not mistaken. I threw a pumpkin into the compost heap last year and I spread some old compost onto the garden a month ago. I’ll have a surprise gift when that grows up as well.

This is why the messy way of growing a garden is the best. Nature wants to feed you, if only you’ll let her. If you clean up your garden beds too carefully, you won’t get any seedlings for free. But if you throw cardboard over the dead plants after the first frost and leave it there until spring, the plants will turn back into soil, and the soil will go right back to making living things.

My compost heap had also given me gifts. The Russian kale at the edge of the compost had sprung up for the fifth year in a row. The strawberry plants I weeded and threw on the heap were still alive, happily growing and blossoming in the middle of decaying kitchen scraps. Four more sunflower seedlings and another winter squash were springing up free of charge, just because. There were gifts that I hadn’t earned everywhere. God is that generous, and he made the whole universe in His image.

I scooped up my grass clippings and put them in top of the compost, which was slow at beginning to heat up for the year. If you stack up your compost heap just right, with the proper balance of kitchen scraps, yard scraps and brown matter, it will get so warm it feels like it has a fever. Then all the nutrients you put into it will break down into perfect fertilizer in no time. Mine is still too thick with the cardboard chips from the guinea pig’s cage. It needed more green matter. It needed more grass clippings, but I didn’t have any.

I looked up at the menacing neighbor’s yard, about two-thirds mowed. Jimmy’s mower is a little old, and he sometimes has to stop in the middle of a job to give the mower a rest. A section of the yard was still overgrown with white-topped dandelions, and the rest was short grass topped with blobs of green grass clippings– the thing she hated most of all.

She would be humiliated to see her yard looking like this.

She’d be in a frenzy to see her yard looking like this.

For a minute I had the nightmare mental image of her rising out of her grave to rake the grass, but she stayed where she was. And then, after a moment more, I realized that I liked the idea of her posthumous humiliation.

No, I didn’t go onto her side of the yard to rake up the grass. I’m still a bit too cowardly to do something like that. I still panic when I think of her, after all.

I think I will later this week, though– after the morning’s rain, when Jimmy goes to finish the job, I’ll go with him and help. I’ll pull weeds and rake up the clippings for my compost heap, to save him some time.

I think I’m going to be happy this summer.

The world is such a beautiful place.




Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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