One day a few months ago we noticed that the family living in the corner lot on our street was cutting down trees on their property. No big deal, everyone cuts down trees around here. We do it, too. The guy who developed most of the homes on our block back in the late 70s had a penchant for planting oaks and maples right next to each other. Or maybe they planted themselves. In any case, 35 or so years later, those trees vie for sunlight and room to spread their roots and branches.
Carl, the craggily handsome, chain-smoking arborist, cuts down the less fit trees so that the others may thrive. (He quit smoking for a stretch last year and I discovered that his thick grey hair and mustache was actually vibrant blond. Then he picked up again, and he turned back to grey. But that's another story.)
The family on the corner lot cut down all of the trees. Every single one—30 or so, maybe more. The suddenness of the massacre got peoples' attention. Even the mailman almost ran into me as he craned his neck to stare at the lot while pulling out into the street. Next, a CAT logger appeared on the denuded grounds. The man who lives there drove the CAT around for a few evenings in a row, resulting in several neat stacks of logs piled up at the edge of the property. The logs disappeared, and an excavator replaced the logger.
We all waited and watched as the guy dug a wide, shallow pit across the lot. Oh great, my husband and I said to each other. He's going to put in a hideous 6-car garage. Or maybe they're planning an addition to their workaday cape? Perhaps a great room with cathedral ceilings and Palladian windows? A grand, Victorian-style solarium? Maybe an in-ground pool with a slate patio. Well, whatever he had in mind, it would be on display for all to see now that the trees were gone.
More waiting and watching. As I rounded the corner one day I almost drove off the road. I had to stop the car for a moment to make sure I'd seen it right. Yes, I had. The entire gouged-out spot had been seeded. With grass seed. The man had cut down his forest and built...a lawn.
A lawn? Why, why, why would he want more lawn? Lawns are the scourge of suburban life. To be a good neighbor, you're expected to water, feed, and add insecticide and herbicide to your lawn. And mow and mow and mow until you drop dead. More than half of the people here have tractor mowers. We don't. Nor do we perform most of the other lawn chores that we're supposed to do to be a good neighbor. Lawns—dare I say it out loud in this land of short green grass-worshippers—are stupid.
There, I said it. That was my one brave thing for the day.