Spiritual Mulch

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef

Spring is upon us, and the warmer weather has many of us returning to tasks we last performed some months ago. We may find ourselves mowing the lawn, prepping the garden, pruning some bushes, setting out bird seed, or simply enjoying the ever-greening view.

As I called upon my pull-start push mower last weekend to do what it was designed to do, I guess I pulled a little too hard. The metal rod connecting the handle to the base of the mower simply broke off. I could no longer push the mower, even though I had succeeded in starting it. There it sat, idly purring like a kitten ready to play. “Bummer.” I thought. “How will this lawn get mowed?”

Then I remembered the old reel mower sitting in my garage. It was left over from when we had lived in the city, with a much smaller yard. Our current rural setting provides nearly an acre of mow-able grass. Dubiously I went in search of this humble little scissors-on-wheels: a reel mower, of course, consists of little more than two wheels in between which are rotating blades. No engine required—simply human strength.

I grabbed the long-neglected handle and pulled it out of the garage, not really assuming this was going to be that helpful. As I pushed it into the open space of the backyard, the area to be mowed suddenly expanded to larger dimensions. “This is useless,” I told myself. Yet as I pushed and the wheels turned, the blades spun swiftly and I noticed a few blades of grass flying in the air. “Hmmm… Maybe I need to lower it.” I adjusted the setting to the proper height, and pushed again. Suddenly many blades of grass were flying in the air. I pushed for a few yards and looked back, and saw a fairly clean line of mowed grass. “Wow! This might work,” I thought to myself. After mowing a couple of rows the length of the backyard, I realized two things: 1) this was going to take me much longer than before; and 2) pushing this reel mower was utterly delightful.

There was no roaring engine! I could hear the birds singing. I could hear my kids playing. I could listen to music or a podcast without having to turn the volume all the way up. And I could stop at any time to pick up sticks or move an object out of the way, without having to stop and restart an engine. I also noticed the yard more closely, as the mowing was now happening at a slower pace (the other mower had a self-propelled feature). And as it was Earth Day weekend, I also began to think about my yard in a different way—as a holy place—a place teeming with life: a beautiful sanctuary with growing trees, grass, dandelions, a few weeds, and soon, flowers and vegetables in the garden. Mowing in this way created no noise pollution, consumed no fossil fuels, and exhaled no carbon emissions.

I felt a newfound spiritual bliss in mowing my lawn. The words of Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, Touching the Earth, came to mind:

“I want each of my steps to contain the energy of solidity and freedom, bringing me back to the present moment. I vow that every one of my steps will help me to be deeply in touch with life and the wonders of life. I know that I am still alive; I still have two healthy feet, and to walk as a free person on this planet Earth is the true miracle. With each step, I shall touch the earth with gentleness, with mindfulness, with care.”

Mowing the lawn. A mundane, forgettable task. And yet, with new eyes born out of a broken machine, seen as something much more significant: a true miracle.


April 04, 2017 by Bryan Berghoef 1 Comment
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Karen Ingraham
Karen Ingraham
7 years ago

Why is this blog and website done in gray font!? It is hard to see. Maybe one thinks it looks modern? Just like Ariel? Modern equates to unreadable. Use those tricks in titles only please. Thank you. And thank you for the mulch!


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