Punxsutawney Phil Has Nothing on My Lawn Mower

Two surefire signs that winter’s grip is slipping and spring is on final approach: The pitchers and catchers reported for spring training last Wednesday for the Mariners and I had to mow my lawn on Sunday.

While having nothing to do with the former, I must take some of the blame for the latter. Quite possibly the earliest I’ve ever broken out the lawn mower (we’re still a solid month away from the official first day of spring), it wasn’t due to any prowess at growing grass. Rather it was a combination of a very mild Pacific Northwest winter, some good time-release fertilizer, an opportunistic spate of sunshine and my inability to get one last good mowing in late last fall before the rain set in. So the lawn went dormant looking shagging and unkempt.

The recent spate of sunny weather woke the grass once more and it picked up where it left off, forcing the need to pull the mower out from under the ever-growing rubble of inline skates, Razor scooters, flat basketballs, Frisbees and other general garage detritus that accumulated over the past few months.

I’d love to take credit for my winterizing skills of draining the oil and gasoline from the mower before stowing it. But the reality is I did none of that, so it is a credit to the engineers of Toro that the old beast rumbled to life on just the second pull. No doubt my neighbors looked out their window at the crazy guy next door with the mower going in February. But I felt vindicated when later in the day, I could hear other mowers sputtering to life.

As a threat of implied punishment, I keep telling my 11-year-old that he will soon take on the task of lawn care. But the truth is I’m reluctant to give up the task. There is something inherently satisfying in turning a shaggy, disheveled looking lawn into a miniature Safeco Field using just a 15-inch wide mower. The smell of freshly cut grass and the green stains on my hands from emptying out the catcher bring back memories of youthful days when — though it was an assigned chore — cutting the lawn was a task I was always happy to do.

Lawn mowing can be at once both therapeutic and relaxing. There is no rush, yet there is always a very real and tangible end product to the task. Unlike working in the garden or toiling in flower beds, you can see your handiwork at the end of the day. Some years back, my wife discovered a new use for mowing the lawn. Being nine months and a day pregnant, she mowed “just to shake things up,” and it worked. She went into labor that night.

I mow — not to induce labor or create it — but because unlike any other activity around the house, it brings a sense of spring to the senses.