Saturday, September 5, 2009

Is Our Ass Grass?

Gardent Rant has had a series of guest posts this August. Slow time for gardeners and garden writers I suppose. I like this addition, it's refreshing. One guest rant, by Shawna Coronado, was on food-production over grass production. It garnered a lot of comments as would be expected. I've never done this before, but I am dragging my comment over here as a post. Why not?

"I should know better than get into this fray, no doubt easy target for high rant comments.

The home lawn is the product of hundreds of years of aristocratic pastoral idealism emulated by the poor and the middle class. Its an abstraction, easily retired should some other symbolic landscape satisfy our dreams. Historically, "Western" culture has only one alternative, that's the peasant's landscape, a landscape of work and need, farm and potager, medicinal herbs and shit-house flowers.

It is clear to me why you would find resistance amongst ordinary people. Your not only knocking the symbol of their family progress, your asking them to now also build a landscape that symbolizes work and actually requires work. A lawn says no work, it says I've come along way, despite the work that goes into keeping it.

Today we are proposing "natural" landscapes and potagers as an alternative to lawns. Its an interesting dichotomy -almost like Gothic (Romantic) versus Classical. The verdancy of the Gothic versus the desert restraint of the Classical. Isn't it odd how the lawn has become the desert of the northern temperate climate?

And as Lawrence of Arabia said when asked why he liked the desert: "Its clean."

I'd like to add to that, its easily maintained, so much so that sheep could do it. Afterward I can sit on it, lay on it and make love on it. The pastoral ideal is very powerful.

If you are to truly overcome a nation of lawns, your solutions cannot be just words [and gardens]. You must present powerful images that speak of progress, of betterment to the ordinary citizen. Remember that a lawn is not just a water sucking chemical bath. Its much much more than that to a person. Its the cloak of a king, one so big it surrounds his castle."

There it is. I am so curious about our future. What new aesthetic will emerge from these challenges? Paul Shepard advises that we tend to think that our landscape abstractions shape the environment, but the truth is that the environment shapes our abstractions.

The city was built on the work of the plough. Without it, there would be no city. City thinking now portends a future where the work of the plough is physically and functionally merged with city. This may not be entirely new, but the proposed scale of it is. Is it a fantasy of the educated class? Is it a tangential symptom of a secular chiliasm?

The environment is shaping our response to it and our representation of it. The move to local/urban farming is as much about undermining huge corporate farms and their commodity factory orientation as it is about the environment. Where is the political revolution that attends this? Or is it as the old song goes, the revolution will not be televised -or downloaded.

Am I not privy to the goings on? Or is it all a faddish response to feeling out of control of one's well being? I gather that time will tell. In the mean time, I'm considering not growing vegetables next year and I intend to continue to support my regional farmer.

1 comment:

  1. I have also wondered if it is better to grow my own produce, or to support our local organic farm through a CSA. We have opted to grow our own because it is more fun for us. But that's not an option for everyone.

    Nor are lawn and food production the only options for a yard, of course. Most homeowners are aware of the option of growing flowers, but few are artists, and it takes a fat streak of visual creativity to make an aesthetic garden look good.

    Very few homeowners are willing to consider turning their yard into wildlife habitat, which is another option.


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