Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Man Who Mows The Lawn While Using a Cane

Not long after we moved to Niagara On The Lake, dear friends from Toronto mentioned to us that they had an acquaintance who knew our house and knew the previous owners. In a conversation with our friends, he mentioned how he had driven by and noticed a man moving the lawn while using a cane. I will confess, that would be me.

Before we moved, before my surgery and the lengthening of the my leg, I didn't mow lawns; we didn't have a lawn. We had a magnificent rock garden, a hill of trees, several beds of plants and a big deck. No lawn, no lawn mover. Our new house has even more astounding gardens but huge amounts of grass. So we have a mover (electric re-chargeable) and I mow the lawn. One of the reasons I mow the lawn is because Debi does so much else and besides, I should be able to mow a lawn right?

One the things you learn when you learn how to walk is that walking involves muscles, tendons, bone, joints, coordination and balance. In a way walking is physical, mental, conceptual and complex and no where is this more true than when it comes to maintaining one's balance. It is all about your brain-nerve interface sense of where you are at any moment in relation to the ground and what needs to be adjusted to stay upright. It is done faster than you can think and involves a steady series of adjustments, shifts and tweaking of direction, position and poise. So if you are on an even flat surface, staying upright and steady is relatively simple. If you are on an uneven surface, well not so much. And if you think about a lawn, despite its appearance from a distance, a lawn is some distance from the idea of flat or even. So on a flat surface, I can walk without a cane. On an uneven surface, it is more complicated.

So when I mow a lawn, I keep a cane handy. Yes, it is awkward, and ungainly and to a certain extent ludicrous but it works. It helps me maintain my balance while I mow and yes I know that people stare at me as they walk or drive by and I am sure some of them think, why is that guy mowing a lawn if he needs to use a cane to mow a lawn.

I had dinner with a couple of old friends the other night and one was talking about what life was like after a truly epic service at the CBC and after commenting on a number of aspects of his new life he observed with great delight that he found himself taking huge pleasure in the most ordinary of life's activities. I understood completely. After my surgery, after my stint in a rehab hospital, after learning to move about more confidently, one of the household tasks I took back was emptying the dishwasher. Filling up a dishwasher with dirty dishes and then taking out the clean ones and putting them away may sound close to mundane, boring and mindless but I found and find the process liberating and affirming.

For most of us, doing the ordinary necessary things of life is often truly a chore. But sometimes you learn that ordinary necessary things of life are as much a part of the moments that stitch together to form a life as are the adventures, ecstasies and thrills that we enjoy so deeply. You learn in mindfulness meditation that life is moments in sequence and the moment spent stacking a plate is as much a part of life as breathing. Being able to empty the dishwasher was and is a sign to me that my life is on track, that I can and do help maintain the web of connections that makes me human.

So too with mowing the lawn. It isn`t a `big`thing, but it is a thing that needs to be done and if I don`t do it, someone else has to. If you have a lawn it needs to be mowed. And the reality is that mowing a lawn is good for me. It forces my body to move in ways it may not want to. It forces my brain to pay attention to balance. It shows me things about moving and walking that I need to attend to.

Learning to walk again has taught me many things, learning to walk and mow a lawn is teaching me other things, some different, some just variations on a theme. A wise person once said you can find the essence of life in a drop of water, I am learning you can find the meaning of life in mowing a lawn and sometimes the meaning of life comes with a cane.  

1 comment:

  1. An old professor friend of mine liked to say that life is a sphere and no matter where on its surface you decide to bore, you can arrive at the centre if you do it right. So lawnmowing, sure. But my dad, who lost a leg later in his life and walked on crutches (because in his late 80s he felt a cane would 'age' him) used to like that he could shop in a grocery store by himself by leaning on the shopping cart like it was a kind of walker (which he would normally never use because walkers were for 'old people'.) So I thought maybe leaning on a lawnmover's handles would provide a stablizing effect. Mowing a lawn with a cane does sound awkward, which is all just to say, pictures?