Letter for the grass (3)

15.05.20 / Worthing, UK

At last the grass in the park has been mown! It’s everything I hoped; the clear distinction between park and perimeter, tamed and wild. After longing for it to be cut, it gives a sense of time passing, of something significant happening - amongst the mundanity of everything else. With the smell of freshly cut grass and sunny weather I’m waiting for the onset of summer - and all the uncertainty that comes with it.

The signs that signalled the growth (or, if you prefer, the lack of maintenance) of the grass to walkers by have come off their sign posts. Just the wooden sticks remain, the middle of them significantly lighter than the rest, like a bad tan line. Their authority gone, they reveal themselves as another measure of time in the same daily walk in the same park. They become part of the landscape in their own way, part of the growing grass. Finding things like these and remembering them become highlights from my walk, observations to distinguish this one from yesterday’s and tomorrow’s, and to ground myself and my thoughts in the here and now.

One area I have neglected in my observations has been the children’s playground at the bottom of the park. With lockdown it’s been empty and therefore left, like the perimeter of the park, to grow freely and unrestrained. It feels completely different though, because rather than being a planned growth with purpose, its growth has come from absence. The grass is a consistent reminder of its lack of use, and of the time that has passed. It is pressing up against the fence encasing the area, poking through the holes, and makes for a stark difference between the grass on either side of the fence. Because that decidedly deserted area has been off limits, it evaded my observation, and its slow growth has taken me by surprise. Each day on the same walk I seem to notice something else.

Some changes are so gradual you hardly notice them. You can let them fall to the periphery, the perimeter of the park - you can observe them, make something of them. Other changes take you by surprise. The changes just outside your reach, off path from your daily walk.

The other day we stopped by my auntie’s house to deliver a card for her birthday, consequently walking by my old house. It was strange to see it; it had completely changed. Things taken away here, things added there. My brother noted that despite its changed appearance, he would still expect it to be the same on the inside. I imagined my room, carpet stains and all. I wondered if my dog remembered that we used to live here, I wondered if she had realised it had changed. I remembered the grass.

None of us really wanted to maintain it. The grass would grow incredibly long, that length where it tickles your legs, where you wonder if there are any bugs lurking at the bottom (or is that just me?). We didn’t want our grass that long. It was just a product of neglect, growth without purpose. It seems absurd comparing that grass to the fake grass we have now. I think the fake grass has frustrated me so much because it can’t really change. It’s consistent to a fault. But we have moved on from the grass in our old house. The grass that would grow so long, beyond what we intended, always slowly changing. Since my observation I can’t help but wonder about the grass in my old house. About what length it is now, and how it compares to the park. Is it being cut or growing freely? Is it neglected? Is it cared about? Is it ever observed?

Jenny Brown

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