Saturday, April 05, 2008

Dragons, Tractors and Footnotes

I used to pretend I was a dragon.

This would probably be adorable if I’d done it as a child, and could be somewhat more disturbing to picture a graduate student in her mid-twenties trying to decide what color her scales would be.* But I lived in a one bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a cute building identical to the many others clustered around it. And Chienne required a morning walk before being confined in our 700 square foot living space for the day. So we would rise and bundle up - even the dog had a sweater to protect against the frigid temperatures (it was red with snowflakes on it) - and trudge through snow and slush and down icy sidewalks to the corner at the bottom of the hill. And as we moved back up toward our apartment, I would exhale and my breath would form a foggy cloud in front of me.

I would be a benevolent dragon, I decided, trying to distract myself from how numb my face felt and the baggie of poo I was carrying at my mittened hand. I would not use my fire-breathing powers unless absolutely necessary. And it would certainly be cool to fly.

Indulging in a bit of whimsy - or an excessive amount of it as the case may be - as one endures tedious tasks or manual labor has always been a skill of mine. I’m often bored and have developed ways to amuse myself. It’s why writing this blog is so appealing - it gives me a place to write all those random thoughts so that I feel just slightly productive in thinking them. So when I couldn’t nap for thoughts of the towering grass in my back yard, I huffed and puffed (not unlike a dragon!) and tugged on shoes and socks.

I exited my two-car garage, pushing the mower ahead of me after filling it with gas. Greeting Chienne at the picket fence that keeps her safely in her yard, I yanked the gate open - it settles in the mud - and shoved the mower through. Closing it safely behind me, I pushed the red button to prime the mower (or something - it says to do it on the little sticker so I do it) and pulled the cord, feeling satisfyingly powerful when the machine roared to life. I took a breath, winced a little, and moved off the patio and into the tall grass.

I smiled, positively gleeful, when the mower bumped along the ground by the fence, clipping the grass and weeds without a single stutter. Perhaps I could pretend I was a tractor, I mused, walking the perimeter of the yard. Moving across the patio again, I walked a second lap while trying to remember what color Katie the Tractor was in the children’s book I had.** I couldn’t remember, but continued to frown thoughtfully as I began my third lap, moving steadily inward from the fence and over dandelions and awful spiky weeds and wide blades of grass.

It was my first time mowing this season, I realized. I couldn’t count the experience two weeks ago when my parents had helped. I find I enjoy marking the passage of time during our long growing season by mowing. It’s fairly easy and takes time, but I feel productive by watching the overgrown mess transform into a neat lawn through my efforts. But having a patriarchal figure frown at those efforts before walking over and demanding use of the mower himself mars the experience. I like finding my own pace and deciding on my own patterns of mowing. My house sits very oddly on a strange plot of land. So I sometimes use circles and other times cut in long strips while I pace my property, sometimes pretending I’m a tractor.

Dad’s intentions are good, I thought. He loves me dearly and can’t help it if he sometimes thinks his only daughter is a bit slow. I lost my train of thought when the mower sputtered to a stop when I was ¾ of the way done and I tugged the machine back to my patio.

“I locked the door,” I told Chienne when the knob wouldn’t twist. She stared up at me, unimpressed, and poked her head through her dog door before withdrawing it to look at me again. “I’ll have to go around to the garage.”

I came back to the yard, smiled at the wagging tail on my brindled hound, and set the bright red plastic that contains my gallon of fuel on the ground. I laughed a little and shook my head as I noticed Dad’s writing on the top of the red plastic, just beside the spout. “Unleaded fuel,” he wrote neatly in black marker when I first moved in. Then, perhaps wondering if I would stare at the container in mute confusion, befuddled and unsure of what to do with this strange plastic thing that caught my attention because it was such a bright, pretty red color, he wrote next to it, “For lawnmower.” Because Dad’s all about helping me out.

I continued to smile when I started the mower again, remembering how it had required refueling when he used it two weeks ago.

“Press the red button,” I told him and raised my eyebrows when he refused. He yanked and yanked and yanked on the cord to no avail. Then I repeated my suggestion. He sighed at me, pushed the button while telling me it wouldn't work then blinking with surprise at my superior expression when his next tug resulted in a working mower.

“It does start easy,” he said loudly as he began to push his way along again. I rolled my eyes, called him an idiot and walked over to my mother. She wrapped her arm around me and let me cuddle into her. “I know, princess,” she said comfortingly when I said he never listened to me.

I finished the last triangle of overgrown plant matter and smiled with satisfaction. It was a perfect day for the project, I decided. Cloudy and cool outside, I felt pleasantly warm from the exercise rather than gross and sweaty. I can tell it’s early in the season because my hands were sore - wrapping my fingers around the black bar and feeling the vibrations travel through my palms and up my arms is still foreign. And the grass was mulched into vivid green clumps that cluttered the lawn.

“Done,” I announced to my dog, leaning down so she could kiss my chin. As I stood up and tugged the mower along behind me, I noticed my breath form a foggy cloud in the cool, early afternoon air. “Like a dragon,” I said happily and closed the gate behind me and telling Chienne I’d meet her inside.

* I originally thought green would be best, but I was only a dragon in the winter. The trees were bare so hiding within them as a green dragon wouldn’t make sense at all. After much deliberation, I decided I would be brown, but with an iridescent sparkle to my scales. That way it would take some work to initially notice me, but once someone did, they would be overwhelmed at how magical and pretty I was.

** It turns out her name was spelled Katy and she was red. Just in case you were curious.


PhysioProf said...

I originally read this in my blog reader, and didn't see the before and after pictures. Now that I've seen them, I have to commend your poetic license in the use of the term "towering".

Estrella said...

Hmmm ... I like the idea of the iridescent sparkle :) My secret wish has always been that a unicorn will visit me ... and we'll go soaring among the clouds ... because, in my dreams, unicorns can fly. :)

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