Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you had a great weekend.
It is funny now certain conversations can come up when I have something on my mind. As fall approaches I have been thinking about how much I enjoy not only the fall foliage in nature, but the bright colors in people’s garden this time of year. Not to mention the abundance of tomatoes and squash that neighbors and coworkers are happy to share with everyone. Truth is I love to see what people do with their yards and gardens almost as much as I love being out in nature.
So, it was very timely that this past Saturday morning my personal trainer brought up a fact most people in my hometown of Greeley, Colorado find both puzzling disturbing. The connection between Greeley lawns and the events of Sept.11th 2001.
In 1949 Sayyid Qutb, the man known as Osama’s brains and whose philosophy is the backbone of the Muslim Brotherhood, came to study in Greeley at what is now the University of Northern Colorado. While Qutb wrote about many traits of western culture that he observed during his time in Greeley, one of the things that made a large and lasting impression upon him was the incredible amount of time the people of Greeley seemed to spend tending to their lawns and gardens. To Qutb,the ritual of daily tending to one’s yard seemed very contrived and devoid of any spiritual meaning. A superficial and meaningless way to spend a person’s days. The spark of disgust ignited during Qutb’s time in Greeley, Colorado lit a fire that grew into radical Islam. In a bizarre Butterfly Effect sort of way, that is how lawn care in Greeley,Colorado lead to the events of September 11th, 2001 and a movement to wipe out the US and Western culture.
If I look objectively at Qutb’s protests against what he saw in 1949 Greeley, and remove any of his mental or philosophical distortions as best I can, I have to ask myself if there is any basis for any of his beliefs about Western culture. Is yard care superficial and devoid of any real meaning or purpose? Is it narcissistic to have a well maintained yard and home?
When it comes to gardening and yard care, I know why I appreciate a well-kept yard and garden. I do not think a well maintained yard is a necessity to life or living well. I do believe that within a proper context a well maintained property can add to the overall enjoyment of one’s time at home as long as there is not a sense of attachment, or pride along with Maintaining a beautiful yard.These are my reasons for admiring and enjoying well-kept yards and gardens.
- The Beauty and symmetry found in well-kept yards gives me a sense of order in a world that is chaotic. Looking at a beautiful yard is peaceful to me. Not as peaceful as a mountain hike, but a good second best. 🙂
- Working in the soil and with plants keeps me in touch with the earth even though I live in town.
- Many landscaping designs require an artistic eye and reinforce a sense of art and the higher ideals of human nature in everyday living.
- Pulling weeds is a stress reliever and brings my mind back to a place of calm.Gardening and lawn care can be a type of meditation.
- Our homes and yards of reflections of who we are. I like yards that say “welcome to my home” to visitors or passers-by in the neighborhood.. Similarly, as reflections of ourselves, well-kept yards reflect a sense of respect for ourselves and our neighbors.
- I am fascinated by people who know their plants and herbs and grow plants well enough to make their own teas and medicines. I am also impressed with people’s knowledge of plant choice and care. Someday I hope to learn more about these things.
From my point of view, gardens have the potential to enrich our lives by adding bring peace, joy, and contentment, to our days, increase the layman’s knowledge of plants, herbs, and food as well as making our neighborhoods more inviting.
That being said, I think there is some truth to what Qutb observed about our western culture. As a society we do have a tendency for flash, glamor and keeping up with the Jones. There are neighborhoods in every community where the landscape is a sign of prestige and wealth. Neighborhood covenants have become commonplace to ensure everyone keeps their property in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Everything from tree planting to the types of cars parked outside the home must be approved so that no neighbor has to be concerned with falling property values. In a land that proudly proclaims freedom of thought and self-expression there are large sections of any given town in the US where self-expression is limited and pressure to keep up appearances is intense.
As I pursue the goal of living a more Minimalist lifestyle I am finding that it is the motivation behind our actions is key to the choices we make. A beautiful home and yard can still be modest, free of excessive purchases, and a place where all people feel loved and welcomed when they walk through the door. There is no law that gives us an exact regulation to the size or condition of our homes to be committed to a life that is focused on people rather than money or objects. We are the ones who decide what is meaningful and useful in our lives and what is excessive. Pruning a rose-bush and watering our yard makes us neither superficial or spiritual. It is with the intent that we prune our rose-bush and water our lawn that reveals our character.
In 1949 my Swedish immigrant great-grandparents lived two blocks from the university in Greeley. By all accounts of those that knew them they were good people with warm, loving hearts. My great-grandfather, in particular, is said to have had a jovial disposition, a good sense of humor, and a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. He also loved to garden and work in his yard. It is quite possible that Yessid Qutb passed my great-grandparent’s home on various occasions during his days in Greeley. He may have even seen my great-grandfather contentedly working in the yard on occasion.
We see what we want to see in this world. We decide as we go through are day what we focus on in ourselves and in the world around us. It is Sunday afternoon. Time to prune a few roses on the side of my house and walk around the neighborhood. I am looking forward to the peace the ritual will bring. The leaves are beginning to fall and a few will blow in front of me. The roses, Black Eyed Susans, and Mums will be demanding to be admired. A few neighbors will be mowing their lawns in anticipation of Monday morning trash day. I will take it all in with a smile. In my modest, working class neighborhood I see many yards and many gardens. To me they speak of cultivating and respecting life. That is how I choose to see my neighborhood, my neighbors, and ultimately how I want my garden to grow.
As always, I would love to hear from you!
Thanks for stopping by the blog. 🙂
Until next time,
How interesting that the number 2 in the al Qaeda organization lived and formed his opinions in the US. I love playing in my gardens, and had to laugh when I read you find pulling weeds to be a stress reducer as I do as well. What I plant is for my enjoyment. The colors that are pleasing to the eye, and the foods I want to eat. That said, I do agree with you that some people landscape with only the thought to impress others with the result.
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Hi Lois! Yes, there are days when my week pulling can be rather aggressive ! I do not have a vegetable garden right now. I think that like you, I would find it very rewarding to grow what I want to eat. 🙂
Laura, I think you would enjoy growing a bit of food. One of our first plants we would make sure to have planted was strawberries. Being a perennial they are also a no fuss plant.
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I think I will! I love strawberries 🙂
I enjoyed reading through your article. It was interesting to see your take on lawns and gardens.
At our house we’ve chosen to take a minimalistic view of garden. I enjoy pulling weeds and DH mows, but not as often as is probably needed. Keeping up a beautiful garden feels like a lot of work to us at this stage of our life.
I think a neighbourhood with yards that are welcoming and that promote a sense of inclusiveness and community would be wonderful. Maybe one day our priorities will change and allow us to start making that change in our own community instead of viewing extra work as just keeping up appearances.
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Busy lives make it so hard to keep on yardwork. I would love to see landscape artists come up with designs, such as more xeriscape, that fit active families and seniors lifestyles. We have become very pigeon holed about what a ” nice yard” should look like with all the grass, trees, and shrubs.
It was good to hear from you! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂