Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Yard Redemption - What was Lost

Can a yard, a city lot in small town America no less, be redeemed? Is it right to speak of saving, delivering, restoring land? I'd like to explore those questions over the next few posts.

We could start with the sorry state of the modern American lawn, and my lawn in particular. This is perhaps as much a shortcoming of religion and lawn care. Instead, let's begin with what was lost. What was this land before it was commodified, parceled, monetized, plowed, graded, and covered with lawn grass?

Kim Alan Chapman quotes many early accounts of the prairies and savannas of southern Michigan in his Masters Thesis entitled "An Ecological Investigation of Native Grassland in Southern Lower Michigan" from Western Michigan University, 1984.

"The ordinary character of the "openings" is that of a majestic orchard of stately oaks, which is frequently varied by small prairies, grassy lawns, and clear lakes. These magnificent groves were, until within a few years, kept free from underbrush by the passage through them of annual fires, allowing successive growths of herbage to spring up luxuriantly, covering the surface with a profusion of wildflowers and verdure...

The variety so essential in a landscape, of woodland, glade and sheets of water, are here combined in a manner which seems the result of art, but which is not less truly inimitable. It is difficult to resist the impression that we are surveying an old abode of civilization and of tasteful husbandry. It resembles those exquisite pictures of park scenery, where the vision roams at will among the clumps of lofty oaks, and over glades, gemmed with flowers..." from Hubbard 1840.

Can a yard be redeemed?


MrBrownThumb said...

I'm not sure I understand when you ask if it can be redeemed.

Are you asking/saying that even if we convert our lawns/yards to native plantings they'll never quite be the same thing?

If so then I think I agree pretty much with it, but even the artifice of man made prairie is better than a boring lawn.

Pcrucifer said...

That is precisely the sort of thinking I wanted to spark. The answer is not an easy one. A yard of native plantings bordered by pavement and lawn cannot replace the unbroken landscape of what was lost. But I am also not saying that planting even part of the lawn to native wildflowers is a simply less boring. I think it is tremendously exciting and profound and spiritually healthy that we can restore, even in a small way, the most endangered ecosystem on the planet.

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