Written By Hypocriticist

“For something people profess to like so much, grass is peculiarly hard for us to see.  Oh, you can see it well enough in a general sense, but how much do you really see when you look at a patch of grass? The color of green, of course, perhaps a transitory recording of a breeze: an abstraction. Grass to us is more ground than figure, a backdrop to more legible things in the landscape – trees, animals, buildings. Its less a subject in its own right than a context.”

Michael Pollan
The Omnivore’s Dilemma

My view of grass has changed.  I recently read about how grasses are a diverse and important food sources for a number of living beings. From a biological perspective, they provide the primary food source for a number of animals that we ourselves eat on a regular basis, thus comprising an indispensable link in the human food chain.  But that is not something you think about every day when you see grass.

The recent addition of a new expanse of grass in the public park outside my building in New York City has actually changed my view of grass.  It has brought the incredible nature of this little-noticed vegetation sharply to my notice. Maybe it seems more significant because it stands in such sharp contrast to the concrete cityscape that surrounds me. But I have been so mesmerized by it that it was Pollen’s quote about the supporting role that grass typically plays – as a vague context or mere backdrop for other, more important objects – that made me focus on the grass itself, for its own sake.

I grew up surrounded by grass in a rural area. I loved playing soccer on it, but I hated mowing it every weekend.  I slid in it and got grass stains on my pants from it; I ran over it and ripped out huge chunks of it with cleats; I sat on it and listened to coaches explain drills in our practices. In high school and later in college, we hung out in groups on it, playing Frisbee and hacky sack.

But I never actually cared about it until I moved to New York. That was when grass stopped existing in my life. I never missed it, not until I had to walk to Central Park just to see 500 people packed into a tiny meadow. I never thought for a moment that grass, something so fundamental to the rural world that I grew up in, would vanish almost entirely from my adult life. When I would return to my parent’s house on weekends, I would sit and look at the grass with longing.

Now that I have grass in my life again, I know why it is so important to the human spirit. Last night we brought our 11-month old niece out onto the grass for the first time in her life. At first, she was nervous and tried to crawl back to the stroller.  But after a few minutes, she was crawling around at top speed, smiling and laughing, climbing over her father and making friends with everyone in the park. It was really amazing.  It occurred to me that an expanse of grass, like an expanse of sand found at the beach, is a truly beautiful medium for relaxation and rejuvenation of the human spirit. It is a facilitator of peace and friendship, and love. Many a romance has blossomed in a grassy field; many good meals have been shared with loved ones.

Now I know that I will never view grass as a mere backdrop again.

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