In the previous post, we watched a video stating that lawns date back at least to the 1600s, when the aristocracy in Europe developed the first lawns. When they built castles, they removed the forests around the castles, so that the soldiers inside could have a clear line of sight as they watched for invaders. At the time, lawns were likely not the turf grass that we are used to, but instead were probably wildflowers.
In the American colonies, cattle ate the natural grass, and thus European grass was imported to feed hungry cattle. That means the turf grass on our lawns is not indigenous to America. It’s European.
Also for centuries in our country, lawns were for aristocracy, just as they were in Europe. Lawns were a status symbol of the wealthy because of the cost of maintenance. Most people couldn’t afford to devote space, time and money on caring for something that was only for looks.
That began to change in the 1870s due to two major inventions. The lawnmower, and sprinkler systems, attached to public water systems. Slowly more and more people could have what had only previously been accessible to the wealthy, a well-manicured lawn. It was around this time that a book titled The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds said, “Having a perfect lawn is part of what makes a model citizen.”
Is that true? Whether it is true or not, it sure seems a lot of people bought into that idea, and now 150 years later, people continue to buy into the idea that they need to have a perfect lawn. In fact, as we will see, having a perfect lawn has become more than just an idea that people could choose to pursue if they wanted to be a model citizen. Communities also began creating lawn care minimums that landowners are required to abide by, under law, and if they choose not to abide by those lawn care minimums, they can face legal trouble. So again I ask, is it true that having a perfect lawn is part of what makes a model citizen?
After World War 2, though, home lawns became part of the symbol of the American Dream. One video said that after the war, “many Americans found themselves in possession of and possessed by their lawns.” How about you? Are you in possession of a lawn? If so, does it also possess you?
That brings us to a theology of lawns.
The lawn at my house has slowly become more and more weedy over the years. In ten years of living there, I’ve not treated the lawn, except for one year putting down some sort of dry granule treatment in the front yard that was supposed to get rid of weeds, because the dandelions were really taking over. I think it helped a bit. I wish my entire lawn looked nicer, but it’s hard to know how much to invest in it. Our next door neighbors seem not to have hardly any weeds, and I don’t believe they do any treatment, either. What does it matter? Are weeds really bad? Are well-manicured lawns really good? What could the Bible have to say about this?
In the next post, we’ll begin looking at what God might have to say about lawns and lawn care.