An American Obsession

What countries lead the world in

You are an obsession
You’re my obsession
                      –Animotion

I have a few. Obsessions, that is. Not regrets a la Mr. Sinatra. Obsessions. The world map in WordPress being one of them. I hope to fill it up one day. To score a visit from every country. 195 of them according to Google. I’m at 159. Eighty-two percent. When I was a kid in school, eighty-two percent was a B. And since I aspired to be a B/C student, a B was just fine with me. It might as well be an A. Now, at Eli’s school anyway, eighty-two is a C. I would have been OK with that, too, but not my parents. (Deepen the voice in your head): “You need to try harder!”

The number I got from WordPress is problematic. As I counted countries—yes, I counted, obsessions and all—I noticed that Puerto Rico is considered a country. I haven’t visited many countries. My neighbors of course, Mexico and Canada. And Peru, because, well, Incas. And a handful in Europe because I’m American, and that’s where Americans go. But that’s it. I visited Puerto Rico once for a week. My family took a beach vacation to a small island called Culebra, just off the coast. It seemed very much like a different country, but it’s not. No one stamped my passport when I got there.

If WordPress counts Puerto Rico as a country, maybe they make some other errors as well. I’ll have to go back and see if they count Trinidad separate from Tabago. But 158 countries isn’t bad. When I look at the map, I see that I’m missing a handful of countries ending in ‘stan’ and about half of Africa. I’ve learned to accept these gray spots on my otherwise pink map, but missing Greenland really pisses me off. A huge blank. HUGE. Greenland seems attainable… for somebody… but not for me.

You are an obsession, you’re my obsession… When you search for blogs to read, do you use tags? Sometimes, usually when I’ve just finished a book, and I’m still mourning the loss of those friendships I forged over the last three or four hundred pages, unprepared to start a new book, I’ll kill a night clicking my saved tags. My list sits static, I rarely add or delete a tag. They cover the topics that most interest me. I click on the tags one by one and look for a strong opening sentence. When I find that sentence, I read the post.

My Greenland tag is different. I wasn’t particularly interested in Greenland, I just wanted to find a blogger from Greenland. I figured when I find one, after I read their post and comment, they’ll click my name to see what makes me tick. Greenland will turn pink. I always check out the people who comment on my blog. Apparently, no one else does. I’ve been commenting on Greenlander’s posts for years. It never works. On the positive side, I’ve developed some genuine interest in Greenland. It’s a really cool place.

I did this today with Mongolia. My other big hole. It’s smack in the middle of Asia, messing up my map. Funny thing, I found a blog that I like. Well so far, a couple of posts anyway, hopefully more. The picture at the top of my post is stolen from that blog. It’s from a map that shows what every country leads the world in. Some are obvious: Indonesia/volcanoes. Some are funny: Bulgaria/living the American dream. Some are weird: USA/getting killed by lawnmowers.

And so I wonder: Why? Why does the United States have the most lawnmower fatalities? I came up with two possible reasons: a) we’re really stupid; or b) we spend way too much time and energy coiffing our absurdly large lawns creating far too many opportunities for injury and death (which is equally stupid). I’m not a lawn guy. Susan’s not a lawn gal. We’re not lawn people. First and foremost, we’re not mosquito people, and because our lawn borders a woodland swamp, mosquitos are what we’ve got. We spend our outdoor time on our screened porch. And what’s the point in having a lawn if you’re not going to use it.

I might cut that last sentence in half: What’s the point in having a lawn. About a year after we got married, Susan and I took a landscape design class*. We had just bought an urban-suburban house on the outer edge of Washington DC. The lawn, probably not much bigger than our great-room is now, was pathetic. Our house sat under a canopy of giant trees. The grass didn’t grow. A row of scrubby azaleas lined the front of the house. The entire back yard was a deck. That was the whole garden. Ugly and uninspired! Armed with our homemade landscape design, the final project for our class, we gardened the entire front lawn. Any grass that remained was simply to create “appealing lines” between the real plants.

Our current house has a normal suburban plot in a rural neighborhood. Plenty of room for a lawn, and we couldn’t care less. Just like in DC, we gardened the whole front of the house. Little strips of grass separating four massive perennial beds. The rest of the lawn sits idle. Uncared for, somewhat scrappy. Most of the back yard is covered with obstacles to mountain bike over. The only landscaping out back is the fire pit Eli dug last summer. It’s nice, but it looks mighty sad in the middle of all that mountain bike junk.

At some point, we need to clean up our yard. We don’t plan on staying in Gettysburg forever. If we put our house on the market now, the lawn will be a major drag on the sale price. It’s probably time to embrace my American heritage and turn my obsessions to my lawn. Treat it with respect. Fertilize. Use my lawn mower on a weekly basis. Mow it to the appropriate height. And try not to run myself over.

Other cool and informative maps.

*During the landscape design class, I coined this phrase: Plan is eighty percent of plant. Get it?

30 thoughts on “An American Obsession

  1. Those maps are interesting!

    You’re braver than I am. I don’t look at my reader stats, as I’m sure I would be disappointed and wonder why I bother. Better to stay in my insular bubble of “I’m writing for my own enjoyment.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Plan really IS exactly 80% of plant 🤣🤣
    I’ve noticed a trend as I walk my neighborhood… astroturf. More and more houses are using the stuff. It makes sense in a semi-arid climate. Some of it looks pretty good too.
    Maybe it would save you from becoming a lawnmower statistic😉😂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I worry that looking too much at my stats will become akin to facebook “likes” and the little addictive adrenaline hit you get with it. Except it will become a direct opinion on my writing and all the stupid things I share, which then leads to being too obsessed with what strangers think vs not caring and putting it out there. Sigh.
    Lawns are terrible for the environment, and if your map is true, your health as well. Build. a. pumptrack!

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    • “I worry that looking too much at my stats will become akin to facebook “likes” and the little addictive adrenaline hit you get with it. Except it will become a direct opinion on my writing and all the stupid things I share, which then leads to being too obsessed with what strangers think vs not caring and putting it out there.” Yes, this is *exactly* the problem I have. It’s been this way since day 1. I’ve just started taking a meditation class. Maybe I can set overcoming this problem as a meditation intention. I pretty much love everything I write. That should be enough, right?

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  4. Your obsession with the WP map has led to me to look at who has, or really, who hasn’t visited my blog. I never had country goals until you brought it up. That is funny you tag Greenland. I never noticed. You have to let us know if you ever get a Greenland visitor. I would cheer for you.
    I am a lawn person. I fertilize, I hate seeing weeds. I get frustrated with neighbors who don’t take care of their dandelions and let them blow all over my lawn. When my beagles passed I even hired a lawn company at $300 per year to come out and do their thing. My lawn was gorgeous. And then I got a lab and got rid of the lawn service because if the lab is just going to dig holes and redecorate it wasn’t worth it. I also have a house that is landscaped all the way around. In this past year, I got this horrible creeper weed that is like a moss that has taken over. Really makes me frustrated. I don’t use RoundUp – that is just asking for cancer. I found this vinegar treatment that works but doesn’t permanently terminate the weed. That is my current problem with my garden and has sat on my list of things to do, I was just hoping it was a little warmer before I sat outside and started digging all this crap up by hand. Anyway, good luck with your yard. I really liked your joke.

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    • I think you get 2 or 3x as much traffic as I do. Have you had a visitor from Greenland? As I wrote, I was thinking that I was probably being offensive to people with different gardening ideas from me. No offense intended. Just my usual ranting. We have so much trouble from poison ivy that we need to use roundup frequently. It pops up all over the yard, and if your not really careful, You’ll wind up weeding some with the other weeds. Susan gets P.I. constantly.

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      • Oh no, you didn’t offend me. It’s up to me to take care of the outdoor stuff here and when I had a gorgeous lawn, I was so pleased and it came without work from me. Our next door neighbors have always been young and starting out, and I have always wondered why they bought a house as they never mow, nor do they take care of their weeds, or anything outside. Their overflow always end up in my yard for me to take care of which drives me crazy. Maybe they have read the same statistics and have worried about death by lawnmower.
        I just checked. I have never had a visitor from Greenland, Iran, Afghanistan, and some countries in Africa in the Niger, Chad area. One that I am rooting for is Bolivia. I have all of South America except for Bolivia. If I ever get Greenland, I will definitely let you know. I am driven now to find a blog from Greenland (and Bolivia) to see if I can get a view!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh no! I’m spreading my immature obsession. Our next door neighbors are young and fairly obsessed with their lawn. The husband actually cuts the whole thing twice with crisscrossing/opposing tire tracks. Fortunately we have a hedge in the back so they can’t see our crap.

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  5. So curious what your front yard looks like! We are doing some landscaping in our backyard this year and as I get more into the planning, the more I’m drawn to the whole “natural yard” type thing with native plants and such. I want a pollinator-friendly yard. If I had a big enough lot, I’d want to plan for beehives down the road, but I don’t think that’s realistic.

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    • Well since they’re all perennials, right now it looks pretty awful. Once spring really gets going I love it. It’s like a dense meadow of a variety of blooming plants. Our 90 yo neighbor who moved away a few years back hated ti. She missed the order (and box woods) the previous owner had.

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      • Ugh, boxwoods. I like “orderly” landscaping too but I hate shrubs in yards. Our house has rosebushes (which aren’t bad) and some ugly shrubs in the front flowerbed from the previous owners, plus two disgusting Bradford pear trees. I would love to redo the whole front yard too but that’s expensive and time-consuming. Eventually though I’d love something like you describe.

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      • The way to do a garden like ours is to find a neighbor who has one. They will need to thin out the dense growth from year to year. If you drop the stuff in the ground it will grow and spread.

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  6. My oldest son and daughter-in-law spent their honeymoon in Culebra. They were supposed to go back last spring for their 10th anniversary, but of course, they didn’t. Now I must search my WordPress site for the map. I want to know what countries are gray for me too.

    Good for you for not being a lawn guy. Lawn care is one of the worst things for the planet. Every time I see a lawn care worker spraying who knows what on our manicured expanses, I feel sorry for them. For most of the stuff they use without protection, I would have to use a respirator and fume hood in the lab.

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    • Click on “countries” to enlarge the map and then at the top of the map it says “all time”. My standard line when someone comes by trying to sell me a lawn service is “you mean you want me to pay money to poison the environment?” REALLY short conversation.

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  7. Seans the yard guy in Our house! Thank goodness. Your comment about our big lawns causing more deaths is probably correct. We all are spoiled Americans! I also like the map, but with my new WP theme, I haven’t been able to find it for some reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our mowable area is so small that one of us will just knock it out when we happen to already be sweaty from a bike ride or a run. My wife loves gardening and she finds weeding meditative. I really only get involved when holes need to be dug.

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  8. I laughed my way through your whole post then through all the comments. I am not obsessed with which countries are missing from my map as only 12 are highlighted??? The stat that intrigues me shows which posts have gotten what number of hits. I have not, for the life of me, figured out why my Ghosting post has sooooo many more hits than anything else. Shrug.
    We had a beautiful yard a number of years ago until my husband decided that the products he was putting on the lawn were washing into our rivers and I worried about the dog. She’s seven now so I guess it was about six years ago that the wild violets started taking over our front yard. Funny how some lawns in our subdivision are heavily populated with violets and other have none. Touching yards are not affected. Odd.

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    • My post that oddly gets a lot of hits (all from outside search engines) is about ‘the hair wiz’ — an obscure as seen on TV product from the seventies used to cut your own hair, It usually gets 1 – 3 hits per day and when all the hair salons were closed last spring, 15 – 20 per day. And then people email me using my contact form asking where they can buy hair wiz blades. Very random and very funny.

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