You are an obsession
You’re my obsession
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.
*During the landscape design class, I coined this phrase: Plan is eighty percent of plant. Get it?