Jewel Beth Davis and Jonathan Ottke

Jonathan Ottke
“Nothing Happened, Everything Happened”
Inspiration piece

The Grass War
By Jewel Beth Davis

Sarah sat on the grass where it bordered her garden. She threw down her trowel and cultivator. She had just spent more than two hours weeding and cultivating the soil. Sweat ran down between her breasts and soaked through her white cotton tank. It wasn’t hot but the weather was exceedingly humid. She was having trouble seeing as her eyes brimmed with perspiration. Her jeans and sneakers and her arms were dark brown from layers of organic soil. She’d remove her clothing in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. She wasn’t bringing them into the house until she shook them out. It was idiocy to have showered prior to gardening and she’d have to take another after planting her tomato plants.

Every year Sarah tried to weed out the grass that sprouted from the grass seeds and trimmings blown into her garden by the mower. And every year, there was more grass growing in a tangled mixture with her flowers and herbs. She tried repeatedly to pull the grass out by the roots. Instead, the grass broke off just above the soil line and she ended up pulling out plants she’d wanted to keep. She wanted every single sliver of intrusive, unwanted growth removed from her two garden plots, one on either side of her porch stairs. The only success she’d achieved was thinning out the spearmint and the lilies of the valley that spread rampantly throughout her 3 by 7 foot plot to the right of the stairs, as well as the catnip and oregano to the left of the stairs in the 2 by 3 foot section. She replanted the lemon thyme that she’d mistakenly ripped up with two strands of grass and chanted a prayer to the herb to support its transplantation and re-rooting.

“I’m so frustrated. I go through the same thing every year. And every year, there’s more grass growing in my garden.”

Her neighbor and sometime boyfriend, Ben, sat on her porch steps watching all of Sarah’s efforts with great ease. “There’s nothing wrong with your garden or the grass. It’s just a matter of perspective.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sarah’s forehead and brow creased. She was in no mood for a philosophy lecture or self-improvement advice. She was over-heated, sweaty, soiled, and her skin itched from working in the garden.

“I’m just saying that it’s the way you’re looking at the grass and the garden that’s getting in your way.” Ben stood and moved to the edge of the garden. He gestured to the lawn that was full and healthy. It was Kelly green in hue. He pointed to the grass. “Is it okay with you that the grass grows here?”

“Of course,” Sarah said. “It’s the lawn.”

Ben pointed to the grass nearer the garden plot. “What about here? Is that okay?”

“Yes, it’s still part of the lawn.”

He stooped down and touched his fingers to the grass about an inch from the edge of the garden. “And here?”


Ben moved his hand to the soil just inside the garden’s edge, an inch from where his hand had last touched down. “What about here?”

Sarah bent over, raised the watering can above her head, and poured the entire can over herself. “Ahhh, that’s better.”

Well?” Ben said.

Sarah shook the droplets of water from her body like a dog. She lowered the can and set it by the stairs. “No. Absolutely not.”

“So, you’re telling me, that you expect the grass to grow like a frenzy all the way up to where the soil begins and then stop and go no farther. How’d you feel if your vegetables, herbs and flowers spread all over the lawn?”

“Would hate that.”

“Guess my point is that gardens do what gardens do. They always need weeding every spring before you can start to plant unless you use that black plastic mulch to suffocate it. It’s part of the process. So why don’t you just change your perspective and enjoy the whole process?”

“I don’t see you out there, breaking your back in your yard, pulling weeds and planting flowers.”

“That’s right. I choose not to have a garden. But if I did, I wouldn’t whine and moan about one of the necessary steps to accomplish my goal.”

“Hogwash,” Sarah said. She marched into her house without another word, slamming the door. Ben’s lips crooked up into a slight smile. This was a hallmark of their relationship.

A week later, on her way to her car, Sarah stopped to appraise her garden which was growing enthusiastically. She was grateful that she’d completed all the preparations that had led up to this moment and was filled with a sense of satisfaction. A few stalks of grass intermingled with the chives and miniature strawberries. She didn’t love their being there but she had to admit, she didn’t loathe them as she had previously. Nothing had really changed but somehow, everything had.

Maybe she’d ask Ben to dinner some time this week.


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