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Week 9: Lawns
This week I will explore Renees vote on the best British invention: the
lawn. Lawn history begins at least 900 years ago in Europe, Great
Britain and Northern France to be exact (Jabr). The climate there has
relatively mild winters and warm, moist summers, which supports
open, close-cut grasslands (Lowdown). The term lawn comes from
the Middle English word launde, which means a glade or opening in
the woods. Later, that word would come to refer to artificially
designed stretches of land that look like glades. One of the earliest
laws is the grasslands that were found around medieval castles. These
grasslands had no trees so that guards could have clear views of
anyone approaching the castle. This was especially important because
some visitors could be hostile. There were also village commons,
meadows or grasslands held in common so that villagers could graze
their livestock. The sheep and cows would keep the grass cut and
fertilized.
The Renaissance in the 16th century saw the first deliberately
cultivated lawns by the wealthy in France and England. These lawns
were made of chamomile, thyme, yarrow, self-heal, and other low
growing meadow and groundcover plants (Jabr). Sometimes they were
mixed with grasses. These lawns and pathways were used to walk and
socialize. In the 17th century is when the English began to keep their
lawns cut close to the ground (Lowdown). Sheep were grazed in many
of the land considered parks, but landowners started to rely on hired
men to care for the grass around their homes. This was before
lawnmowers, so men would have to scythe the grass and weeds by
hand. It was expensive to hire men to do this job, so a lawn was a mark
of status and wealth.
Eventually lawns made it to America. The early colonists planted edible
and medicinal plants; native grasses were not cooperative enough to
be maintained as a lawn and early colonists did not have the time or
the funds to care for a lawn (Jabr). Later, some wealthier people
wanted to imitate lawns found in their native home of England so
turfgrasses that were adaptable to Americas climate were imported
from Europe and Asia. Edwin Beard Budding, an English engineer, was
the man who invented the lawnmower in 1830. His design, at first
bulky, was redesigned by others to be sleeker and lighter, and it was
finally possible for people to own reasonably sized lawns without
having to hire workers or keep a flock of sheep.
My goal is to focus on Europe, but I would like to briefly mention the
establishment of lawns in America. The 1860s was an important time
for the establishment of American Lawns. A landscaper, Frederick Law

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Olmstead designed Riverside, a suburban community in Illinois. His
design included unbroken expanses of lawn in front of the houses
because no walls or fences were allowed. Influential landscape
designers were also publishing books encouraging homeowners to
believe that having a lawn was the respectable thing to do. Frank J.
Scott wrote, A smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the
most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban house.
Let your lawn be your homes velvet robe, and your flowers its not too
promiscuous decoration. Scott is usually credited with implanting the
American idea of the lawn as a symbol of community, that it is an
emerald carpet connecting the residences in a neighborhood
(Historic).
Lawns can benefit the environment: they take in carbon dioxide,
prevent soil erosion, and counteract the urban heat island effect
(cities made of metal and concrete hold more heat than rural areas)
(Jabr). Studies have even shown that green spaces reduce stress,
restore attention, elevate mood and make people feel better about life
in general. But there are also consequences that may overweigh the
positive effects of lawn. The traditional grass lawn deprives native
pollinators and honeybees of food and habitat, we use potentially
harmful chemicals to care for our lawns, and all the nations lawns
require about 200 gallons of potable water per person per day. Even
though lawns are so firmly rooted into our idea of the American Dream,
many people have begun to experiment with unconventional types of
lawns, letting a mix of native grasses grow, cutting down on the size of
their lawn, or getting rid of their lawn altogether.
Because my parents are homeowners in a neighborhood with a strict
Homeowners Association, I grew up in a house with a lawn. It was
wonderful to play in, but as the years went by, I began to realize how
difficult it is to keep a lawn going. Our house is a corner lot too, so we
have more property than other homes in the neighborhood. Year by
year, we have been steadily loosing the battle of keeping the yard full
of thick luscious, enviable. No matter what we do, there are places in
the yard that refuse to grow grass, so we have started to look for was
around the lawn. In the front we have cut down on the grass by
creating a large natural area that we mulched and planted flowering
bushes, annuals, and perennials. There is also a small garden with a
bench and a small water feature. The back yard we have given up on.
There are so many trees that the grass struggles to grow. Most of it is
now natural and a small portion of it we have given over to the moss
hoping it will spread and give the yard the green color usually reserved
for grass. We save a lot of money not having to water, reseed, aerate,
mow, and fertilize our whole property.

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We have slowly started to give up on the fight: man versus nature, a
battle that is fought in Hedgehog. Human nature, what makes us man,
against animal nature, our roots in nature. Tending to lawns and
believing that these unnatural expanses of turfgrass convey status and
wealth is unique to humans, just like language and consciousness.
Perhaps we believe that if we can control nature, we can control our
animal, or natural, instincts. Paloma is always talking about the fight.
She is fighting and building and trying to get somewhere. I dont think
this will make us happy. Like we talked about in class last week, we
cant keep saying, When I have a family and a dog and a house with a
white picket fence and a perfect green lawn, then I will be happy. We
will never be happy that way. We should be happy with what we have
at the moment, keep setting goals for ourselves and working towards
those goals, but also take time to appreciate the immediate moment,
like a haiku.
Another idea I found that connects lawns with themes in Hedgehog is
the elite. Lawns were popular because the elite made them so. It
shows wealth and status when you are able to spend the money, time,
and manpower to maintain an expanse of lawn. It becomes popular
because it is a status symbol, and then everyone has a lawn because
that is what you do. It is like when Manuela discovered that Ozu does
not have two of everything, that everything in his home is unique. We
may have two of everything because that is what we grew up knowing.
You buy matching sets, because that is how you are supposed to
decorate your house. I think this means, like we talked about last
week, that we should pay attention to the intention behind our actions.
If we have a lawn and a matching set of everything because that is
how we think the world works or because it shows status, puts us in
the elite category, then we should take some time to rethink how we
live our lives.
Works Cited
Jabr, Ferris. Outgrowing the Traditional Grass Lawn. Scientific America.
23 July 2013. Web. 22 March 2014.
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2013/07/29/outgrowing
-the-traditional-grass-lawn/
Lowdown on Lawn History. Planet Natural. 22 March 2014. Web.
http://www.planetnatural.com/organic-lawn-care-101/history/
7 Historic Leaders of America. Timber Press. 20 June 2013. Web. 22
March 2014. http://www.timberpress.com/blog/2013/06/7-historicleaders-of-american-garden-design/

Shanice,
It is interesting that you chose to do your research on friendship.
Friendship is, I think, something we generally take for granted. We just
accept the fact that as we go through life we will make friends, keep
them, loose them, but whatever the outcome, we will go through life
forming relationships with people we call friends. But how often do we
take the time to think about what friendship actually means? Your
research question was how do individuals develop a friendship but
reading through your post, I did not see where you answered this
question. What I got instead is the definition of friendship. Friendship
requires: a relationship that is grounded in a concern for the welfare of
the other; the persons in the relationship must respond with
appropriate emotions to the successes or failures of the other; the
persons in the relationship must genuinely care for and want the other
to succeed in life. I think more research is required to know how
friendships develop. Its a fascinating topic. As children, we make
friends so easily, but I think as we grow up, the process isnt as fluid. I
think that would be a good research topic too.
I dont know if its safe yet to say that Renee thinks of Ozu as a
romantic interest. It is tempting because she first felt inferior and
unable to continue with the relationship when she saw the picture of
Ozus wife. I dont know if she loves him. Personally, I think it is too
early for her to love him. Hasnt it only been about week between her
first visit to his home for dinner and the movie date they had on a
Sunday when she saw the picture and became discouraged? You say
there is a line between friendship and love, but I think they can exist at
the same time, and those may be the strongest relationships. Did you
come across different types of love in your research? There is love that
I feel for my family, my friends, and my significant other. Are they
considered the same kind of love, or are they different? They feel
different to me.
As for your question of whether or not we should consider Renee and
Paloma friends, based on your research, I think we could. Renee
obviously wants the best for Paloma. When Paloma says she will be a
concierge when she grows up, Renee replies, Youre going to be a
princess (281). Paloma played the role of best friend when she called
Renee out on her excuse that she was busy on Ozus birthday. Of
course, she could be doing it for Ozus benefit and not Renees, but I
think Paloma has become quite fond of Renee. She does want to be a
concierge when she grows up and therefore, in a way, wants to be just
like Renee.

Forrest,
I did my research on a specific invention (lawns), but I never would
have thought of researching how inventions affect culture, so good job
on that idea. I have to say, however, that I dont understand the first
aspect that can change a societys culture. The first one you mention is
a changing environment, and I dont understand your example. I see
that a person on the coast would dress differently than a person living
in the middle of the country, but how does that change culture. If a
group of people moved from the coast to the middle of the country I
can see that their culture would change. Do you mean that as you
move from one environment to another that you would see a change in
culture?
Change is an important concept for culture and even language.
Everyone is worried about preserving culture and language. They want
it to stay the same. Tradition is important to culture, but in my studies
in language I have learned that a language that is not changing, is not
acquiring new words and speakers, is a dead language. For languages
to survive, they need change, need people to introduce new words
drop old words, and start speaking old words in new ways. The same, I
think, applies to culture. For culture to survive, there must be change,
and inventions, important ones, introduce huge change for a culture
insuring it will survive.
As you said, Renee is metamorphosing. She is changing and that is
because her environment is changing. Ozu has come and changed the
environment of the whole building. I think it is safe to say that although
Renee is not dead, before Ozu appeared, she wasnt really living. Now
that Ozu has introduced himself and insisted on change, Renee is going
out, dressing up, socializing. She is coming out of her shell because
she is living. The lesson we should take from that is that we sometimes
we need to switch things up a bit. Try something new. Find some sort of
change or we will be more dead than alive.
Nadia