Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


Mow to Anger

exactly what does Mother Nature think she's doing?

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

As I write these words, I’m faced with a stark decision. I was hoping to have put off even thinking about it for another month or two, but the forces of nature have conspired against me, and now I am compelled to act. This early spring has forced many a Wisconsinite into the same situation – all of us facing the same burning question:

Should I mow my lawn this weekend? 

Now, under normal circumstances, my answer to this question would be a rock solid, “We’ll see what happens.” But this is no ordinary “to mow or not to mow” conundrum. No, this will be the first mowing of the season, and certain pressures accompany such momentous annual occasions. The entire neighborhood is watching. Who will be first? Who will be last? Who will de-thatch? It’s like a soap opera. A really boring soap opera. And the scenario is intensified due to the early thaw – the game is already afoot, and many don’t even know it. 

Like lush, hay fever-ridden dominoes, each neighbor has in turn mowed their lawn, starting at the corner and tumbling toward my house. Now it’s my turn. I can either maintain the chain ... or break it.

I, for one, have been caught off guard. The ominous groaning of lawn monsters mowers has been heard throughout the neighborhood, and now, whether I like it or not, I must do something about it. And I am unhappy. 

I was cautioned this would happen. Like a foreboding red sky on the sea’s horizon at morn, my wife had warned me, “The neighbors a few doors down mowed their lawn today. It’s coming.”

I shrugged it off. “Let it come,” I thought, “I care not.” 

But come it has. Like lush, hay fever-ridden dominoes, each neighbor has in turn mowed their lawn, starting at the corner and tumbling toward my house. Now it’s my turn. I can either maintain the chain ... or break it. If the neighbor on the other side mows their lawn first, all is lost. My yard will sit there, all shaggy and unsightly, an overgrown forest of embarrassment amid a plain of close cropped green.

My mower still sits in the back of the garage, hidden behind a labyrinth of bicycles, yard signs, garden tools, water hoses, piles of sidewalk chalk, balls, patio furniture, and an old Weber grill. I’d need spelunking gear just to get to it. And if I can actually reach/retrieve it, I have no idea if it will start, at least, not without a goodly amount of cord yanking. 

If the mower starts, I will mow. But the ordeal does not stop there. Mowing the lawn means cleaning the leaves out of the flower beds. Cleaning the leaves means tilling the garden. Tilling means planting stuff. And planting stuff means the discovery of horrifying, subterranean insects I will later describe as “like from a nightmare.”

As I said, there is tremendous pressure involved.

All of this leads me to believe that this year’s early thaw is a cleverly designed ploy by Mother Nature to seriously, seriously tick me off. She’s always doing stuff like this. 

This year, she tricked me into thinking, “Whew, I hardly had to shovel at all this winter,” and then she smacked me upside the head with a budding maple tree branch and laughed, “Ha ha! But now you have to mow your lawn, Mike Paulus! Have fun with that! Also, enjoy the seasonal allergies.”

I’ll just come out and say it. Mother Nature can be a real top shelf B-word, pardon my French. I swear, if I even think about lounging around on a Saturday morning, she makes the poor little blades of grass in my front yard grow a good three inches. Overnight. I can hear them screaming, “No, Mother Nature! Please don’t force us to stretch taller with your dark magicks, only to be slashed down by the handsome man’s whirling machine of blades!” 

Maybe I’m being overly dramatic. Maybe this isn’t some sort of supernatural conspiracy. Maybe the fact that I, a humble Wisconsin homeowner, must mow my lawn in early April is nothing more than your basic, everyday, run-of-the-mill harbinger of a forthcoming ecological apocalypse. We may never know. It’s not like the global science community has spent decades researching exactly how the entire planet’s climate change will affect my weekend plans. Right?

Either way, I’m faced with a stark decision. Wish me luck.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.