Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Lesson from the Yard of the Month

Yards are very brown right now where we live.  The ground is dry and the grass is burnt.  Signs along the road advise: Extreme Drought Conditions... Conserve Water.  Looking at the yards on our block, the effects of the dry, hot weather are obvious.  Unless you look at the house on the corner, that is.

The house on the corner has lush green grass, blooming flowers, and a sign in the front that proclaims "Yard of the Month" from a local nursery.  I have some rather harsh judgment against a nursery that would encourage using the amount of water necessary to keep plants healthy when everyone is being urged to conserve what resources we have.  It's hard for me not to make assumptions about the people who live in that house, and ultimately they wind up becoming symbolic of an irrational sense of entitlement in my mind.

Really, why do they think it's appropriate for them to waste a resource that we all must share just so their yard can be a little prettier than the yards around it?  OK, it's a lot prettier than the yards around it.  And it's not that I care about the appearance of someone's yard all that much... it's the principle of the thing.  Shouldn't they be fined somehow?  (I mean, over and above the hundreds of dollars they must be spending on their water bill.)

Then, through an interesting bit of synchronicity, I hear a little more about how water gets used in this country.  About 52 percent of fresh surface-water consumed (and about 96 percent of the saline-water we use) goes toward producing electricity.  42 percent of the ground water the U.S. consumes actually irrigates agricultural land.  Only 11 percent of the ground water our country uses goes toward public consumption, which includes water for drinking and bathing as well as washing cars and watering lawns.  In all likelihood, the amount of water the people at the end of block used on their lawn to keep it gorgeous is not going to break the proverbial bank.  They just make easy targets because I see their yard so often and it seems a less worthy recipient of the limited water supply than food-growers and power-producers.

Of course, they still have to pay the price on their water bill.  I'm no more inclined now than I was before to spend hundreds of dollars just to combat nature on the issue of a lush green carpet of grass.  It just doesn't matter that much to me.  It obviously does matter that much to the folks at the end of the block.  It matters enough that they are willing to spend a little (or a lot) more than other people in time, money, and labor.  It matters enough that they are willing to go against the standard practices of the community, potentially making targets of themselves for people like me who drive past and heap judgments and criticisms.  Sure, they may actually have an unwarranted sense of entitlement.  I really don't know.

What I do know is that there are some things that matter that much to me.  I don't always act like it.  Sometimes fear of how much I will have to sacrifice stands in my way.  Sometimes I wrestle with a fear of how other people will see me.  I actually want to be more like those people with the lush lawn.  I want to have the evidence of well-tended ideas and the lush fruits of creative effort, even when it involves doing something counter to what others are doing.  Even if it means placing myself in the firing line for some one else's criticism. 

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