I haven't mowed the lawn for a long time. Our children, then grandchildren, stepped up to the task.
But when we bought our house 38 years ago, it was my job (my husband was allergic), and it took me nearly two hours to do it.
I always started at the top of the property and pushed the whirling, grinding mower toward the bottom where our yard ended in a short, steep hill. My hip always ached at that juncture, with trying to control the mower from slipping downward, bowing to gravity, and I came close to cutting off my foot more than once.
It was a large, sprawling yard then, with very few gardens yet. I used to do the job wearing a bikini to work on my tan; I was very young. Then, dripping with sweat, particles of flying grass in my hair, covered with mosquito bites, and breathless, I would disengage the motor, run down to the cove by the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge, and jump off the rocks into the cool water.
Baptized by the river, I was cleansed and refreshed. And there was that additional blessing of my mosquito bites soothed by the salt water of the Annisquam River that winds around much of our Gloucester island, connecting to the ocean at both ends.
Over these many years, the area of grass in our yard has shrunk dramatically. We have replaced much of the lawn with gardens, bushes, a fishpond, arbors, a swimming pool, and a few small structures.
As my husband and I were turning over and planting spring gardens last month, he asked, "Want to buy a lawn mower? We could get a small, inexpensive one. There's hardly any lawn left to mow."
I pondered his suggestion, remembering so well the scent of freshly cut grass swirling around me, how I once loved to scoop up clumps that the mower had left on the ground, and to press the soft, warm, glistening green stuff into my hands. I had felt so connected to the earth. How I missed that!
So we did. We stopped on the way home to fill the gas can and couldn't figure out how to get the cover off; you have to line up the prongs exactly, and then depress them at the same time, to get the gas either in or out. Not like the old days, when you just tipped and poured.
Our son lifted the mower from the back of the car and reassembled the handle, going in the right direction after I had it backward. My husband put in oil, and an additive to the gasoline, without which, the salesman warned us, the thing wouldn't function. Like everything, there were too many directions.
My husband started the motor for me and then went inside to close the windows on the side of the house where I began to mow (there is really only one side now, and a tiny pathway through another side garden). It was strange to wield the beast again myself.
At the outset, all that noise and power in my hands made me timid. But it was like riding a bike, as they say. I got right into it. It felt amazing. My parents used to say they preferred riding their bikes to driving, that it let them see things more closely.
I navigated around each bush and lily we'd planted. I saw buds on the phlox plants, which were filling in nicely. A baby bunny leapt into the air as I pushed too close to his warren in a forsythia thicket. Three little "Fourth of July" bushes we transplanted had grown together to form a triangle of pink, as we'd hoped.
When I had finished mowing, I felt a satisfying sense of tired.
Being so literally connected to the ground, so aware of its elements, was a reminder that we, and everything, will return to it.
Susan S. Emerson is a regular Times columnist.