By hand

A mound of mulch being loaded into a wheelbarrow

Make mine mulch.

We ordered 5 yards of mulch. The mulch arrives in the bed of a dump truck. I wish it arrived in cube form. 5 cubes, 3 feet on a side stacked high in the drive way. I could build a mulch fort. The truck dumped the mulch onto our driveway and it formed a gently sloping pile, spilling into our yard and under our neighbor’s shrubs.

The pile looks sort of small at first. That is, until I start hauling wheelbarrow loads to the back yard. Over the course of a weekend I moved the pile of mulch from the driveway and distributed it in our back yard, around our garden beds, along the back fence, creating a sort of horseshoe shape on the back third of the yard. The shape echos our patio somewhat.

What was once boring , dry, weedy grass is now a beautiful dark brown garden bed of potential. The yard isn’t fundamentally different, there’s just mulch there now. But by demarcating this part of the yard as different from this part of the yard, I have defined space. What was once arbitrary is now deliberate and so much more satisfying.

It’s also less to mow. Less mowing is good.

As a walking cliche of a homeowner, I have invested thoroughly in Home Depot’s Ryobi line of electric tools, including a lawn mower. They all use the same battery pack. I have half a dozen chargers and twice that many batteries in rotation, all happily blinking away in the basement as they sip electrons over the wire.

Once you eliminate the internal combustion engine on a lawnmower and replace it with a tiny electric motor, it becomes a lightweight little tool that you can carry around with one hand by its convenient handle. I don’t have to keep a can of fuel around, nor do I need to own a special tool for changing spark plugs. I just pop in a batter and push the thing around the yard. It’s not super quiet, but it’s quiet enough I can listen to music on my headphones. This makes mowing…well not fun. But definitely less bad. Mowing the lawn has always felt like one of the stupidest things I could be doing with my time.  But not quite as stupid as commuting.

Back when I was living in Tacoma, I commuted to Seattle for my work. I grew to loathe that job. Many of my coworkers were computer science graduates with very strong opinions about the placement of underscores but could never ship anything. I called them, affectionately, turbo-nerds. To get to this disappointing job I took the train. The train ride takes a little over an hour, assuming no issues. There were often issues. There were never enough trains, so the cars were always crowded. The weak cellular wifi would be overloaded and useless about 30 minutes into the trip.

To get to the train I drove to a parking deck close to the Tacoma Dome. The lot next door had a bikini coffee stand. I discovered this by accident. Inadequate signage.

The parking deck was under perpetual repair. On any given day a third to half of the parking spaces could be roped off an inaccessible. This meant I had to either get to the  train very early to ensure a parking spot, or risk parking a half mile away.

I found myself standing on a train platform very early in the morning most days. A second train platform was under construction. I would stand and sip coffee and watch the work crew steadily build molds, weld rebar, drive supports into the ground for a retaining wall, and generally just make progress every day. Every day there was more train platform than the day before. Obvious, incremental progress. Yesterday there was no sidewalk, today there is some sidewalk. My own job seemed pointless in comparison.

This, in part, inspired me to get back into making “real” paintings with paint. I even painted a scene of this construction project.

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