Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.
— Zen poem from the Zenrin Kushu
I’m no Buddhist, but I know enough of lawns to say the grass grows by itself even when I’m not sitting quietly. Take now, for example: I’m in a terrible mood, full of so much desire and April cruelty I could wash away the Four Noble Truths, and, almost as I mow, the new growth pushes against my chloroplasted shoes. Even as a child visiting Virginia, I gazed down picnic-perfect battlefields and guessed that before the last cannonballs burst and the last dying soldiers cried their mothers’ names into the air, the grass was already swarming back up the bloody hills, as it now goes about its green business with entrepreneurial zeal, cracking sidewalks and disheveling my brick patio. And when my daughter swings in our backyard, crying, “Watch me, Daddy! Look how high!” I look up from the mower as she launches into the leafy arms of the trees, the whole swing set heaving, then swoops back down again, her bare feet riffling over the blades, grass I scattered with my own two fists, and I know — sitting, standing, quiet or not — that as she grows there’s nothing I can do.