Man and His Obsessions

Mankind has an obsession with order, so much so that we insist upon trying to impose our notion of order upon nature even while we know that time dooms each attempt we make, and we will need to try again, and again.  In our zealous dedication to this cause, we seem no different from the ants that scurry across the driveway bringing a constant stream of food to their anthills, or the hummingbirds feeding from Helen’s homemade nectar so that they can return to their nests and feed their young.

I suspect it was my own dedication to this ideal that brought me to our pastures yesterday for the purpose of mowing them.  The grass was high, but not overly so; but tall, spindly dandelions had sprung up throughout the pasture and cried out for mowing before they could reseed themselves.  Stark white daisies lined the fences in complimentary contrast to the dandelions’ rich yellow; grass flowers in hues of dun, red, pink, and crimson spread in patches scattered across the upper pasture, waving in the light breezes of a conflicted day.  Since the forecast said this was the last non-rainy day until at least mid-week, it seemed the best time to reset the pastures to their null state.

I began my first pass along the outer edge of the upper pasture, and soon wondered if I was doing the right thing.  The pasture’s underlying greens seemed as if they were a palette wielded by a master oil painter working en plein air.  But this palette was alive; it had assembled itself into a striking abstract painting without the aid of man, and I was in the midst of destroying it for no reason other than the sake of order.

Despite my feelings, I could not bring myself to stop.  I consoled myself with the fact that the grass was already high, and, if I waited four more days to mow, it might well require two separate passes to tame the field and lengthen the job from two hours to four.  And given Humptulips County’s weather, there were no assurances that my next attempt might even be made after the four days were up.  So I continued on despite my misgivings, knowing that if I did not take this opportunity to impose my own order, the palette would soon destroy itself by means of unchecked growth.  I reasoned that mowing now would give us our best opportunity to enjoy yet another iteration of the pastures’ spring beauty before the summer treats them to an evenly applied tan

I worried whether or not my logic was nothing more than an excuse to impose order.  Did  it make sense to do so?  I worried at this conundrum constantly, still doing so as the tractor tore through the last patch of crimson in the center of the field and it was finally tamed to human standards.

I sat there for several moments on the idling tractor looking over the results of my efforts.  I found a redemption of sorts in the long lines left by the large back wheels of the tractor as it spiraled inward from the fence line to the point where I’d begun, of necessity, to square off rows due to its turning radius and my consequent inability to react quickly enough to lengthen the spiral; in the serial knots of the ankh-topped shapes descending to the corner where I’d navigated the last right angle in already mown grass in order to mow the final side of the square which had prevailed so fleetingly in midfield.

At first, I found satisfaction in my replacement art, but soon realized I was simply reveling in the order I’d created.  I tried to resolve the conundrum for awhile, wondering whether I had acted out of free will or was just another worker bee persisting at a never-ending task.  The ants and the hummingbirds had reasons for their actions.  What was mine?

I was still worrying this over as I turned the tractor toward the opening in the fence which leads to our lower pasture.

About Gavin Stevens

Humptulips County is the wholly fictional on-line residence of Stephen Ellis, a would-be writer, an avid fan of William Faulkner and his Yoknapatawpha County, and a retired lawyer.
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