March 28, 2020

Listening to the Grass Grow

Janine Pineo Photo

Janine Pineo Photo

• By John F. Chisholm •

My wife caught me yesterday, stretched out, face down on the fresh mown lawn. “What are you doing?”

I opened my eyes reluctantly, squinting upward into the warm  sunshine. My wife stood above me, arms akimbo, staring down with obvious concern for my sanity.

“Listening to the grass grow.”

“Honestly, John-”

I interrupted. I knew what was coming. “You should try it first,” I suggested.

“I haven’t time for such foolishness.” She began walking away.

“Strange. Aren’t you the woman who believes in the beneficial effects of meditation? Or was that only for academic situations?”

The sting was too much. Wendy turned. (I was treading dangerous ground. She’s very proud of her alma mater. Last I heard they didn’t graduate idiots.) “What are you saying?” A warning tone echoed in her voice.

I sat up. “Come on, honey. Stretch out beside me. Right here.” I patted the lawn. It’s the prettiest sort of day. We just served a six-month sentence for daring to believe in Maine.” I paused. “Now, at long last, we’re paroled by a weather panel of sixty degrees and soft southwesterly breezes. Isn’t it time you gave them a minute?”

She sat down reluctantly. “I have a lot to do. Andi will be here in half an hour. I don’t want to keep her waiting.”

“Relax. You have enough time. Stretch out. Just like this.” I demonstrated. “Now, if you want to hear anything, close your eyes.” I waited while she mimicked my posture. “Okay. What do you smell?”

“I thought I was listening!”

“You are. First, close your eyes. Second, inhale deeply. Third, listen with all your heart.”

“You listen with your ears!”

“You might want to listen with your heart, too.”

“Okay. Okay. I smell dirt.”

I laughed. “I smell fresh-mowed grass, dandelion greens and humus. The lilacs must be just beginning to open and what’s that? A hint of apple blossoms thrown in?”

“You really smell all that?”

“I do. Now listen. What do you hear?”

“Flies. My sweatshirt’s getting damp. Are we done?”

“Give it another minute.”

It took all of that. Probably more. “I hear robins,” my wife admitted at last.

“Yes, they have a nest in the fir hedge.”

“I hear swallows, too.”

“They’re catching those flies you were worried about earlier. Now put your ear right to the ground. What else?”

Her answer was ten minutes coming. “There’s a vibration,” Wendy marveled at last.

“Yes,” I agreed. “That’s our neighbor, Gray Mullen. He’s chopping hay today.”

“That’s a half mile away,” my wife muttered, amazed.

“You’ll have to listen harder than that if you want to hear the grass grow. Anything else?”

I waited a long time for her reply.

“I can hear my heart beat but nothing else.” She sat up, brushing grass clippings and bud scales from her shirt.

I sat up, too. “You have the nicest earring. You haven’t worn it in a long time.” I reached out and gently extracted a whirl-a-gig clinging to her hair. I showed it to her. “The maple trees out front have been making them, nonstop.”

She smiled, looking at it. Her voice was calm, even serene. “So what was this all about?”

I shrugged. It would never pay me to point out the changes in my wife’s demeanor. That would only start a fight. “It always pays to listen,” I noted instead.

“You’re crazy.” She stood, laughed and, leaning over, kissed me.

I laughed in return. “So you did hear it?”

“Hear what?”

I heard it.”


“Absolutely. If you try as hard as you can, paying attention to everything around you on exactly the right spring day, you really can hear the grass grow.”