You may have seen me strolling through Almont these days.

I get the feeling that I’m one of the few daily strollers, rain or shine, who’s not out and about strictly for their dogs’ sake. The people whose houses sit along my normal route probably regard my passing face now as a given element in their daily routines.

Step, step, step. This is really the only sort of traveling that I do now. A standardized rectangle of streets through the park, through the crossroads, past the old red church and through the subdivisions. The sky with its wintery graphite grey, often cool, sometimes rainy. My hometown is now my whole world for the time being.

I am probably one of the best-suited people to survive the social distancing required of these increasingly dark pandemic days of winter. I’m living with my retired parents at the moment and working from home, so I’m not in any financially tight situations. Most of the friends that I would crave a meet-up with are spread out across the state and country, so no incentive there to hang out in public spaces. Bars and nightlife aren’t generally my thing. So I’m just here, as I have been for most of the past nine months. My wild dreams haven’t ceased, of course. Just a couple of days ago I was researching how feasible it would be to ship my own vehicle overseas and drive around the former Soviet Union someday.

Instead of seeking out the new and exciting, I’m now forced to look more deeply at what normally passes for the mundane. And this is what has led me to begin gazing at people’s front lawns.

Maybe you’ve seen me write about lawns and grass before. They just aren’t a thing where I was living in tropical Vietnam, nor in many other places I’ve traveled. Having a nice green yard that wraps around your house is not such a given in this world, which in turn has bestowed me with something of a mute fascination for them since my return. I still remember visiting home from Vietnam once and noting how I’d missed the smell of fresh cut grass.

Some people take great pride in their lawns here. It’s one of those eternal symbols of the suburban American Dream, along with the house it surrounds. A proper lawn shows off the land you own, shows everyone that you’ve made it in life. All that land carpeted in lush, trim, uniform emerald. My parents perhaps cross the minimum threshold of being such lawn proprietors, with their yearly fertilization service which includes whatever that fancy crabgrass-blocking chemical is.

I see these lawns, now with smatterings of brown leaves tucked within the blades of grass. Their edges are neatly trimmed up against the crooked sidewalk. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s the “imperfect” lawns that I scrutinize more closely.

I’m talking about the yards where the tussocks of jagged crabgrass have been left to reach and spider out at their own free will. Or also those lawns that fade into bald exposed earth beneath the shadows of trees, with lowly patches of moss upholding a more velvety shade of green. Still others have their green carpets interrupted by dark tree roots that snake their way to the surface.

Many now are succumbing to that brownish appearance of late autumn, with all those many shades of yellow overlapping yellow and dry green. Yet others still retain the verdancy in their blades, with only the tips having been sapped of any living hue. The colors are there if you seek them out.

On some lawns lie undisturbed the grey lichen-y sticks discarded from above. Some contain masses of brown maple helicopters huddled amid the grass. Some have had their sod singed away by pine trees discarding their yellowed needles.

One begins to notice other details, too, when they stare at the ground for so long: for instance, that one pothole at the edge of that residential street where all the dead leaves collect, decompose, disintegrate into a recess of moist black muck and grim fibers. Or the cracks that fissure through the different driveway slabs. There’s much to spot.

It’s its own hushed world. I rarely encounter any other pedestrians when I’m out. Just me between the browning earth and the grey sky.

You might think this is all leading to some grand revelation, dear readers, some scrap about how the intricacies of the ground below our feet reflect the state of our world now or whatever. But here I fail this week. I had nothing else in my tank, so I just wrote about my strange new introverted hobby. Funny what our minds can turn to in certain situations.

A long winter’s shadow is upon us. Keep safe and keep awake.

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