Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Mark, the groundskeeper at the cemetery on Madden Road, says he’s been busy this week weed-whacking the grass around the monuments and headstones. He spends a long day doing that, then climbs aboard his riding mower as a rest period to mow the acreage in preparation for Memorial Day.

One fact that must be common for cemetery maintenance personnel, but which I’d never given a thought, is how the sod level grows upwards to an inch a year, so that monuments that were originally placed flat and level with the ground appear to sink, when instead it’s the grass that’s rising around them. No wonder those temples in Central America get buried so relatively quickly. Mark says about every five to seven years he has to pry up one side, pack sand underneath, then lift and pack the other side to level the monument with the surface once more. For clarification: Monuments are the flat stones with data carved on them that don’t protrude above the surface of the ground, while headstones are as pictured above.
I drove the Village people around the island in our van yesterday, and noted how many, very many, people on the island are mowing huge plots of grass on the island. I am amazed at the effort expended, and while it looks grand, all that tidy lawn, I know from mowing our own place years ago, that it takes a lot of time, equipment, gas, and noise to accomplish so great a task.

Whatever did we do before lawn mowers became ubiquitous? I recall one of my household chores as a lad was using a reel-style boy-powered lawn mower in Portland on our 50×100 lot. They were quiet, easy to maintain, and did a superior job if sharp and the grass wasn’t wet or grown more than an inch since last mowed. The professional grounds keepers still use reel mowers for smaller lawns, while the rest of us gave up quickly because of the “one inch” rule. Usually procrastination reared its ugly head, and the grass was too tall for those mowers. Now it’s a sit-down job, and considering the penchant for manicured lawns, that’s probably a good thing!

Happy Memorial Day! May you spend it reflecting on those who have gone before us, rather than on mowing your lawn.


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