My Green Empire

My Green Empire

It is clear to me now why the Soviet Union clings to its burdensome, ill-gotten empire in Eastern Europe — as well as its latest territory, Afghanistan. What is also coming into sharp focus is the Reagan Administration's preoccupation with "freedom" in Nicaragua, Grenada and farther-flung places, such as Angola.

You see, the other day while I was mowing the lawn, which is really an underdeveloped weedy parcel within a four-acre hay field, I noticed that the ''civilized" plot was progressively expanding. Unconsciously, with each two-week cutting, I had gradually pushed beyond the ever-expanding boundaries.

Deliberate plans were also in the works to replace perfectly nice wild plants with cultivated ones, including a hedgerow. It suddenly dawned on me that I had become what the Chinese are fond of calling a hegemonist.

Not only that, but I also came to the realization that my Eastern liberal education was all for naught. The student radical, circa 1970, had unquestionably developed into an imperial homeowner, an aggressive horticulturalist, as well as a subscriber to Better Homes and Gardens.

Before my epiphany amidst the amber waves of weeds, I had been developing a program to invest large amounts of lime, fertilizer and herbicides to transform my workmanlike patch into a radical vision of what a lawn should be. This two-year plan, which was known far and wide around the neighborhood as "The Great Leap Greensward," would eradicate diversity among the blades and foster a uniform emerald surface. Dissident dandelions and chicory were to be put on notice: the dictatorship of the landscaper must never be breached. The utopian lawn would absolutely tolerate no parasites. Running dogs — capitalist or otherwise — would be discouraged as well.

Until my moment of revelation, I had not seen my burgeoning green empire as sinister. My goal was merely to let bluegrass be bluegrass, and to fight for its freedom from the nefarious clutches of pokeweed and nettles. It was common knowledge that being soft on crabgrass was an ill-advised, pusillanimous policy. If you gave stinkweed an inch, it would take a dozen more. A homeowner either stood tall against creeping buttercup — or gave in. Likewise, as any duffer would tell you, appeasement of burdock leads inevitably to the end of fairways.

But perhaps I was wrong, or had taken matters too far. Don't weeds — and rabbits, bugs, moles and fellow travelers, too — have rights? What is so sacred about bluegrass, especially when propped up by costly chemical subsidies and battalions of motorized vehicles?

Indeed, what would be the logical extension of my pervasive green ideology? I could keep annexing new territory, swath by widening swath. And one day I would find myself marching around all four acres of what was once a hay field but had become a uniform, manicured lawn. At this advanced stage of landscaping, the mowing would approach infinity, would in practical terms be perpetual. Upon finishing the job in some remote niche of my lawn-dom, it would be time to start from the beginning again.

Such is the awful truth about domination of the grasses, steppe by agonizing steppe.