A Write of Passage

On a mild clear day in April I mowed my lawn for the first time this season. As I suspect it is for others, this is always a day I look forward to. An annual marker as profound as New Year’s Day, a birthday, or an anniversary. A major event signaling that winter has finally passed, mercifully releasing us from her frigid grasp.image

Now don’t get me wrong, mowing is a bit of a chore, especially with the three acres of grass I have to mow, and by season’s end I’ll be over it. But at this early moment in the spring, following another daylight-shortened, snowy Maine winter, I relish the task and the chance to circle the lawn while my mind wanders freely and the sun warms my face.

For me, mowing the lawn is always a bit of a trip down memory lane to seasons past. Returning are sights and smells, nearly forgotten, once buried beneath January’s blanket. I spy a red breasted robin bobbing along, monitoring my progress and stopping occasionally to unearth a tasty treat. Swallows and finches dart back and forth between the trees like excited shoppers scouting new locations for homes. And a wary band of turkeys watch my progress with interest from a nearby field, their necks swiveling like periscopes above the undergrowth.

Budding birches, maples, and oaks portend the coming of summer’s green. While carried upon a cool nearly imperceptible breeze are the scents of freshly cut grass, lake water, and the earthy decomposition of last year’s fallen leaves.

Years of country living have taught me to abandoned my fruitless attempts at preventing nature’s botanical interlopers from inhabiting my lawn. Inevitably, the coming months will signal the arrival of all manner of color and aromas. Wild strawberries will come creeping, filling the air with their sweet smell. My lawn will be spotted white with clumps of flowering clover, the lavender of violets, the orange and yellows of the Indian Paintbrush, and a bounty of dandelions. And as the infamous yellow blossoms turn, becoming no more than seed balls on a stem, I’ll mow through them amidst a blizzard of white fluff.

I’m constantly on the hunt for the occasional rogue thistle, too. A weed infamous for wreaking havoc on bare feet, in spite of those glorious purple blossoms. Ever vigilant, I’ll do battle, refusing to allow this spiny guy safe passage.

But there’s so much more to this seemingly mindless chore than simply manicuring blades of grass. There’s a symbolism to the act. This first mowing signals the coming of cookouts, family gatherings, and bocce. Leisurely afternoons spent lounging outside with a tall frosty, as clouds pass overhead and Joe Castiglione transports me down to Fenway Park. Evenings on the deck as brilliant crimson sunsets transform into night and fireflies appear above the field, flickering like wandering stars.

As I turn a corner, overlapping my previous row, it occurs to me how very similar tending the lawn is to the act of writing a novel. Editing the first draft is akin to cutting the grass. There may be thin spots in need of watering or a sprinkle of seed to thicken, or a few thistles to remove. Alternating shades of green reflect the directional pass of the blades like the continuous thread of a well told tale. Wild and unkempt at the start, becoming an unbroken expanse of something special once finished. Which reminds me, I’ve got another book to write.

Happy mowing!

About Bruce Robert Coffin

Bruce is a retired detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine's largest city. Bruce also spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, where he earned the Director's Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive. He is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mystery Series from HarperCollins. His short stories appear in a number of anthologies including The Best American Mystery Stories 2016. Bruce lives and writes in Maine.
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9 Responses to A Write of Passage

  1. Ann says:


    What a wonderful post! Oh to be able to move to Maine from oppressive Florida.

  2. León says:

    What a lovely word-picture! I could see and hear and smell it all. It also coincided nicely with the sound of the maintenance guy mowing the lawn behind my apartment, but your version transported me to a much nicer place. I’m looking forward to reading Among the Shadows, though I suspect it won’t be quite so lyrical.

  3. Barb Ross says:

    I love seasonal markers, and the progress they show across a year. However, I have to admit I am much more excited by the arrival of local strawberries than I am by the idea of lawn mowing!

  4. Yes you do have another book to write! So get to it!

  5. Scott Allen says:

    The botanical interlopers are strong in number and ferocity here in the Midwest! It has been in the 90’s for two weeks. My lawn is starting to look like a draft of a novel in regression…

    Looking forward to September for the arrival of 1) autumn and 2) a novel by (Ret.) Detective Coffin!

    P.S. Daughter Lydia won another writing award last month! Including her first cash prize!

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