The older meaning of lawn involved a lot less work, for it derived from the same root as land, referring to a moor, heath, or glade, where nature did the trimming. In eighteenth-century England, the grassy glades designed by Capability Brown and others as parks surrounding stately homes were kept trimmed by sheep, on occasion, and more often by groundskeepers swinging scythes. The invention of the lawn mower in the mid–nineteenth century enabled people of modest means to imitate the romantic parks by sowing their yards to grass. With help from the U.S. Golf Association and the manufacturers of herbicides, fertilizers, sprinkler systems, and gas-powered gear, the vision of a neatly clipped, uniform carpet of green, unblemished by dandelions or other “weeds,” has spread across the United States, from wet Boston, where it is merely costly in pollution and dollars and time, to parched Los Angeles, where it is utterly crazy.

Scott Russell Sanders