I just came in from watering the lawn, a harrowing task in the California drought.

Is it a watering day? How much is enough vs too much? Will a neighbor water shame me?

When we considered moving into this house one of the first questions I asked was, why is this guy planting grass in the backyard on the heels of one of the driest summers on record? (see here).

His response? It’s drought tolerant grass. And he had envisioned a family with children moving in; children who would love to run and play on the grass.

Okay, point taken.

Cut to scene and there is a big patch of grass that is…brown. It appears to be spreading so, in the interests of not staring at a sea of dead grass all summer, I have taken matters into my own hands. The past two evenings have found me in the yard on hands and knees clearing away dead grass with a hand rake.

My neighbor has been “keeping me company”/charting my progress from his balcony next door, “You’re wasting your time, it’s dead.”

Me (mumbling profanity): Actually that’s not true. I grew up on a farm-

Him interrupting: ME TOO! I’M FROM WISCONSIN.

Me: Well then,ย as I was saying,ย this is how you keep grass alive. Every summer when I was a kid my dad would have me rake the dead grass off our lawnย so the new stuff could come through. Most of the times it worked, but you have to keep at it.

There was a lot more talk about Wisconsin and wearing coats and moving and not wearing coats and so on and so forth, but as he went inside he said, “Good luck with that grass, my wife’s calling me for dinner.”

Thirty minutes later I was done raking and in the middle ofย a spot water treatment when I heard a voice, “Hey, there’s green grass under there!” I turned off the nozzle and looked up, “Yeah you’re right, there is.” His eyes were round like saucers. “You know, when you were saying that stuff about the grass I thought you were just full of it, but there really IS green grass under there.”

Uh, thanks?

I bit my tongue and paused, “Well there’s no guarantee it will totally work but it’s better than doing nothing. I can’t just sit here and watch the grass die. I’m responsible for it, you know? And besides, I don’t like to give up on living things. It doesn’t seem right.”

We smiled at each other and I went back to watering hollering back over my shoulder, “The grass chronicles, to be continued.” I heard him laugh as I headed off across the lawn.

I’m inside now thinking about our interaction. Old stuff will choke out new growth if it’s not actively cleared away. Wow, that’s a stinger. And something I think I needed to hear. Also, don’t give up on living things – green or otherwise – even when things don’t look so good (or they’re driving you nuts from their balcony).

I think I’ll just leave it at that.