Still Mowing After All These Years

Marlene would have turned 80 last month. She and Ron, along with Joyce and Robert, co-founded Light Morning in 1974. Autumn makes me remember Marlene. She loved to squirrel away firewood at this time of year, and help us can up hundreds of quarts of tomatoes and applesauce, and take her beloved John Deere riding mower out for one last gathering of mown grass mulch for the garden.

Marlene died in 2018, shortly before her 78th birthday. Sixteen years ago she wrote a brave story for the earlier incarnation of this website. She called it “Healing Deep Within: Recovering From the Wounds of an Abusive Childhood.”

Next week we’ll share the first part of her three-part story. It’s not easy reading. But it’s a testament to Marlene’s courageous willingness to finally face her demons. And, with the essential help of two strong dreams, to begin to heal.

As a prelude to that intense story, though, here’s something she wrote at the same time, telling how one of her favorite activities as a 61-year-old comes from that same childhood that caused her so much trauma.

Marlene rides the Deere

I was born on a dairy farm in Sauk County, Wisconsin, about 30 miles NW of Madison, in 1940. Our farm had rolling hills, lots of hay fields to cut, and a very large yard to mow. As a kid in grade school, I started pushing the reel mower. It had a grass catcher attached to it and the clippings went to the chickens. There were no gasoline powered mowers back then. Our mower was “self-propelled” — by my muscles! I pushed it for weeks and months and years.

I also spent weeks and months and years on our tractor with a side rake, turning the cut hay field into beautiful rolls. Round after round, acre after acre. Oh, the lovely smell of fresh cut hay. Later, the tractor would follow those rows with a hay chopper and wagon behind. Again, the smell of fresh cut hay.

Then the chopped hay would be blown from the wagon into the barn or silo. The wonderful smell was still there, but so was the dust and the dirt. I remember the days being hot and humid.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Like the Energizer Bunny, I’m still going. Or should I say, “I’m still mowing!” Occasionally with a reel mower. Sometimes with a gasoline, self-propelled mower for trimming. Or walking behind the field mower for the overgrown hillsides and the l-o-n-g grass.

But most of my mowing hours these days are on the John Deere riding mower. It has catcher bags for the clippings, which go to mulch the garden. Light Morning has a very large yard, similar to back home on the farm. Round after round, bag after bag, year after year. Dirt and dust. Hot and humid.

And oh, the lovely smell of fresh cut grass. And the beauty of the yard with a fresh hair-cut. Thank you, Johnny!