One of the seasonal chores I enjoy is cutting the grass. The pleasures of the task are the same as those of washing the car or doing dishes: You start with a mess and presto, order and neatness.
Besides, all three are normally solitary occupations that allow the added luxury of time to think. I believe I am not alone in doing my most productive excogitation from behind a Lawn Boy, a chamois, or a tea towel. It's a good time for ''visions and revisions'' and, in the present grass-growing season, mild waggishness.
I am not many mowing seasons removed from a trusty, unmotorized reel job, dignified and relatively noiseless, that hardly left any sign of the path it had taken across the lawn. When you finished mowing, the sward was a sweet shade of uniform green. But now that I am mechanized and noisy, my Lawn Boy leaves a distinct pattern in the mowed lawn, showing where it has gone back and forth, especially if it is pushed one way for a swath and pulled back for the next. So like all my neighbors, I come up with long, straight, transverse paths the width of the yard.
One day early in this year's mowing season, I recalled a piece of horticultural advice I had learned one summer when I kept company with agronomists: For healthier grass, one should not mow the lawn in the same direction time after time, but rather mix up the direction of the swipes. Accordingly, I began to mow my lawn in paths at a 45-degree angle from the transverse. To tell you the truth, it looked both unusual and very nice. Then next time, I would return to the transverse mowing direction.
After a few weeks, I suddenly noticed that one of my neighbors up the block - a man known for a manicured lawn - had mowed his lawn in 45-degree swipes! Before long, first one neighbor and then another did the same, and soon our block was bristling (so to speak) with 45-degree lawns.
Well, grass is the mischief in me, so the next mowing I reversed the 45 degree the other way from the straight transverse. The result was a lovely and intriguing diamond pattern, which I made even more exotic by next mowing transverse again.
And sure enough, ''diamond'' lawns began to appear. Mind you, all of this following suit took place without a word of neighborly conversation about the pattern of lawn mowing, although I am on good terms with all my neighbors - even those who take their ease with a lawn service.
But now I felt I was really put on my mowing mettle.
So just last week, I mowed my front lawn by starting on the outside edges and in a continuous swipe mowed in ever-decreasing squares, finishing the job with a small square right in the center. The result was a neat, square, maze-like pattern, superimposed on a now-faint diamond matrix.
I'm on neighborhood watch now. I'm about fresh out of mowing patterns, but if my neighbor with the manicured lawn sprouts a square lawn, well ... I'll just have to think of something.