Saturday, 27 August 2016


Twelve Mows

Summer in Alberta does not strictly align with its official dates on the Julian calendar. Its markers arrive early and generally don’t hang around. The Victoria Day long weekend in May signals that it’s relatively safe to plant your garden, the risk of frost is minimal. Classrooms dismiss in June around the solstice. Canada Day, formerly known as Dominion Day, welcomes the first of July as the Canadian Football League begins its regular season schedule. Early August is augmented by another long weekend encourages thoughts of murder in dwellings without air conditioning. Though summer’s warmth can linger through September like a Broadway melody and lyric, Albertans pretty much agree it’s gone by Labour Day just as CFL games really start to matter.

Everyone has their own system of measurement. My pal Stats Guy tends to get excited about summer in February when pitchers and catchers report to spring training. And there is always this cheery caveat: ‘You know, Geoff, seven months from now we’ll be freezing in the dark again.’ Swell.

Some years ago I became friends with a fellow named Sean, a third generation printer by trade. His plant and my ad agency’s office were proximate to a pub in an industrial area of Calgary. We met frequently at lunch. One gorgeous spring day we stood outside together on the pub’s verandah smoking and contemplating the parking lot’s artificial perimeter of plowed, filth encrusted windrows and the deep, forbidding lake of slush rising inside its melting walls.

Sean said, ‘Twelve mows.’ I repeated his statement back to him as a question. He said, ‘Think of it. Between the time this stuff goes and comes back, we’ll mow our grass maybe 12 times. That’s it. For the first six weeks you have to do the lawn weekly. Then you can stretch it out; it basically stops growing. Around the end of September you’re pretty much done.’

Last Thursday morning I took the Globe and Mail outside to the patio table along with my black coffee in an Apple Records mug. I went back inside to get a fleece to wear over my t-shirt; there was something in the air, and not just a honking formation of Canada geese: there was a crisp snap, a smell of decay. Spiky conkers drooped from the Ohio buckeye, stressing their stems. Fallen crabapples peppered the path to the back gate. Yellow leaves, windblown, were scattered on the ground.

I sat down and surveyed the yard. The grass was thick and lush, needing to be seen to; we’ve had so much rain. It would be haircut number nine when I got around to it later, still keeping pace with Sean’s theory of 12. For all the precipitation Edmonton’s tried to absorb, you can’t mow the lawn during a thunderstorm. And so three more mows to go after that one, then summer’s gone for good. No more gas left in the tank. Rakes, shovels and snowplows up next.

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