the northern light and the beauty of mulch: scenes from the Swedish countryside

Scenes from our summer house …

1. The light. You try putting to bed a restless toddler with a two-hour nap behind her when it is 9 in the evening, and the sun is still shining like mid-afternoon in California. She can stand at the windown and say, “I want to go out,” with a slight whine, and it is not silly, and you can not wait her out either, for it never gets dark enough for that.

My first summer in Sweden, I could not sleep, wide awake at midnight and up at 3am, my body massively confused, a panic worse than any winter so far. I learned to put a t-shirt over my eyes and insist on a dark bedroom.

Toddlers don’t go for that.

2. Long live mulch. We have not owned an engine for two years since the kindly Indian used car guy took our 2001 Chrysler Sebring off our hands for wholesale in Port Jervis (another dealer had refused the car at any price, the problems with that model year so legion).

Now we are the proud owners of a lawn mower, a new yellow Stiga Multiclip 50 Rental (bought on big sale). It makes us nervous – engines break and this one some on first use – but we need it, as we own a little house on a BIG lot, a McMansion lot without the McMansion. The first thing my father-in-law said when he saw the house was, “That’s a lot of grass to cut.” Only the sight of my naked toddler running down the hill behind the house makes it worth it that it took us three days to mow the lawn.

I do like mowing. I hate raking and bagging, an antipathy stretching deep into my childhood. But there is none of that with our Stiga. It has the mulch system, cutting the grass so fine that we do not need to pick it up.

Now maybe I look like an idiot here. I last mowed, oh, 18 years ago, cutting the outfield on my high school baseball field. In Port Jervis, we had a miniscule lawn and a push mower. So maybe you all have the mulch system. Maybe you have all had it for the last 15 years. Maybe this is old news.

But not to me. To me, mulch is freedom.

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