James Lileks
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Dead sod is serious stuff. It's so specific. You put down a slab of sod, and it perishes, and it looks as if you should mark the spot with a headstone. It's probably my fault for laying sod in the non-sod part of summer, but I blame the sod merchant. If this was the wrong time, why are they selling it?

Because people like me buy it, of course. And hey! It might work.

But it didn't. So we have to do some fall seeding, an utterly depressing ritual. You're clawing at the blasted patch with a rake, and it seems as if you just did this. A few weeks ago. Or was that in May? How does May feel like just a few weeks ago in September, when November seems like eight months ago in January?

If we're being honest — and not trying at all to avoid yard work, oh no — we'd admit that this is rather unfair to the grass.

Look at it from the grass seed's point of view, for a moment: It's been in a nice dark sack for a long while, slumbering. Then suddenly the bag moves, the top opens and glorious sunshine streams in. "Hey, I know what that is! It turns us into tall, thin shoots of green. This is awesome!"

It gets strewn on fresh dirt, which is probably a bit traumatic, leaving the comfort and companionship of the bag, but this is what they've trained for. Then the rake comes down, and the water flows, and the seed looks up at you and says, "I'll do my best to grow tall and strong, and it'll be months and months before the cold comes and puts me in a coma?"

Best not to answer that.

"I said I'll have a long, wonderful summer of warmth and water before it's time for a nap, right? Hello? Hello?"

This is why you make sure to cover them with dirt. You just can't take that innocent, questioning look. All those hopeful seeds, and you're going to get them to take root and start to grow, but only to get a head start on next year. They'll hardly have any time at all. It's not right.

(This is the point on Sunday morning at the breakfast table when my wife puts down the paper and gives me a long, flat look.)

"Is this your way of talking yourself into not doing the fall seeding?"

"No! But is it working? I mean, can you see my point? It was an artistic experiment to see if I could anthropomorphize grass seed, imbue it with human characteristics. But I think it strains credulity. Speaking of straining ... "

"Your back's fine. You can carry a bag of dirt."

And so I did. First I got up the dead sod, which is a bit like ripping off a bandage. I thanked it for performing its most important task, which was staying green while my mother-in-law was here. Otherwise I would've had to use the spray paint again, and I have the hardest time getting the shade to match.

Then I put down the dirt — not "put down" in the sense of insulting it, because I mean it's dirt, what else can you say — and strewed the seeds from a special blend that's supposed to grow fast. What else would you want? "No sir, none of that speedy stuff, don't want to be startled."

I'll let you know how it goes when it's spring grass planting season again. It's only a few months away. And by a few, I mean 18.