In looking out my window right now, I’ve noticed that the redbud in my front yard is blooming.  This means, at very least, that spring has established a toe-hold and that soon it will be mowing time once again.
This is always a bittersweet time of year. On one hand, mowing provides an organizing force for my life over the summer months that is lacking in the winter.  It provides me with a reason to exist; a reason to get up in the morning; a reason to go to the Home Depot and stare at all of the beautiful pieces of equipment they have for sale.
On the other hand, it is an opportunity to get sweaty, stinky, and to experience defeat and humiliation as my lawn fails to measure up to the uncompromising standards of NALM, the National Association of Lawn Mowers.
My relationship with NALM complements my relationship with mowing. While my relationship with mowing is bittersweet, my relationship with NALM is love-hate.  They complement each other the way the horizontal arm of the cross complements the vertical arm.
As a mower, I’ve been all over the place.  I used to use my lawnmowers as a measure of my success in life:  A small push-mower was a psychological symbol of my humble origins; a large, zero turn radius riding lawn mower a symbol of my high aspirations. Then the entire enterprise became to me my quest for personal holiness: I gave up on becoming sanctified through either faith or works and sought my own salvation through mowing.
And never was I entirely at either of these two extremes but continually bouncing back and forth between them.
NALM provided a rational framework wherein I could discipline myself with regard to the entire mowing enterprise.  They had standards; they had best practices; they had systems of assessment wherein you could measure your progress against yourself and against others engaged in the care of lawns.
Oh, and it was in the area of assessment wherein lay my downfall. To measure one’s progress against oneself is one thing, to measure oneself against a fixed standard is another, and to measure oneself against others is yet another.  
It is bad enough when you are like the hypocrite who prayed, “Thank God I am not like that poor wretch over there;” it is worse to not be able to find such a wretch to compare yourself to.  (This last is in reference to my forsythia, which is of the rare never-blooming variety. Everywhere I look and see forsythias that are better than mine. It is of little comfort to tell myself that forsythias that aren’t better than mine can’t actually be seen.”
I should be fair and state that NALM itself cautions against comparing your lawn to the lawns of others. They also emphasize that their standards are ideals to strive for, and that not everyone is going to reach them immediately.  They teach what they consider best practices and following their teachings is voluntary.
However, they hold the prize of NALM lawn accreditation, and if your lawn is going to be accredited by them, you have to toe the NALM party line.
This raises the question of whether NALM accredited lawns are better or if we just think they are better because they have NALM accreditation.  Maybe lawns with a generous growth of dandelion and henbit--like mine for example--are more beautiful.  Maybe trying get my forsythia to bloom is chasing the wind and I should just let what nature put in my lawn grow unfettered.
But that is all self-pitying nonsense.  The bloom on the redbud means the mowing season is coming at us like a northbound train.  We must prepare.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, has been married to the same woman for nigh on to three decades; he and his wife have three daughters and one grandson. Bobby blogs at and He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.