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Eighteen This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


      I felt very American that day.

There I was, standingproud in the slanted evening light, dusting my dirty hands on my stained jeansand looking at the Earth around me as though I were Adam at the close of thefirst day. My head was so full of plans and hopes and dreams it seemed to lift myfeet off the ground. I am 18 years old and in the prime of an eager, anxious andslightly foolish part of life. My eyes surveyed the freshly mown patch with greatpride, but at the same time, my heart felt heavy with a sadness that intensifiedas I glanced down to meet the questioning eyes of my golden retriever. I kneltand stroked her back as we looked at the smooth emerald slab of grass laid beforeus. I thought about life, not in terms of goals and achievements, but in all itswild, rooted, sappy, happy grandeur. Then I thought about how I tore it all upwith a roaring steel blade.

For hours I had plodded slowly behind aroaring engine which threw its foul fumes in my face and gagged me with its gut-wrenching wastes. I struggled to force the blade through the thick leafy life ofthe knee-high spring clover that had crept in and consumed the yard. I looked atthe neat concentric rectangles steadily replacing the wild clover, then at theshrinking patch of untamed verdant life. In the middle of that veritable forest,I saw my dog, buried to her eyes, rolling contentedly. She stood, bright blondagainst the solid pane of green, except that her paws were stained up to herhocks; she was becoming part of her surroundings. She looked at me; the coolbreeze blew across her belly and her long tongue hung limply like a red carpetrolled out to welcome me to some grass-stain paradise.

I looked at her andthen saw clearly the image of me trudging and choking in mo-notony while sherolled and swam in a green sea of genuine life. Suddenly I realized: clover isn'tfor mowing, it's for rolling. So I killed the engine and dove in head first. Iwrestled and rolled and played like a madman, and got more grass stains than Icould make excuses for. But my laundry didn't matter because, for a short time,the whole world was cool and fresh and so alive that it seemed like a mattress.It closed around me, wrapping me in its living tendrils like a child in hismother's arms.

The really beautiful things in life are not clean-shaven orgroomed to a uniform height. Those things are not pre-packaged or mass produced.No, they are reality, and they are disappearing from the world to be replaced byneat, orderly rows and columns. The beautiful things are wild and free, andbeautiful mostly because they are free.

Here we are, a nation in itsprime, full of plans and hopes and dreams, just like me. For 100 years we triedto tame the American wilderness. We mowed and chopped and killed, and theprairie, the woodlands and the Indians fell before us - graceful to the end. Thenwhen it was done, the roaring machine sputtered for lack of purpose. It diedhissing and spitting and without the grace of the things it destroyed. In thedeafening silence that followed, we looked around and realized that in taming thewilderness, we inevitably tamed the wilderness within. We lost life somewhere inthe process of living.

But all is not lost. The patches of green growthmay be shrinking, but life is resilient and we are still young. We still have ourplans and schemes and hopes and dreams - wild and foolish as they may be. When Ilook closely, I see new weeds sprouting around the edges of the lawn like thestubble on my face that may one day grow thick and wild and free.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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