Ah, mowing: the smell of freshly cut grass, the immediate gratification of a job done, the barn swallows that perform intricate acrobatics, the silence within the buzzing of the blades. Growing up, mowing was a coming-of-age experience; I was finally old enough. Now, it’s a getting-away experience, a way of being alone with my thoughts. It’s a time of silence, even with the humming of the motor. I’m unconnected from the world, unreachable by cell phone or email, in touch with the land I live on. It’s my rare opportunity to just enjoy this homestead we pay on every month, to look around and soak in the colors and abundance and surroundings. I often picture the future here, and visualize how things will change, how our children will grow and how we will also change as time passes.

I’ve tried, with no success, to pray a rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet while I mow. It seems like it would be a good thing to do. The problem is with the counting. Praying is no problem. But keeping track, that’s a bit more coordination than this farm girl can handle. The beads get caught up in the steering wheel, or the rosary ring slips off while I’m trying to turn, or the short beads get just all turned around. I never know if I’ve prayed enough, so then I add one on (I understand that extras aren’t bad), or two, or three. Then there’s the problem of the lines.

In my younger mowing days, I prided myself on my straight lines. In the last few years since I’ve been mowing again, straight is a word that’s relative at best. I could take the easy way out and blame the bumps in my yard, which are numerous and rollercoasterish. (Hey, these old farm yards are nothing if not jarring to the innocent person perched on the mower.) But really, the lines veer here and there because I just forget to pay attention. Even though I’m not saying a rosary or a chaplet, I’m trying to talk to God many times, and I’m deep in thought. I can’t help it.

Yesterday, I was thinking of close friends of mine whose 15-year-old daughter just boarded a plane to Japan. I was thinking of how they must feel, seeing their daughter have this big adventure away from them. I knew they must be worried, and excited, and overwhelmed. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel, seeing my daughter grown-up and walking away from me to embark on her first big adventure, so far away, such a big deal.

Then I thought of their daughter, who I’m also close friends with. Her first big away-from-home adventure! But she’s doing it without the support system she’s always known. I knew she must be worried, and excited, and overwhelmed. I remembered my parents walking away from my college dorm room, and the feeling of “yes!” and “oh no!” that washed over me, during move-in day at college.

Then, in the midst of my ponderings, I came to and saw the lines in the yard. Oh dear!

My husband frequently asks me if I drive around the bumps in the yard. Hey, I never said the lines would be straight!

How often, in my journey as a Catholic, do I come to, only to realize that the lines are not straight! They’re not at all. They veer to the left, to the right, and sometimes upside down. There are times when the trimming is done on a different day, and consequently the finished product isn’t at all perfect. God must understand this. In fact, I wonder, does he intend this? Is “straight” a concept we have imposed on ourselves? According to my husband, straight lines in the yard are nonnegotiable – they’re there or they’re not. In my soul, though, it seems sometimes that the straight lines become a distraction keeping me from the important work of my life.

We can strive so long and so hard, and end up totally off-course and away from God in focusing on the outcome, instead of on what he wants from us. The outcome, you see, might be what we think he wants, and not what he really wants. The straight lines might be what we see as perfection, not what he intends at all. Our job, then, is to keep ourselves in communion with God, to discern his will in our lives, to always seek. He never said the lines would be straight, after all.