Cutting the grass is a thing of beauty. Zen, even.

I grew up in Southern Pennsylvania in a house that later on, my friends mockingly called "The Plantation"-- It sat in the middle of a 6 acre expanse of lawn dotted with huge hundred-year old poplars, and silver maples. In the summer, the sun would filter through the branches, creating intricate lacy patterns on the gently rolling hills. We lived at the top of the hill, which gradually descended into a coniferous forest. A few miles past the forest a cookie cutter golf course subdivision development was springing up, the unhalting march of progress.

Anyway... my father. My father was such a man who enjoyed cutting grass. He woke up early on Sunday mornings and could often be observed on our red Sears riding mower, tracing the contours and gradients of the land. During the week, he was a doctor of Engineering for the Department of Defense but he seemed to get some sort of satisfaction out of this grass cutting ritual.

My sister was never much of a grass cutter. But my brother and I inherited this from our father-- we'd get up on Sunday at around 7:00 in the morning, after the sun had warmed the stones that made up the wall encircling the edge of the house, but before the oppresive heat set in.

I first learned how to drive a stick shift from that tractor. The clutch was particularly difficult-- I had to put my entire 12-year-old weight on it to shift, but damn it, it would shift when I wanted it to. To this day, I can't drive automatic-- I feel the car unsettlingly shift itself at random places.

There was just something about the morning in the summer that still brings me back home. As I got older, my father would wake us up early to play tennis, or go sailing. During my teenage years, while I still lived on 'The Plantation', it seemed like my parents and I fought constantly and bitterly, but every weekend morning was sacred.

I haven't spent a summer in the country for two years. Last summer, my parents came to visit me in my West Village 17th floor pied a terre, conspicuously without a balcony (a balcony was 400$ more a month). Though there's no grass to cut in New York it was just like home again-- my parents up early trying to make a semblance of breakfast with the meagre contents of my refrigerator, washing the dishes that I bought at Crate and Barrell and haven't used since.

Maybe this explains my unhealthy penchant for the early morning-- But I wouldn't have given up those grass cutting years for anything.