“I tell you, country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate.” So says Rodney Dangerfield’s character, an obnoxious land baron, in the 1980 movie Caddyshack.
I haven’t really thought too much about cemeteries, but I have mixed feelings about country clubs.
I live in a house that borders Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, and I love that I can look up from my desk out my window at the beautiful wide-open fairways. In the early spring it’s particularly stunning. The wide expanses of green grass, the rolling landscape, and the bay just beyond.
Right now as I write this, the golf course is mostly brown, except for the greens, which are, well, green. As I understand it, the greens are the only sections that are allowed to be watered. The rest of the grass has died because of the drought.
But right next to the golf course I see a wooded area that doesn’t seem to be affected by the drought at all. The tall trees with their robust root systems draw water from deep within the ground. And those trees, in turn, shade the smaller forms of vegetation, protecting the bushes and plants from the hot sun. The fallen leaves decay, fertilizing the soil. It is a complex system in contrast to the simple grass fairways, and much better able to weather environmental stress.
It makes me think of something I learned about ecology back in college: Lawns are an artificially immature ecosystem. That is why they are so prone to infestation by weeds and pests, and why they will die if we don’t water them. I remember this neighbor we had when I was growing up in Setauket who would lay down new sod every spring. They had the best looking lawn in the neighborhood, but it couldn’t even survive a single year on its own.
Why am I talking about lawns and golf courses? This idea of an artificially immature ecosystem interests me, especially as a metaphor for certain parts of our lives.