I'm wondering what a lawn is.
The nearest definition I can make is
'a defined area of grass kept short by mowing'.
But that doesn't quite work because it would include sports fields. I think dimensions matter - that there must be a maximum size for a lawn - after which it becomes something else. Presumably there's a minimum size too; very small and it's a 'patch of grass' - not a 'lawn' at all. Though size is comparative; one person's patch might be another's whole garden!
It's not even clear what a lawn is for.
Children play on lawns - but they don't need a lawn to play on. Running up and down is ok for a while but what brings a lawn to life for children is a paddling pool, swings, a slide, sand-pits. For children, a lawn is merely a space with a pleasant surface on which to put other things. The lawn itself is not specially interesting.
Lawns can be pleasant places to sit but we sometimes sit beside lawns instead of on them That's why there are terraces and patios and little wooden platforms; people like to sit and look at lawns. Look at lawns! Don't you think this is odd? You'd think it'd be about as interesting as . . . as . . . grass growing . . . the clock turning. We know they do it but we can't see it happening. And it's nothing to do with not wanting to stand on muddy ground. We'll sit and look at grass when it's bone dry. Then, when we get around to taking chairs or picnic blankets onto the lawn, we'll often sit closer to an edge than the middle. Middleness can be unnerving. Do we feel ostentatious? Exposed? I don't know! Maybe with a very small lawn this isn't so. Indeed, if it's a small lawn, the middle might be the very place to sit. There, we can imagine we are in a larger space; feel as if we are getting away from ordinary life - from 'things'. Size matters.
We have a strange relationship with the surfaces of lawns. Some people feel very strongly about how high the grass should be. This has nothing to do with the health of the grass. They will cut it to within a centimeter of its life, mow it to baldness, let it have nothing in reserve for a week without rain. Mowing is fun - but this obsession with keeping grass short has nothing to do with fun. Likewise edging. You see lawns where the edges are so fiercely straight, so geometrically cut into curves, the grass along them goes brown, the earth crumbles - but regimented edges their owners must have!
Think about this.
You have a moderately large garden. (Not sure what size that is . . . just bigger than small. Make it up.) It's summer. You are inspired to buy rackets so you can hit a ball back and forth with your friends. All very informal. No serious rules. Just fun. If it gets hot, someone goes indoors, makes squash, brings it out on a tray, you all sit on the grass where you are and drink it. Very pleasant.
Then, one day, you draw white lines on the grass, you make an informal tennis court. Drinks are brought out. What do you do? Bet you move out of the white lined area before you sit down to drink. Why? It's the same place, the same grass, yet the lines make you behave differently. Your lawn is no longer a lawn and, somehow, it would feel uncomfortable to sit between the white lines if there's somewhere else to go.
Looking at a lawn can be very pleasant. There's something very soothing about its greenness. But for something to look at - it takes up an awful lot of space. Grass smells good too when it's cut; but there's a limit to the smell that will fit in your nose. A small lawn cut can smell as sweet as a large one.
Speaking of space . . . having space by a house allows light in - but the space doesn't have to have grass on it. Where there are plants other than grass, a lawn allows sun through, helps them stay healthy and grow well - but there are wonderful gardens where plants live happily crowded, where there are paths between them, not 'lawns'. Some big houses have borders so deep, they are bigger than most people's gardens.
Nor does mown space between houses necessarily mean there are lawns there. Think of bleak estates where blocks of flats are separated by wide areas of short grass. These are not lawns. I don't know what they are - but they are not lawns. They are sparse and lonely places. Deserts between habitations. Horrid.
I think the thing about lawns which confuses and appals me most is where they are there purely because of rules in the neighbourhood. Some people are made to agree that their front garden will be nothing (or almost nothing) but lawn. Result? Boring, boring road. I can feel my anger rising. If you buy a house (to some extent if you rent it too) you should be allowed to do anything with it you like as long as it isn't dangerous and as long as it doesn't offend public decency. If you want to grow carrots in your garden - why should you not? If you want to put sculptures in your garden, why not? If you want to have daisies and dahlias, daffodils or docks - why not? If you want a lawn - fine! Have a lawn. Wizz round it with a strimmer if you like (though I'd rather you didn't when I'm trying to sleep!) or mow it into beautifully straight lines - or whirls or wavy ones. Why not? But why should you be forced to have one? If you look at the length of this paragraph, you will see how much lawn enforcement riles me!
So - can you define a lawn? What is it? Cups and tables come in different shapes and sizes but I'm sure you could describe them easily, explain what they are for without looking them up in a dictionary.
Can you do the same for lawns?