Walking through the streets of New York City last month, Jon and I came upon a tiny, elegant, outdoor corner shop with a woman in it selling flowers and grass. The flowers were beautiful, but it was February and seeing that green grass growing in a little square pot, well, it was like a miracle. I hadn’t really thought that I missed the grass, but seeing all that green was like bathing in sunshine.
The woman told us it was wheatgrass and asked if we were getting it for our cats. She said they loved it. Well, I wanted it all for myself, but when we got home, not wanting to be selfish, I put it on the kitchen floor and called the cats in. They looked at me like, Where’s the cookies, completely ignored the wheatgrass and complained until I gave them some cat treats.
So now, the wheatgrass was all mine. I put it on the windowsill during the day and on the mantle at night. I watered it everyday and watched it grow. I never imagined I’d get so much pleasure out of a pot of grass.
As the grass started to grow I joked with Jon about mowing it. But I didn’t really want to, I wanted it to get long and straggly, not a suburban lawn, but the wild grasses of the African Savanna. The stuff the lions sleep in and the antelope hide in.
But this morning I noticed that the tips of my wheatgrass were turning yellow and it was starting to fall over the edge of the pot. So I got my scissor and gave my wheatgrass a hair cut. And I knew as I was cutting it that I would have to do something special with the clippings. I thought of the chickens (because they always come to mind when I have some food-like stuff I don’t know what to do with) but I gave them some old sunflower sprouts last week and they didn’t eat them. So then I thought of the donkeys.
Now the donkeys will eat leaves off a tree and even dead leaves from the ground, but they won’t eat old lettuce or spinach. I don’t know why, I tell them it’s leaves, but they just don’t go for it. But wheatgrass is grass. And it’s been a long, long winter and a long, long time since the donkeys have eaten fresh green grass.
I remember hearing about a documentary years ago about a gorilla who spent a good part of his life in a concrete cage in a zoo. The film showed him finally being released into a natural environment in another zoo. The first thing he did was lay down and roll around on the grass. I always imagined his joy at touching the earth once again.
Of course it not quite the same, but I thought of that gorilla when I held out my hand with the wheatgrass in it to Lulu and she gobbled it up. Fanny did the same and they both wanted more. I know they understood what a gift it was. There was a calm that settled over us and I leaned the side of my face against first Lulu’s neck, then Fanny’s. They were soft and warm from the sun and smelled like donkeys smell, earthy and dry. And there was a stillness and satisfaction that seemed to settle over all of us. This handful of grass such a great gift.
Next winter I’m going to grow wheat grass in the house if I can. And every now and then, when it needs a mowing, I’ll delight the donkeys with some fresh green grass when the ground is covered with ice and snow and spring is months away.