TALLULA IS SNIFFING a patch of desiccated ornamental grass inside a wrought-iron fence a block from Eastern Market in Washington DC’s Capitol Hill area. She does not move. Her nose is poked through the railing, her body tense, alert. Sniff, she goes, and raises her head as if savoring the scent of a fine Beaujolais. Sniff she goes again, nose twitching in the air.
“What is she doing,” My Prince asks, tugging at her leash.
She doesn’t move. Sniff, look up and savor, sniff again.
“It’s that cat,” I tell him.
“There was a cat in that yard once, maybe six years ago. She’s still looking for it.”
Damn cat. Where’s that damn cat? I know you’re around somewhere. Come out here so I can eat you, she’s saying. I speak dog. Or grand-dog, to be precise. Baby and her Personal Prince Pete are in Dublin, Ireland, for the week, a business conference of his. Meanwhile, we’re tending their brindle-colored, 60-pound Lab-Plott Hound mix.
Tallula’s tail is sticking straight out, her body rigid, right paw curled under the way a Pointer does (she could be some of that too), nose twitching, zeroing in on her prey. I know you’re in there, dammit, she drools, ready to pounce. Here kitty kitty kitty.
Tallula Laplott is what I imagine to be her stripper name. (That’s an aside.)
Another patch of grass, a few blocks away, used to be a hangout for a particularly annoying squirrel. I don’t know why, out of all the squirrels in this squirrel-infested neighborhood, that particular squirrel so vexed Tallula. I didn’t speak dog at the time.
It’s now the site of a Trader Joe’s. Free water on an Astroturf-like platform does not make up for the loss of a spot that transported her to a state of such joyous apoplexy.
Speaking of Astroturf and other grass imitators, it appears that someone a few blocks away, on a tree-lined stretch of rather grand, tastefully restored homes smack in the middle of the historic Capitol Hill district, has replaced their front lawn with the stuff.
I wasn’t sure what I was seeing at first, but no one else has grass so perfect, a 15-by-20-foot expanse the jolly green springtime hue of fresh clover. It’s not sod, which would show some seams and certainly a little soil around the edges.
Tallula is not interested. Not worth squatting over, she sneezes, pulling me along.
“Wait!” I say. “Can this be so?”
The Prince bends down, tugging at a stiff blade that’s attached solidly to whatever the base is. “I’m not sure,” he says, looking befuddled and pointing to a patch mid-lawn that is shining a tad artificially in the sun. “But that looks like plastic.”
I give it a feel myself. “Plastic,” I say in wonder. It’s pretty artful, this stuff—the blades seem to be at slightly different heights, as if the mowing had been a bit imperfect, as mowing generally is.
On some less yup-scale blocks of the city, imitation grass is fairly common, but even then it is generally confined to the porch or porch steps. So the appearance of something so unashamedly fake replacing the entire lawn of a house on what is considered, in real estate speak, one of Capitol Hill’s premier residential boulevards, is startling.
As you may possibly know by now, I love garden artifice—but am very particular about its use. This application of faux, however, exists outside any frame of reference I have. I feel like a dog looking for that damn cat: What am I not seeing?
And because I am human I realize I am not seeing grass because there is no grass.
*Don’t even try to find any deep meaning in this story. It’s not there.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” reports from the greenspaces, kitties and all, near her Washington DC home.