For many, our lawns are the faces of our lives. Today, we decorate those faces with ceramic gnomes and plastic flamingoes, windchimes and stone gardens, holiday displays and political signage. In a rapidly changing world, our lawns must adapt—and so too must the ornaments that define them. What will our life-faces look like in the future? Here we dare to speculate.
Moving toward the future, ever more cities appear, growing in scale and depth. Unfortunately, one common characteristic of the dense metropolis is: no lawns. Just skyscrapers, sidewalks, and stoops. Therefore: no lawn ornaments. There’s just no room. What can be done about this dilemma? If we place a small, cozy home just on the outskirts of a city, facing inward toward the buildings, its lawn stretching forward into the streets, might we not say that the city itself is now a lawn ornament? Yes, indeed we might. In lieu of being deprived of something, it is instead best to become what you want because, so far as we know, we do have ourselves. Being what we want is having what we want. Making the city into a lawn ornament is giving the city a lawn ornament. These are the kinds of lies that lawn ornaments are all about.
Locking ourselves inside houses (behind gates in rooms with thick walls and security cameras, beneath the veil of phones and hobbies and cinematic universes) helps us not covet our neighbors’ belongings. With the advancement of laboratory-generated tiny black holes, placed on our lawns as an ornament, we won’t need to covet our neighbors’ possessions or steal anymore at all—because our tiny black holes will suck our neighbors’ things onto our property by simple laws of physics. Nor will your neighbors be able to accuse you of stealing or coveting—because not only your neighbors’ things but also your neighbors will be sucked into our black lawn-holes. Also you and everything else. And once you have everything, you won’t be able to covet or steal it anymore. Amen.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Lawn ornaments are often placed to elicit emotion. Throughout the history of lawn ornamentation, however, one emotion has disproportionately been the primary focus—happiness. This was a mistake. In the future, we will not be so narrow minded. We will expand the horizon and scope of lawn ornament emotion technology. Using machinery that harnesses or mimics the power of the seasons, changing rapidly from winter to summer to spring to fall right on our lawns, we may impact the emotions of ourselves and neighbors. Having our emotions change so quickly will make us not feel any one thing in particular, but an entirely new blend of emotion—much like the spinning spokes of a wheel become a single non-existent shape the faster they go.
The feeling of being on the edge can add urgency and spark to our lives. For those who want a do-or-die attitude (and denizens of the future may perish without it), equipping our lawns with unsettling perches, ill-placed objects, and potential-energy-rich artifacts will stimulate our adrenaline. In addition, vertigo-inducing gas, jagged walkways, and rickety planks above deep lawn chasms may just give you the preparation you need to deal with everything the day holds in store. After all, if you can’t make it out the door, you won’t make it out there.
Contamination has never been a stranger to lawns—and it will not be a stranger to the future. Pollutants, bacteria, and new pathogens will infect as much (and as often) as possible. Thus, sterilization via extreme heat will be an absolute necessity. We will bake anything suspicious using lawn autoclaves. Of course, the future’s autoclaves will not be identical to those of today. Vast conductive metal improvements may allow emotional and psychological sterilization to occur as well. Setting our heads on fire on the lawn will be like stepping through the sprinklers on a summer afternoon: briefly, it helps us forget something worth forgetting. Later we might grow tired of the effect, but we will keep the autoclaves running. Listen to the hum.
It is said that the moon once collided with a young earth. Billions of years later, the two are divorced from one another—save for the weak bond of the tides. In the future, we may use hooks and pulleys to draw the moon closer to our homes, thus dragging and dredging up water from the ground beneath. The tides will rise not from the ocean but from the earth and soil. Our lawns will be the new coastlines, every house becoming beach-front property. Children and pets may be lost in the undertow of their own homes, but they always wash up somewhere. Get in a barrel, close your eyes, and find out where the lawn tide goes. As well, despite many attempts, surfing will not catch on.
The lawn is often a place of relaxation. In the future, we will maximize this property with magnets. Placed strategically on our lawns, superconducting materials will make leisure even easier. Simply don the polarized suit and let the forces of nature propel you about the lawn, bouncing from magnet to magnet. Flopping like a fish with our eyes closed and our arms open will be better than any lawn chair. If planned accurately, this process may simplify routine yard maintenance. With even greater precision and mathematical ingenuity, one might enter into the lawn magnet track and never have to make a decision again.
We cannot always rely on our bodies. Legs give out, lungs get tired, and muscles ache. Just as much, the brain can be strained and have difficulty functioning at peak levels. In that lawns are also meant to be a reflection of who we are, macroscopic webs of our neuro-transmitters will be popular lawn fixtures. When we are depressed, we will know that our brain is not functioning well or producing enough dopamine, simply by gazing at the simulacrum of our interior emerging from the soil. We can then stand on the lawn suckling from our neural replicas while lightning bolts and chemical reactions spill all around us. As we drain our neural facsimile of serotonin and dopamine, we will ignore the fact that this enormous deaf, mute, and blind version of ourselves grows ever more morose the happier we get. We will be left to wonder what makes the dopamine levels rise when we are done—what could possibly make it happy again?
As the population grows, it will be more difficult to weed out who is worthwhile and who is not. Billions upon billions of people will cross our paths—how are we to know who we should interact with and who we should avoid? Easy: booby traps. Only the worthy will pass the battery of physical tests and clever snares you plant on the way to your home. Crossing the lawn will be a testament to intelligence, character, and eventual intimacy. As we gain empathy and understanding for another person, we will be better equipped to dodge the spikes and hop the pits of their lawns. If, on your way to see a friend, you find yourself hanging from a tree by your ankle, dangling on a rope, you must ask yourself: how well do I really know this person? Are they truly my friend? And am I truly theirs? Of course, some will prematurely barrel through all the trap doors and rocks just to gain a small understanding of other people. You can learn a lot about a person by the traps they set—and, lying at the bottom of a well covered by over-sized palm fronds—you will.
When we begin to populate the oceans (after climate change decimates the coasts), we will careen across the salty surface in our floating cities, trawling the ocean floor with enormous continent-sized nets. Some excess catches will be dispersed to the poor and needy, but much of it will be brought up by homeowners for their waterfront lawns. Grilled and drenched in garlic butter, thyme-sprinkled jumbo shrimps will be scattered across the green grass of our kelp yards like a delicious brush fire. In the middle of the night, we will wander out onto our lawns, gobbling up the ornaments while we rock gently with the tide.
The world only gets faster. Transportation, communication, and everything else will whiz about at enormous speeds and with great precision. We too will careen through towns and cities from job to home and store to store, buying and working and cooking and talking at thousands of miles per hour, our cheeks stretched to full capacity by the pure g-forces. For a moment’s respite, we will desperately cling to our lawn hook, holding us in place to enjoy no motion. All around us the world will zip by. We need only open our mouths to be fed, our eyes to be entertained, and our arms to be loved. Everything comes to us instantly—and then leaves us just as quickly, empty and still.
Some societies and cities will grow ever smaller, shrinking their people down as well. Our cities will rest on protons, buildings reaching through atoms and into the field of electrons. Glorious views of the atomic horizon will be an ever-present tourist attraction for miniature cities. We will place all numbers of elementary particles on our lawns, chief among them being the gluon. This massless particle inspires us—it only slightly exists and is its own antimatter. On our lawns we will both sit and stand, walk and run—all at the same time, and also none of those things. We will insult our loved ones and caress their cheeks, but in actuality we will only do one and just as much neither. We will make mistakes, irreversible, that never actually occur. We will take no responsibility and we will take all. In the future, we become massless, our own nemeses, and also our only friends in a field of blackness—and of course, neither. We won’t know who or what we are, but that’s what holds things together, tight and almost trembling.
Repression isn’t easy, and managing it successfully requires hired guns with impeccable aim. The things we try to forget will hover about our homes waiting to attack. Bad relationships, sexual confusion, regrets, addictions—all eventually storm our houses, climbing the ducts and drains, scampering across the gutters and up through the plumbing, then into our heads as dreams or tingling. There’s nothing we can do. But snipers? They don’t know the meaning of our past—and they won’t mind killing it. What a relief it will be to see our memories dying on the lawn, trapped and wheezing. It’s nice just to know where they are, and to know they can no longer get to us.
In the future, children will cut through the fabric of space and time with candy and streamers, and we will follow them to stand on the outside of everything. Our new cities beyond the cloth of existence will roll outward in all directions—people, buildings, and shopping malls spiraling inward, forward, backwards and through one another, wrapped around strings of enormous space and endless time. Once we have escaped everything, manufacturing moguls will mass produce it (everything), selling it for cheap. Our lawns will be littered with old, used up everythings, put aside out of boredom or apathy, like candy wrappers or orange peels. There are better things to do.
Explorers head out, digging deeper into the most unknown places on Earth with rifles and cannons and lasers and bombs. Lives will be lost and many hardships endured, yet they find nothing. Determined, they hunt it down and capture it. Ankles wrapped in twine, nothing will be dragged by its spindly legs back to the civilized world and displayed on museum tours around the globe. It will be all the rage to venture into the wilderness with a rented guide, rifle in hand, and seek out nothing. Like deer-head mounts and stuffed birds, tourists display their nothings as trophy kills, adorned with gold plaques—and set majestically on the lawn as a symbol of their power.
The tracks will lay themselves—and trains will come from all directions dumping dumbfounded strangers on our lawns. They put on our clothes and eat our food, hug our children, kiss our husbands and wives. Scared and confused, we board trains and buses as well—leaving our homes behind only to arrive on a stranger’s lawn—where we assume the responsibilities of their life. We will move with the traffic, like fish, from house to house and life to life trying on the clothes of everyone in town. Every time we slip on a new shoe, we expect it to feel different, but it won’t—because it’s the foot that feels.
The freedom to choose may be located on the back of our neck—like a mole grown inwards. Not needing it anymore, it will be removed and planted like a nut or kernel, then maintained like a bonsai tree, delicately trimmed and nourished. When it blooms in spring, decisions sprout from its branches, unmade and worthless. We will look at the decisions we didn’t make, the ones that have fallen there on our grass, drying out and crunching beneath our feet, and we will wonder how we ever could have done a thing like that. But we never did—it was always the tree, never the gardener.
Permafrost and Permanence
In the future, the permafrost of northern nations (their thick beds of frozen ground, trapping ancient gas and life within) will expand, creeping across the globe in trucks and vans. We will stare into the horizon as they come up the highways like caterpillars sliding along asphalt branches. Meanwhile, the world will unravel around us—trees splaying and shattering into the wind, the dirt and soil wafting off in cloudy tufts, rocks rolling wildly into the East—and we will feel our bodies exchanging molecules with the sun, with the neighbors, with the dog shit on the slowly warping sidewalk. The permafrost trucks will dump their loads onto our fading lawns just as our homes burst open and disperse in chunks of wood and piping. The grass beneath our feet will blow in rhythm with our hair until both are gone, forgotten. We will step onto the permafrost at the moment our world tapers off to a final point, like a tricycle falling from the edge of something no longer seen, and we will stand there as it melts forever, as it permanently releases methane into an atmosphere that struggles to remain.
Dolan Morgan is a writer and illustrator living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and is the author of two story collections, including That's When the Knives Come Down. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in BOMB Magazine, The Believer, The Lifted Brow, The Rumpus, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, Selected Shorts, and elsewhere.