Carolyn J. Rose
In November, when leaves drift from the trees, I imagine the year going to its rest beneath a quilt of red and gold, orange and brown, green and yellow.
Taking a poetic view can make the task of raking easier.
For about the first seven minutes.
After that, the thrill fades.
The rate of fade depends on the weather. A sunny afternoon with a light breeze can reduce the rate. Rain and a chill wind can speed it up. Rain turns that colorful quilt into a soggy blanket that flattens grass and clogs storm drains. As I figuratively roll up that blanket with my rake, gusts tear off tatters and hurl them onto the street and into the twiggy grasp of azaleas and rhododendrons.
I toy with the idea of hiring a neighbor kid. Then I tell myself raking is good exercise. I toy with the idea of using a leaf blower. Then I remind myself I hate the noise of blowers powerful enough to dislodge and herd my collection.
So I rake.
Around the middle of the month, when my neighbor and I have filled the bed of his pickup for the third or fourth time, I abandon the quilt and blanket images entirely and focus on spring. These leaves will nurture new growth and those tiny green sprouts will help me forget the drudgery.
Growing up in the Catskills, I both welcomed and dreaded the autumn display. Stunning as it could be, it was over too quickly. Then winter closed its fist and tightened its grip, month by long month.
I didn’t rake leaves then—except to create a pile to jump in beneath a maple in my grandmother’s yard. My father would say the wind did the raking. He’d laugh as twists of air swirled leaves to the edge of the ridge on which his house sat and sent them spinning from sight. He’d say to ignore the drifts that lay against the house or in the flowerbeds. We’d rake them in the spring and haul them to a compost pile.
But I don’t have the luxury of many acres of field and woods where the wind can spread what falls. I have one city lot and eight sturdy trees. And I have neighbors who might not be as neighborly if I let the wind carry too many of “my” leaves into their yards.
So I rake the leavings of the year.