In the last post, I left the garden for a music-themed writing prompt from WordPress. This week, it’s back outside — or rather, it’s back to the photos that I originally had taken if I hadn’t come across that writing prompt. And it’s a good thing I snapped these photos when I did — because a week of wind later, where once there were leaf-laden trees, there now stands bare branches.
Of course, I’m referring to leaves — what on earth were you thinking — because my yard is, once again, overrun with leaves — which is strange, since I have very vivid memories of autumn weekends with a rake. I’m positive I raked this yard a few months ago. In fact, I’ve written extensively about my love of raking, and the peace and nostalgia that this chore delivers.
But as I look out at a yard buried under as many leaves as I raked in the fall, I have decided that I am not a fan of spring raking. It’s bothersome and it gets in the way of what I really want to do, which is prepare the beds for actual gardening — not this maintenance stuff. I’ve waited through all of winter for this first warmish weekend to work outside — and raking is not on my list of things to do.
Today is far from a beautiful day. Sandy is on her way, and Joe and I have packed up the yard and we’re now inside watching fall actually fall. Autumn foliage is falling like confetti now, as the first gusts of wind make their way to Long Island. Flocks of birds are racing for cover; squirrels are gathering their provisions. Even the air feels strange. Sandy is a tropical system, but the air is chilled, as the tropics crash into a cold front.
And that’s why I find it so ironic that I’m creating a post about beautiful things. I can think of so many things that are beautiful. Sunsets. Rainbows. Dahlias. Maybe even waves of blowing leaves on a gusty day. But something with the words “nitty” and “gritty” and “dirt?” No way.
What has happened to raking?
I always remember raking as a communal event, one that involved most neighbors and all members of the family in some capacity. Give the neighbors a perfect autumn day, and they’ll give you one universal thought: “It’s cool and crisp and there isn’t a breeze – this is a perfect day for raking.”
One day, you’re on vacation in South Florida, gazing at the pattern of a banana leaf sunlit from behind (above) — and the next, you’re bundled up against the wind chill of Long Island. After arriving home, I went through some random Florida photos and then walked around the yard on Long Island to make a comparison. Can you guess which photos came from which zone?
There’s a scene in the film Roxanne, in which Steve Martin, playing a fire chief who is nasally challenged, steps outside, sniffs the air, and announces that there is a fire. That’s how it is with me when I decide on a good day to rake the leaves of autumn. Today was one such day.
When I walked outside, the air was crisp and still, the faintest hint of ice on the edges of the fallen leaves — a fine day to take my new rake out for a spin. After years of holding onto my ancient aluminum rake, the one with the head that always fell off, I purchased a new model from Home Depot.
You can keep those extra large plastic tined rakes. They seem to only rake the surface of the grass, never getting between the blades and down to the soil. No, for me, it’s all about the metal, and the one I chose had plenty of it. Black metallic tines. Sturdy. A green rubber grip on the end of the pole. It seemed to say, “Buy me, and I will rake your lawn like nobody’s business. We can make make magic together — just you and me and all those leaves.”
Now that we know each other, I feel it’s time for me to make a confession. I . . . Well, I did something I never did before. I contracted with a landscaper to do my spring clean up. Please, don’t judge me. I have my reasons.
I don’t have a large yard, but what I do have are lots of trees. And the property behind my house is not developed, so that means more trees. And the street where I live is actually a “T,” which means when the wind blows, all of the leaves from the intersecting block are deposited on my lawn. So my fall weekends are spent raking and bagging.
At this stage, I have a pretty good system. I use an old garbage can, put in a recyclable plastic bag, rake everything into a pile, knock the can onto its side, shove in the leaves, tie off the bag, carry it to the curb, and start all over again. I can do that 40 times each weekend.
Then, spring arrives, and it’s a cruel joke. After the snow melts, there are still more leaves to be raked. They blew into my yard all winter long when I wasn’t looking. My partner, Joe, is always after me to hire someone to rake up the yard. But I take my stand. I convince him, as well as myself, that I love to rake and clean the yard. Continue reading