Raking Leaves

Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake. Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake.

I drag my bamboo rake along the lawn. I gather the leaves into piles. I gather the piles onto a tarp. I pull the tarp to the front of our property. I dump the leaves along the curb. And then I repeat the process again and again. It takes almost two hours to do our whole property.

Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake. Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake.

We have so many trees in our part of town. Raking takes place in multiple stages. First the oaks dropped their acorns. Then the locusts dropped their leaves. The maples flamed the brightest and most beautiful shades of yellow, orange, pink, and red before dropping their leaves. And finally, the stubborn old oaks give up their leaves in batches, as prompted by winds and rains.

Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake. Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake.

I don’t resent the chore. In fact, I find it therapeutic. I especially love to be out in the yard when the sun is shining but the air is cool. A few minutes of activity with the rake works up enough body heat to offset the chill. The crisp fall air feels good in my lungs. I smell the leaves and the scent of a distant fire. I hear the hum of gas-powered leaf-blowers from my neighbors. I love the solitude, yet simultaneously I love the bond with my neighbors.

Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake. Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake.

Raking gives me time to think. I think about my children. I think about my church. I think about baseball, how my team lost. I think about politics, how my candidates lost. I think about the way that my emotions about the baseball loss and the political loss carry a similar weight — not much — and I wonder why that is. I think about the way other people seem to feel very differently.

Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake. Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake.

One of the things I love about raking is that it’s seasonal and cyclical. Every year, for years and years and years, the trees have dropped their leaves at this time of the year. Every year, for years and years, people have gathered the leaves with rakes at this time of the year. This is already my fifth Fall in this house. Already my 25th World Series, since starting to follow the sport. Already my fifth Presidential Election, since gaining the right to vote. The names and faces come and go, like leaves on the trees, but the cycle continues.

Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake. Scrape, skritch, scratch, rake.

It feels good to clean up my little corner of the world. Scrape by scrape, raking all the debris into tidy piles along the curb. I know the job is not finished. I’ll be doing it again next week, and for years to come. But I take satisfaction in the moment of clarity.

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