Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

For weeks I have been procrastinating on whether or not to rake the leaves that blanket my back yard. I have been busy with other projects (like finishing my checkerboard floor, taking down the screens and washing the windows one last time before winter, and cleaning the porch and barn—another pre-winter ritual.) Truth be told, I was hoping the ground would be covered with snow by now and I wouldn't have to deal with the problem until next spring. But this weekend, I gave in. Afterall, it's the first week of December and temperatures are still in the mid 50s. Clearly I've run out of excuses.

In my mind I always perceive raking leaves to be a zen-like discipline: one that allows you to commune with nature and, by focusing on a simple, repetitive activity, gain a peaceful, calming mind. I feel the same about ironing shirts—something that I have done weekly since my college days—and shoveling snow. But in reality, raking leaves (and shoveling snow) is a lot of work. (I'm still on the fence about ironing—even after all these years!) Unlike my neighbors who enlist their noisy, battery-charged leaf blowers, I have just two options for clearing leaves (...well, three if you count windy days): mowing them into mulch or partnering with an old-fashioned leaf rake. So, armed with a rake, I took to the backyard for some mindful communing with nature.

After an hour or so, I began to fade. I forgot how big the yard was and how steep the incline. And, even once the leaves were raked into rows and piles they still needed to be bagged and discarded—a chore unto itself. Adding insult to injury, I received a call from my sister Kathy midway who informed me that it was snowing in Houston. HOUSTON! Why am I still raking leaves in upstate New York in December? Where is our snow? Defeated, I finished up what I could and left half of the yard unfinished for another day—hopefully a distant day in spring.

Two days later my prayers were answered. The first snow of the season arrived and it was time to retire the leaf rake. Now where did I put that snow shovel?

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