The Joy of Raking Leaves

Whether something is a joy or a chore is largely a matter of how you choose to view it.

With a half-dozen old, large leaf maple trees in our front yard, autumn is a beautiful event. It also fast becomes a lot of work, as the giant, golden brown leaves drift down to create a thick, wet (I live in Oregon) blanket that, if left in place, would smother the lawn. (In Oregon we have green winter lawns, though I use the term loosely with regard to ours because our organic approach to lawn care means we have a mixed carpet of grass, moss, clover and weeds.) These same big leaf maple leaves also make a wonderful mulch for gardens, bamboo and fruit trees, so we leave a few patches of leaves around the trees and borders and rake up the rest to distribute around the orchard and gardens as winter cover.

Today, after weeks of rain- and leaf-fall, the sun finally made an appearance. The leaf-blanketed lawn beckoned. There were a few other things I had hoped to do with my Saturday, but with more rain in the forecast, I figured my priorities had better shift. I had a lot of work to do out there. Then I stopped that train of thought and considered: maybe it wasn’t just my priorities that needed to shift, perhaps my perspective did as well. Did raking leaves need to be a chore? Or could I embrace it as something I didn’t just have to do, but also wanted to do?

One of the things I was hoping to do today was get some exercise — check. Raking giant, wet leaves provides a great, full-body workout.

After weeks of rain, I was feeling the need for sunshine, some natural Vitamin D — check. With the leaves off the trees, the previously shady yard is now flooded with sunlight.

I’ve been intending to make more time for mindfulness and meditation — check. The act of raking wet leaves requires one to move slowly, deliberately and repetitively. Perfect.

I was feeling the need to accomplish something concrete — check. I sometimes get frustrated with my job in the business communications world because the results — i.e. whether we have successfully shifted public awareness or opinion — are often difficult to measure. Shifting large numbers of golden brown leaves into piles surrounding a clean, green swath of lawn is a measurable accomplishment.

I had planned to do something with my mom this weekend— check. Raking leaves was always a family affair as I was growing up, so I invited my mom to join me. She enthusiastically accepted my invitation, put on her hiking boots, grabbed a rake and went to work. She even looked happy to be there. I hope I’m still raking (and smiling about it) at 91!

As it turned out, I enjoyed every minute of it. The warmth of the sun on my face. The lovely colors of autumn with the backdrop of a blue sky. The sound of our chickens milling about, also raking up leaves to search for worms and grubs. The rhythm of my heartbeat and the rake, the shift from right to left, like a meditative dance. And just being out there with my mom, working, smiling, quietly enjoying time together.

And now, as I sit here writing, my body has that happy-tired feeling — I definitely challenged a few muscles I hadn’t used in a while. I still feel warm, despite the cool chill of evening. My mind feels rested and more creative. My heart is full. And I feel incredibly satisfied at the very visible accomplishments of a good day’s work.



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