Today is right in the middle of December, with the expectations of the upcoming holiday season! It is a nice cool morning, with bright sun shine. Snow is forecast some time soon, but may be in a day or two? No sign of it, in this glorious morning. I set out of the home into the backyard, for the annual chore: Clearing the leaves! For those who are not from New England – the north eastern states of US – this region gets to enjoy the nature’s full grace and glory of all four seasons each year. The end of fall season is also the time, when all plants with broad leaves shed all their leaves, leaving the ever greens to enjoy the sun shine through out the winter months, with out much competition! This is also the time to go out and rake the yard and clear the leaves off the ground.
Clearing the leaves was a huge project in our earlier home, with lots of tress around. As we moved closer to the city and in this densely populated suburban town, with smaller lot sizes and fewer trees, clearing the leaves is really not a huge problem. Yet, it has to be done, at least for one day each year and some time before the first snow falls. Of course there have been years where I have ventured on this exercise after the first minor snow event. The exact date and time of this annual event is a matter of guessing for me as well as for the family! Since we have a service to mow the lawn, one would expect most of the leaves will be cleared as part of the lawn mowing effort. But, that never happens. The leaves may not all fall early enough and certainly not before the lawn mowing service shuts down. Or the winds may blow in more leaves at the end of November from the neighboring yards! There will always be a need to totally clear all the leaves, at some point, which brings us back to this annual ritual!
I often admire those, who take this ritual more seriously and rigorously. There are those with rake on hand and collection bags in tow, clearing the leaves every so often. These are the true warriors, for whom a perfectly manicured lawn and the bushes free off fallen leaves is a matter of utmost importance. I am pretty sure these are also the men who visit their barber shop every month regularly and stick with the same stylist and machine settings! For me, clearing the leaves is more of a necessity to keep the grass alive and free of moss and the acidity level in the ground within reason, that prevents the mushrooms from popping up in mid summer! Of course my visits to the barber shop is not a routine as well, but rather a guessing game between how long I can procrastinate and how much I am willing to be seen as uncouth!
The clearing of leaves today was the perfect joy! The leaves were crisp and dry. With the low relative humidity, thanks to the falling temperatures, and the lack of rain in the past few weeks, the leaves could be crushed to smaller volume relatively easily. As I stepped out, the volume of leaves to be collected seemed some what overwhelming. Imagine a large pile of coal to be moved from the yard into the silos or a large pile of wood, recently chopped off several large logs, to be stacked in the shed? It is the kind of work that seems overwhelming at first sight. The volume of work in front of you, literally stares at you! Frederick W. Taylor carried out his famous “time and motion” studies, over 100 years ago, precisely on work like this, that brought out the efficiencies in the industrial labor and their output.
This year has been special. The dry windy conditions had accumulated the dry leaves in the back yard into this sprawling collection. There was less of a need to rake large areas of the grassy yard to collect the leaves, since nature has done most of this work. But, the pile of leaves is now staring at you, almost with a challenge of “come and get me”! This reminds me of the many other things we have to get done, which appear daunting in the beginning, but get done eventually: the project with the dead line, the upcoming school exams which need extensive preparation; the cooking one has to do to prepare for the feast! You get into it because it has to be done. May be staring in front is the meaning of the Chinese proverb: “The Journey for thousand miles starts with the single step”!
Some how this mindless exercise of collecting all these dry and fallen leaves seems to be some what soothing to the mind! I could easily find out, if the lawn mowing service will clear the leaves each year, even if it is for a small additional fee. But, I have never bothered to check on it. Is it my procrastination or is it my hidden secret need to enjoy this annual mindless ritual? I am not sure at this moment.
Gathering the piles of dry leaves and packing them into this large, drum like paper container is not a highly skilled work. But, it requires a lot of perseverance, for sure! As you get into it, after each bag filled, there is a routine that evolves. The opening of these huge bags from their neatly folded state into a thin barrel of large volume, with out tearing the edges! Then the ability to gather these leaves, which want to flow and spread in every direction. There have been days where a gentle breeze would set this collection effort astray. Today, that was not the case. The ability to collect and compile these leaves into a handful, large enough to be efficient to dump into the paper barrel, but not so large that you drop off the most of it outside or end up tearing the paper bag! I have done both often enough to know that anything rushed only end up in the futile effort with redundant work as the penalty. Today, none of that was happening. Was it because I was truly enjoying this annual ritual and there was a natural rhythm in my effort with no great urge to rush anything? Is this the meaning of Yoga, where you let go of yourself and do what comes naturally and appropriate for the moment?
Now, I am all finished. The leaves are in their barrels to be disposed off. How to dispose off these bags is a matter for another moment. The pile of leaves on the ground are no longer staring at me. That is the success for this morning! It deserves recognition, like smelling the rose on hand. Would a warm cup of coffee be the right reward? Perhaps!
Coincidentally, I had a similar raking experience. The leaves just gathered in one place- made it easy to scoop it up but the carpet of leaves looked so beautiful that I almost felt the need to apologize to nature for crushing and clearing it up. (It was November then). On the other hand one could have gone about using the blower and made sure that the lawn was impeccable with not a single leaf!!
Raking certainly can be soothing if done mindfully. why look upon it as a chore to be completed? Drinking coffee or raking can both be rewarding!! Yes, the disposal of the bags can be a chore if there is no yard waste pick up in mid-December!! or is it??
Flow…. Harmony…effortless effort…meditation..flow
I think coming inside the four walls for coffee would be a chore on such a great day. Uninterrupted time is a joy when you are involved in anything.