The art of raking leaves

The art of raking leaves

There is an art to raking leaves, a state of mind.  It can be a spiritual practice, as well as good exercise.

No, a leaf-blower  won’t do. It’s too noisy, and ineffective. It’s ludicrous, and you know it.

The point of the leaf blower is to get the job done, not the doing of it. But the leaf blower doesn’t even do a good job of blowing leaves. It’s so much noise and hot air. No one looks happy using them.

It’s the doing that is the beauty of raking leaves. You get your whole body moving, like tai chi exercises. It is mindfullness in motion.  It is being aware of things.

You need a rake for doing this.  A humble  rake can be made of plastic, metal or bamboo.  For me, bamboo is best, because it is  more flexible than the metal  or plastic ones. That sound of metal on concrete (like nails on a chalkboard, like the claws of a tiger on a rock?) is jarring, too. Bamboo rakes don’t sound like that. They sound like a bamboo forest.

The bamboo rake makes a swishing sound, the leaves efficiently gathered in piles. You can hear yourself think. You can hear the kids laughing down the street, raking leaves. There is no sound quite like that.

Remember the wonder of leaves as a child, how the trees turned colors, and the leaves fell down in a rain of yellows, oranges and reds. Kids collected them–maple, oak, hickory, butternut, walnut, sycamore, ginkgo, mulberry. Each leaf identified.

And each fall, there are the piles of leaves perfect for jumping into. Falling into the smell of dry leaves, light and resilient, returning to the earth.

There was a time when people burned the leaves, and the air was filled with the smell of smoke and autumn. Burning leaves is illegal, now, or at least discouraged. It is a health and fire hazard.  So much for nostalgia.

Still, I feel something essential has been lost–the smell of burning leaves in the cold air, a  reminder that all things pass.

Well,  all those leaves can be used to cover the flower beds in winter gardens, or  placed in compost piles.  Maybe this way is better, after all.  Leaves become compost. Think of it as  transformation,  and renewal.

Raking leaves, amid  falling leaves.  Haven’t the colors been lovely this year?  We are part of the beauty, and impermanence of things.






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  • You got to the burning point before I did.

    What always hit me as a hassle was trying to turn the rake around to get the leaves from the pile into a wheelbarrow or the like to get them to where you think you could use them. Also, mulch didn't seem like such a good idea because the leaves would go moldy on top of the plants. Maybe the whole issue is inoculating with the proper worms first.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, thanks for reading. You should write about the leaf burning, too!

    As for moving piles of leaves, I gather the leaves by hand, put them in a blue recycling bin, and carry that around, ha ha.

    Yes, the art of composting, could be another post...

  • I give your post a zen, I mean, a ten.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    AW, thanks for reading and your kind words!

  • Thanks, Weather Girl! I'm starting to treasure the last few (?) days with the leaves on the trees and look for the colors while they're still here. After all, they're still here on the ground, too!

  • In reply to MargaretSerious:

    Margaret Serious, thank you for reading, and your comments. The colors are just glorious, now....

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