This week has been devoted to leaves: raking, mulching, admiring, viewing. They have graced our home since early spring, transforming many hot, sunny afternoons into pleasant escapes from the world, allowing me to sit under our maple tree in the back yard while reading a book and enjoying our dog, Shadow. Our trees keep our house cool in summer and protect the moisture in the lawn, yet I see the leaves as the tree’s ambassadors, the workers who achieve the results. Trees give beauty to any landscape, yet it is the leaves we see, the leaves that remind us of the blessing we enjoy from this Earth. Annually, in late winter we seek the first sign of early spring: little buds on the tree branches, the sign of rebirth across the land. I confess, once the leaves appear I tend to forget them until fall when they have finished their role on the tree and begin a descent to their goal of decomposing and providing nutrients for future leaves.
It is in this final phase in the fall that I am drawn to write of leaves. Fall winds carry them across the yard in their flight, their bright colors a joy to behold. Raking the leaves is never work, although when finished I find my back aches and my sore arms argue that work it was. Raking is never truly needed; nature always sees to the recycling and new growth. Our efforts reflect our need to control and manage the process, but there seems more to this than simple removal of the leaves. Raking leaves makes us a part of this annual event that has been happening for the past 350 million years and will continue as long as there are trees. This gives us a sense of being a part of eternity, a part of an event that ties us to the Earth and to nature. That thought isn’t likely on our minds while raking, but I have yet to speak to a person raking leaves who wasn’t in high spirits; although we may deny it, we enjoy our small part in the annual fall celebration of the change of seasons. Leaves are a visible reminder of the life cycle we share: birth, growth, contribution, retirement, death, recycle. Like the leaves, we enjoy our time in the sun, but we are not here forever; all things come to an end.
Enough. Through the window I see leaves swirling in the wind. I am needed there. My rake awaits.