It’s the time of year when the rumble of the lawn mower is replaced by the roar of the leaf blower. All the good burghers of our neighborhood have been out blowing the leaves of autumn into big piles or long rows. Once corralled, the leaves are herded into landfill-approved heavy brown paper trash bags (available at Wal-Mart, the county government announcement helpfully advised us). Or they are left in rows paralleling the street, where the wind lifts them into a dance of red, yellow and brown. Dance ended, they fall carelessly back to the street or the neighbors’ yards or the lawn from which they were recently raked.
I don’t own a leaf blower. But, driven by suburban pressure to conform and not sully my neighbors’ yards with my trees’ leaves, I raked leaves into big rows, ran the mower over them, emptied the mower bag into big bags and hauled the bags out to the compost area of the landfill. The scarlet oak in the back yard produces leaves like a good laying hen produces eggs, but the tree releases them grudgingly. Rake leaves Tuesday, awaken Wednesday to find the grass covered. It was getting old. It was making me grumpy.
One afternoon when the mower wouldn’t start and I had to rake and bag by hand, Greta brought her squeaky toy to the big pile of leaves. She dropped the toy, then nuzzled among the leaves until she found it. She trotted off with it, threw the toy in the air, caught it in her mouth and rolled on the ground with it.
I dropped the rake. “Come on, Greta, bring it here.”
We played Keep-away, toss the toy and chase each other around the back yard until she got tired of the games and lay down to chew on Squeaky. Early evening dark was coming on. My yard was still carpeted in leaves. My neighbors’ yards had some of my leaves. But for a brief, wonderful moment, I didn’t care.
It’s sad that we get so caught up in being responsible, acting like adults, doing socially acceptable leaf removal. That may be the road to crotchetyism, when we turn judgmental of others who dare to let their grass grow more than 3 inches high in the summer, dare to leave the winter snow unshoveled, the leaves unraked.
Okay, there’s a balance to be sought here. Nothing wrong with gathering the leaves—as long as we have dogs to remind us first to play in them a while.