Living under the trees has some benefits. Shady summer days keep the house cool. Our drafty, old house is buffeted from the wind. Our roof survived a rogue hailstorm in 2009, thanks to the large maples to the west.
Every fall, I am eager to embrace the rituals of the season with cool, crisp air, a harvest of pumpkins and apples and, of course, beautifully-colored falling leaves.
And every year, our maple trees refuse to turn color in October. We watch as the trees in neighboring yards turn a brilliant yellow or glowing orange. Our maples patiently wait, remaining green at Halloween.
Finally, in November, they will decide they are ready, turning yellowish brown. It is as if in being late to the party, they can’t show off their colors quite as much. But they do all fall, each and every leaf, and by the week before Thanksgiving our yard is swathed in a carpet of brown leaves, waiting to be raked.
That is how, every Thanksgiving weekend, I find myself raking. Since it is Thanksgiving time, I have gratitude on the brain, so I try to appreciate the fallen leaves. Thank you for your organic material for our compost...Thank you for your crunchy sounds that remind me of childhood leaf piles...
I could choose to be grumpy about going out year after year to rake away leaves. Even when my son mulches them with the mower each weekend in November, I make pile after pile, tarp-full after tarp-full and haul them over to our composting corner. Nevertheless, the fallen leaves always come back. It is not a job that will ever be finished.
So, why do it? Why spend my time raking leaves into a pile when I know that next November I will be faced with just as many again?
I am sure my local landscaper could tell me about the benefits for one’s lawn of being leaf-free all winter long. I could probably even Google it.
But apart from any reasons related to botany, I rake because it is part of the rhythm of my life. When I go outside with my rake at Thanksgiving and find, yet again, that the leaves have fallen, I acknowledge the year’s cycle; I notice the turn of the calendar once more.
Different years carry different weights and concerns that might be with me as I rake. Last year, it was noticing my recently deceased mother-in-laws absence and impending birthday amidst the holiday season. This year, I rake with the weight of more global concerns.
As I turn over the piles of leaves, I turn over these concerns in my mind. I collect worrisome thoughts into piles and carry them to the edge of my brain where they can convert into compost.
I rake up my leaf debris. My garden is no longer weighed down by wet, rotting leaves. Until it is again.
I rake up my mental debris. My mind is no longer cluttered with fearful thoughts and worries. Until it is again.
It is November, and I am grateful for the Thanksgiving practice of raking leaves.
What mental debris do you notice scattered on your mind today? What will help you to settle and collect it?
Jessica Curtis is a professional life coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.