Lessons from the Leaves
It has been a strange week for sure. My husband was sick and, while we were relieved he tested negative for COVID-19, my routine was upended by a move to the spare bedroom. There were also some tense conversations at work. Even though I knew it would be spent at home rather than the land, I was more eager for the weekend than I have been in a while.
That was, until this morning. I realized it was Sunday and nothing had sparked my imagination as a thought starter for the weekly blog. Usually I file away noteworthy steps out of my comfort zone, fun exchanges with my Meals on Wheels Clients, or exceptional exchanges of kindness. I hesitate to say I was selfish this week, but I did spend it in some introspection.
I set my weekly intention as the word “sacred” and really enjoyed sharing rituals and routines on social media. Some may reserve the word sacred for things related to church or religion. I maintain that each of these routines, places, or groups of people connect me to my Creator. It was a beautiful week of reverence.
Being Sunday, I lingered in my morning routine: coffee, journaling and a brief reading (I’m currently reading excerpts of Voices in the Stones: Life Lessons from the Native Way - amazing). First on my list of tasks for the day was pick up lawn bags. The pecan leaves had blanketed the backyard and the chickens were breast deep looking for bugs. I knew my husband was anxious because he hadn’t been able to bag them and I wanted to help out.
I don’t usually look for analogies to life in every little thing I do. I’m working on presence and trying to dismiss the bad habit of overthinking. I even considered putting in headphones and setting the chore to music. Whether it was this week's spiritual intention or the book I'm reading, which focuses on Native American culture's openness to all nature has to teach, it wasn't just a mindless task. I learned some lessons from the leaves.
As I raked, I noticed the leaves on the bottom layer just crumbled into confetti. It was frustrating to clear a section and bag it, only to have it still look “messy”. I set each bulging bag around the fire pit in a proud display of my accomplishments. Each time I returned to my task, I could barely tell where I had left off because the lawn was so littered with leaf remnants and pecans. I certainly wasn’t going to win the “lawn of the day” title touted on the lawn bags. Fortunately, I have little desire to attain perfection these days. I realized it was a lot like being spiritually fit. The longer I leave it, the harder it is to catch up. It is better to strive for maintenance.
Soon, the opposite thought was running through my mind. If it wasn’t going to make a difference, why clean it up at all? Maybe it’s better to let the leaves mulch into the yard. I went so far as to become irrationally concerned that it was elitist to rake the lawn...is this a first world problem?! It was then that I turned it into an exercise in gratitude. I’m grateful for our beautiful backyard, regardless of the work it takes to maintain it. The grass underneath deserves the sunshine and the chickens deserve to feast on the bugs. I’m grateful for the movement it provides my body, which I even turned into a mindful workout. To help save my back, I concentrated on engaging my glutes every time I bent over to scoop more leaves. I’m grateful to have a thoughtful neighbor who gifted me some of those plastic leaf combs that make scooping leaves a thousand times easier. I’m grateful I’ve avoided Ryan’s virus and feel well enough to help him out. What I’m most grateful for is finding these words just yesterday in an essay my Granny had typed up about Thanksgiving. It helped me recognize what an honor it is to follow in her footsteps. She had typed up a quote by John Henry Jowett that I just as easily would have chosen: “gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic”.
I was raking up one particular pile and suddenly I was standing in the yard of my childhood home on Shamrock Drive. The memory was so vivid, eyeing the best pile to dive into that would provide the softest landing. In the spirit of sacral chakra playfulness, I raked the leaves up as high as I could get them. I may not have dived into the pile, but I did allow myself to settle in like I did as a child. I tried my best to abandon adult thoughts, knowing that it was an allergy nightmare (I was masked for the chore), and that dog poop or chicken poop or both might be present. I noted to myself to shower immediately afterwards. I recorded the “fall” on time lapse video and it was fun to watch, especially since Cooper piled on at the end, thinking this playtime was set up just for him. As I laid there in the leaves, I looked up at the sparse yellow slivers hanging in the outstretched arms of the giant pecan tree. It was a view gifted to me for embracing this childlike act. May I always remain a kid at heart.
And speaking of pecans, there was a plethora hidden under the leaves. I’d heard plenty fall from the tree, landing on the roof with force seeming implausible from a one inch nut. I hadn’t yet seen any on the ground yet, though, and never dreamed so many had settled to the ground beneath the layer of leaves. I’ve tried every trick in the book to crack the native pecans the tree provides, but I have yet to make use of them. Maybe this is my year. Nature offers abundance.
A little research revealed that raking is mostly a personal preference. Mulching the leaves and allowing them to nourish the yard seems to be the most common answer, but I am not here to provide lawn tips. We can’t grow grass in the front yard to save our lives. I am glad I spent my morning doing it, and with a very thankful heart at that. Maybe raking is just raking, but my focus this week on sacred connections opened me up to all the meaning this simple task had to offer.
Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. — Stanley Horowitz