Thursday, November 07, 2013


I have lived a long time without a leaf vac/blower.  Without the obsession or the sense of personal affront that leaves scattered across the lawn seems to evoke in some suburban neighborhoods.  As if the summer was a party that got out of hand. People come out on their lawns in the fall like tired hosts after the guests have gone, clearing glasses, dumping ash trays, before climbing the stairs and turning in for the winter.

Admittedly, I have lived an atypical life.  Most of my life has been spent either in church owned parsonages, or in cities where leaves were rare things.  All the fall leaves required was a a rake, if you absolutely just couldn’t ignore them.  Get them to the curb and the city will come by in big sucking trucks and haul them away.  Usually by Thanksgiving.  It was all  very casual, and in its own way, a little pathetic.

But all that’s changed.  I own a leaf vac/blower.  It blows leaves into a big pile, sucks them up and mulches them in a zippered bag.  You empty the bag into larger, clear plastic bags and line them up by the curb.  Monuments to a kind of communal Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder.

Our house now has three deflated sacks of minced leaves out at the curb.  The sight fills me with an ironic sense of pride.  

Blowing leaves around your lawn is a kind of absurd thing, and being new to this, I was very self-conscious, heightening the absurdity factor even more.  So many questions came up.  Do you blow the leaves out to the curb?  Get them into a pile on the lawn?  Do you clean the gutters by the  curb?  How far into the street should you chase strays?  Where do “international waters” start on a neighborhood street? 

I was sure the neighbors were all looking out their windows thinking, ”Amateur.”

I knew that I was jamming my leaf vac/blower into the spokes of the circle of life.  Fallen leaves were meant to return to the soil.  To nourish the tree.   But something bigger was going on here. 

I was standing in solidarity with my neighbors.  Holding up my end. Buying into shared meaning, and I had to admit, grudgingly, the lawn looked neat and unnaturally green for this time of year.  Shared meaning does that. 

But meaning doesn’t just happen.  We create it, and in creating meaning we are shaped and created ourselves.  Our communities.  Our families. Our selves.

Meaning is the mirror in which we see our own reflection.  We wash our face, comb our hair in it.  We shave in it or put on make-up before going out into the world. 

Meaning is the blood that carries oxygen to the organs and limbs of our lives, and it carries away the wastes and toxins our lives produce. 

Sometimes meaning overwhelms you like a wave.  You move from one place to another as we have just done and start again.  What does it mean to be starting again at our stage in life? 

Or, you have children, they grow and leave home.  People die, leaving great holes.  Foundations without houses to cover them. It’s all variations of a theme.  These are meaning tidal waves.

And sometimes meaning just floats out of the air like a bright leaf you can chase all over the yard with a high powered leaf vac/blower, to bag for someone to take away.  Because you just do, that’s all.

A deep silence fills the chilly twilight, our three bags of leaves at the curb like the bags in front of every other house.  Behind them, up and down the block, the house windows are all beginning to shine.

No comments: