People regularly say to me that they wouldn’t want to live in California, because they would miss the seasons. As a California native who has lived in a variety of other places, I understand this. Who would want to miss the seasons of Oh My God it is Really Snowing in April, or It’s So Hot and Humid I Literally Feel as if I Am Melting? But the fact that we give those lovely seasons a miss doesn’t mean that we are without seasons here by the San Francisco Bay. At the moment, for instance, it is the season of Raking Leaves.
True, the weather is dry and sunny, and we’re expecting a high of 70 degrees, but the leaves are turning yellow and drifting into heaps along the driveway. Paradise makes fewer demands on a person than harsher climes, but there are still things that need to be done. Raking leaves is one of them.
There are worse jobs. Dry leaves aren’t heavy, and the scritch, scritch sound of the rake forms its own kind of meditative chant. There are many good ways to rake leaves: setting them as mulch around your garden or piling them in the green waste bin or creating great mountains for kids or dogs to play in. You can use a wide broom if you’re of a very tidy persuasion. Just please, please, never a leaf blower. You can’t think over the sound of a leaf blower. Heck, your neighbors can’t think over the sound of your leaf blower.
And thinking is what raking leaves is for. Raking Leaves is the season to remember that even in paradise, things die, that we and everyone we love will all drift to the ground at last. That each of our lives is merely one little leaf, different but nearly indistinguishable from every other little leaf. That we belong to a tree that will remain standing long after we are gone, whose branches are visible even in the height of summer, if we would care to look, but are so much clearer in this time of stripping down. Raking leaves, one might even consider that the only way to truly connect with the deep roots of that great tree would be to fall, and become soil, and so become nourishment for the larger whole.
Raking leaves, smelling the faint, sharp odor of decay that has already begun, one might long for the rain to finally come and nourish the thirsty ground, turning the hills green once again. Or one might wish for the bright days to never end, to live always in this comfort and beauty. Either way, if you spend long enough raking leaves you will be forced to admit that you have no control, that the rain will come or not come precisely on its own schedule, without your longings having the slightest effect. That the world will give you leaves or grass or flowers or dry earth exactly as it will, and that all you can do is to show up, rake or trowel or hose in hand, and do your best to be grateful for what you are given, and to honor the giver.