Friday, November 21, 2014

Reading the Leaves

Vera and I recently purchased a leaf blower, kind of a heavy duty model designed for large yards. Never needed anything like that before, especially when living at our old place where we had exactly one small tree in the back yard. Now, though, with all of these acres and trees leaving their scattered piles all about, something must be done.

Wasn’t too hard figuring out how to assemble it, mix the gas, and set the sucker going. I pulled the straps over both shoulders and fastened the snap in front, then started moving about the perimeter of our largish front yard, moving tentatively at first as I tried to decide how exactly to begin.

At first it seemed kind of a futile pursuit, with the achingly slow moving of the first few leaves seeming to represent an aggravatingly trifling start to what was going to be an impossibly large task to complete. Eventually I found a “technique” of sorts that involved working with the wind, discovering the most productive patterns for waving the long plastic tube, and recognizing when a constructed wall of leaves had become too substantial to try to move further.

Another part of my self-tutelage was realizing early on there was simply no way to corral all of the leaves, not with the blower alone, anyway. With every pass a few were always going to remain stubbornly clinging between blades of grass underneath, a fact of physics that simply had to be accepted.

Perhaps even remarking that is a way of admitting to some latent obsessive-compulsive tendencies. In any case, for me the job started to become characterized by an inescapable feeling of compromise -- by the foreknowledge that being “done” wouldn’t necessarily mean utterly completing the idealized task of ridding the yard of every last crinkled leaf but rather reaching a state at which it would be at last acceptable to abandon further hopes of achieving such.

I was at it for hours and hours, long enough for the mind to wander and become convinced by the emblematic nature of what I was doing.

It was like a long writing project, messy and marked by fits and starts, with each circle about the yard another unfinished draft.

It was like a political campaign, full of urging and persuasion in an attempt to unite a hopelessly unwieldy and discordant group as one.

It was like a poker tournament, the gathering of those first few chips only a tiny step toward the ultimate and seemingly unfathomable goal of collecting every last one.

Eventually I stopped for the day, feeling as though I’d struck a deal with the yard allowing me to take off the harness for now. I walked back to the house, noticing the wind blowing as I did -- signaled, of course, by the leaves rustling and breaking free from branches overhead.

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