October 2012 Issue
My Ohio: A Chore to Love
The colors, the aroma, the invigorating workout ... raking leaves is a seasonal pleasure.
Ah, fall... here at last.
During the warm months, my favorite place to relax is my front porch, where I can gaze contentedly into the shady canopy of the two big maples in my yard, which whisper breezily to me as I read and sip. I’ll think to the coming weeks, when the chlorophyll drains gently away and the leaves change clothes from summer green to bright, autumnal yellow. Then they will all fall, one by one, onto my yard.
That’s when the fun really begins.
Because I love to rake leaves.
Call me crazy, but it’s true — I really, really love to rake leaves. Fall is by far my favorite season, for lots of reasons: foliage, football, festival fun. But believe it or not, the chance to spend a few hours bustin’ out the rake and scraping the leaves off my lawn is high on the list, as well.
Understand, the rest of the year, I am not given to wild bouts of chore or yard work enjoyment. Snow shoveling leaves me cold. Gardening sounds fun during the dead of winter, but I tire of it pretty quickly once it’s time to really turn the soil. While I recognize that tasks like mowing give you time to come up with good ideas, I don’t look forward to the job; growing up on my parent’sLorain County farmette, where about 3 acres worth of grass-cutting was often my responsibility, gave me the cure. As a home-owning adult, I’ve always made sure that no lawn I own will take more than about 45 minutes to cut.
But when that same lawn is blanketed beneath the red, orange, yellow, brown and purple of the castoff leaves from my trees — ah, my trees! — I am all too happy to get outside and do something about it.
I can explain.
First, it’s the trees themselves. I’ve been drawn to trees for as long as I can remember, as though we’re old friends. The forest is my happy place; Ohio makes that easy for somebody like me — you are never far from woods no matter where you live in this state. But the trees in my yard — those big maples, a black walnut, another maple I planted with my dad a decade ago, four pines in front (including one I brought up from a free Earth Day sprout), and an ash that somehow, blessedly, has survived the borer plague — are like family. Raking up behind them doesn’t even feel like a job.
Plus, the job itself is fun, compared to other chores. It’s a good workout, for one thing, when you do it the right way. By that, I mean with a rake, not a blower. The high-pitched, snarly whine of the leaf blower is an unpleasant suburban scourge. I like my rake.
Bamboo is preferred, for the springy jounciness of it, and the bouncy sound of its action as it pulls across the ground. Stretch, pull, stretch, pull.
But there’s something more to it.
The leaves give off their crisp, musky aroma. They crunch noisily in protest against the tines of my rake. A breeze comes up; the chill weather invites a sweater. There’s always a game on when you’re done. Pull, pull, pull to get there — the rhythm of the rake stroke. As I’m in the thick of it, the leaves feel like a million bits of multi-colored paper, spilling around and away from me like a massive, natural collage.
From the disorder of the leaf-fall comes a gradual, harmonious collection, an arrangement. Neat rows. Tidy piles.
Colorful chaos, gathered. Simple. Satisfying. Fun.
So, there it is. Rake, rake, rake.
And no, don’t call and say that if I love raking so much, I can come over and do your yard.
I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.
Ron Rollins is a writer and newspaper editor who lives in Kettering. With his trees. And his rake.