Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Zen of Raking

I just finished cutting down all my perennials and raking our front lawn. Quite a job, but one I actually enjoy. I find raking to be calming, almost prayerful, although the wet leaves made it more of a challenge today.

Raking to me is very Zen. Slow and deliberate, a moving meditation. I clear the leaves, all the while knowing that more are falling from the sky and littering the ground behind me, making the raking an effort in futility. It's a little like those Tibetan monks who make sand mandalas and then blow them away. OK, not exactly as labor intensive as that, but if those monks had three kids following them around they'd probably settle for raking over sand mandalas too.

Dennis sees the leaves from a different perspective. He's all about the leaf blower, and quite a leaf blower it is. It requires ear muffs to prevent hearing loss and can blow away not only leaves but small children in its path. That is his preferred mode of leaf clearing. I'll take raking any day. The only thing that really dampened the experience today were the balmy temperatures. Too warm for me. I attempted a jean jacket, but even that had to go. When you're raking leaves in upstate New York in mid-November without so much as a sweatshirt, something is terribly wrong. I'm hoping tomorrow the temperatures will cool, as promised, before I attack the backyard. It's that time of year -- clear everything out, batten down the hatches, take St. Francis and Our Lady of Guadalupe in for the long cold winter. They're not used to New York temps. They winter in our sun porch, saintly snowbirds.

So I'm waiting for the weather to catch up with the season here, a season that, despite the drab skies and warning signs of winter, is incredibly beautiful to me. There's something sacred about this season, this dying time. I love watching the trees shed their leaves, the plants die back to the ground. Everything retreats, waiting for rebirth in a few months. Spring is wonderful with all its bright green and new life but late fall has a wonder all its own. It's like a deep sigh, a spiritual shrug. All things must pass, the visible worlds says. And we nod our heads and hunker down.

3 comments:

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Beautiful post, Mary. You have a gift of taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. How inspiring to turn raking into a spiritual experience. I'm fairly certain it's what God would have wanted for us when he created leaves, and knew they would, in time, fall to the earth. Thanks for your reflection. I especially enjoyed imagining your children being blown away by the leave blower! I'll bet they were giggling at that -- hopefully anyway!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Leaf, not leave! I hate it when I do that... :)

A.L. said...

I can't help but laugh at your take on raking because from my kitchen window I was watching U.M. and let me tell you it was not a religious experience.