Leaving the Leaves

Every year I have the same argument with my family. Every year, as soon as the leaves begin to change color, one would think we are expecting a blizzard. The anticipation of how much of a mess the leaves will make is unbearable to them. They linger by the windows, gaze out and watch for days into weeks, seeing and monitoring how the leaves are falling and wonder out loud how and when the leaves will be cleaned up.

Every year I say the same thing, “Leave the leaves.” Their reaction is the same every year too, “WHY?”, more a whine than an inquiry.

I never understood the purpose of raking up dying leaves only to expose the drying grass. It seems to me a dumb and wasted effort.

Autumn is my favorite season and personally, I have always liked the look of a pile of leaves. I like the crunch under my feet as I shuffle through a nice pile of tawny crisp leaves just waiting and ready to be pulverized for their end purpose of food for the earth. Then there’s the smell of moldering leaves, musky and woody, to remind you that it’s almost finished its life cycle and ready for the last stage of their seasonal performance. Why not wait until the show is totally over?

The best collection of falling leaves is under our maple in the back yard. Every year it is a spectacular transition of dark green to blazing red to a brilliant yellow that almost glows in the sunlight. When the leaves begin to lazily waft to the ground they go from the yellow to a rich tawny gold where they collect in an almost perfect ring around the base of the tree, like a skirt that’s just dropped from a waist.

This perfect pile calls for some action. I got out the little used leaf blower and made a pile of all of these leaves on one side of the tree. The family is all in a giggly dither thinking that finally we clean up the leaves.

Once the pile is created I gathered up my camera and my Todzilla granddaughter. Once we’re at the pile of leaves I say to her, “ Go ahead, jump in”, and she did. “NO”, hollers her mother, “She’ll get dirty.”

Well, THAT was my intention and I was going to make sure that it happened. She needed to get dirty. She needed to let loose. I don’t call her Todzilla because she’s a peach of a child. Her happy moments are few and far between.

As she jumped in, she giggled, and mentioned how it smelled good. Yep, I was on to something, I thought to my not so humble self. “Go ahead, dig down, throw up handfuls of leaves”, I tell her.

First she looks to her Mommy and then spots my camera. Ooo, a chance for a Kodak moment. Todzilla loves to have her picture taken. As I take up the camera she has found rapture in throwing something up and down and around and not getting yelled at for it. She threw those leaves like it was confetti over and over, digging down to the ground and throwing as much as her little hands could shovel up into the air, up and over her head. When we were all done I insisted we leave the pile where it stayed and eventually broke down over the winter.

Spring cleanup revealed a giant bare spot on the lawn where the leaves were left. I was reminded that this was my fault for building the pile and leaving it. I whipped out the pictures of the captured rapture and reminded everyone what a great time we all had. The grass will grow back.