While many people try to rid their lawns of leaves, we happily accept donations from a neighbor.
Several times every fall, Paul backs his truck up to our land and dumps loads of leaves. We use our hands to stuff them in plastic bags, delighting in the smell and touch of the leaves. Today we collected 13 small bags and two big bags (photo below). Some leaves will be shredded and turned into compost, while others will become mulch or insulation for small winter hoop houses.
October leaves are a glorious part of the cycle of the seasons in New England. I sat outside today and watched as a gust of wind shook them from their branches and they fluttered down to earth. I tried to catch one before it hit the earth. And I reflected that just as trees need to shed their leaves, we too have to let go of past encumbrances.
Raking leaves can be a social experience. Every year, we put our rakes in the car and to see some friends who have a big shaded yard, and remove the leaves before having a potluck. Why would anyone want to use a leaf blower and miss the pleasure of gathering leaves with rakes?
Speaking of which, “Gathering Leaves” was the first Robert Frost poem I read, in 4th grade. Here’s how it goes:
Spades take up leaves no better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves are light as balloons.
I make a great noise of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer running away.
But the mountains I raise elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms and into my face.
I may load and unload again and again
Til I fill the whole shed, and what have I then?
Next to nothing for weight, and since they grew duller
From contact with earth, next to nothing for color.
Next to nothing for use. But a crop is a crop,
And who’s to say where the harvest shall stop?
Typically, Frost not only describes his interaction with nature but also invites the reader to see deeper truths. Are leaves useless annoyances or just another crop? For us, the simple message of this poem is: why waste a resource that can be put to good use? Frost was always better at poetry than farming, and maybe if he had made compost out of those leaves he gathered, he wouldn’t think they are “next to nothing for use.”
People come to New England from all over to see the foliage in the fall; they’re called “leaf-peepers.” I remember when a chamber of commerce got so many calls asking when the foliage was peaking in the area, it established a precise time, like 4:41 a.m. on Oct. 15, as if the timing of this phenomenon was as precise and vital as sundown and the equinox. For me, it’s peaking all through October.