Ah, November. Pink sunrises, dark afternoons, hot mugs of cider, and lawns completely covered by crispy leaves. Leaves that must be removed before snow covers the ground (lest the lawns die beneath them).
So the sounds of November include the sounds of leaf-blowers and rakes. My neighbors are pretty considerate people; I don't have any complaints about leaves being blown around at 7 A.M. on a Sunday morning, or about people blowing leaves from their yard into mine. In fact, most of my neighbors go out of their way to be nice and helpful about these things. But I do have a few thoughts about the process of leaf removal, and I know you're dying to hear them.
When I was a child, Dad raked the leaves, sometimes with help from the teenagers in the neighborhood, who were willing to lend an assist for a little pocket money. The leaves had to be bagged and put at the curb. When we kids got older, the raking duties became ours. It wasn't a task that I particularly liked, since we lived on a heavily wooded lot, and the work was exhausting and tedious. It was really hard, producing sore shoulders and blistered hands. But it could be fun, especially if we were doing it together on a nice day. It could be turned into a game, or a race, and there was always something good to eat waiting for us in the kitchen when we were done. It was one of those things that just had to be done, so we did it, but it had an element of fun in it.
When I first moved here, I noticed that most people in these parts had landscaping services that took care of their leaves for them. For a while, we hired leaf-removers too. They were expensive, but they dispatched the leaves quickly and efficiently, using four-man teams equipped with gas-powered leaf blowers. I sometimes made them cookies, or planted bulbs while they worked, so that I could feel like I was part of the process.
But I never loved hiring someone to do the leaf removal. First, it took away a seasonal task that I had enjoyed (sort of). Second, I never really found a landscaper that I got along with. And third - well, there was the cost. When I was a stay-at-home mom without a salary, we had to closely examine everything we were spending money on, and leaves just didn't make the cut. Especially as the kids got older and were able to give me a little help. Sam bought an electric leaf blower, and the kids and I took turns with it. We always had fun, and we always managed to get the task done before the snow fell.
This year, our leaf-blower is broken. We haven't had the time to replace it. But winter is approaching, and the job still needs to be done. So yesterday afternoon, I fired up my iPod, grabbed a rake, and tackled a little more than half the yard before it got dark. We have mostly maple, oak, and poplar here, so we are treated to a spectacular color show every fall, followed by a thick carpet of leaves. They are dry and light, mostly easy to rake, but my hands still get sore, and I feel the motion in the shoulder I broke last winter. I cheered myself on by imagining that I was burning tons of calories as I worked. I waved to neighbors who were doing the same thing, methodically raking leaves into piles, then merging the piles, then sweeping them into the street, where they will be collected and mulched by the town. Rakes are much quieter than blowers, and the near silence was welcome. I could hear the music in my headphones and the thoughts in my head.
Late in the afternoon, my son, frustrated and needing a break from his French homework, came outside and asked whether he could help. I got him a rake, connected the iPod to speakers so he could hear the music too, and had him join me. And while he was there, raking alongside me, I remembered the fun part about the leaves. It's the camaraderie, the sense of sweeping up the remains of the summer together and tucking them into the annals of memory. The air is getting colder, little by little, and when the winter arrives in earnest, we'll be ready, frost-covered lawn, hot cider, and all.