Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Art of Blowing Leaves: Into every life a little leaf must fall

Today was my first day this fall to blow leaves. It’s a weekly ritual in the Northern Virginia area this time of year, but I’m rather a novice at it, introduced to it last fall (our first in the area). But I learned a lot last year, which made this year’s first day much more pleasurable. In fact, I’m rather sure the activity is more of an art than a chore—and like most artful endeavors, there’s a sense of pleasure as you come to master it.

First, I’ve learned that my goal isn’t really to get my yard free of every leaf as much as it is to stay ahead of deluge. There were a couple of times last year when I waited too long and I had to blow and rake through piles of thick, damp, muck-clumped layers of leaves. Last Spring, I had to dig through and blow the muck out of those I left behind. Not fun. Besides, if you’re goal is to have a pristine yard, you’d have to stand guard with a leaf blower 24-7. Those things fall even as you sweep a layer away.

And I try to choose a nice day. Today was near 70F—gorgeous. The sun was brilliant and the breezes perfect. It makes the whole endeavor much more enjoyable.

And then there’s the wind. The key is to make it your friend. Work with it. Some days, the wind actually does my job for me, clearing the yard of leaves in a shorter time with a much better result than I ever would. I need to do nothing but watch from the window. But on days like today, when the breezes only occasionally gust, I blow with it, moving my piles as the wind blows.

And I learn a lot by watching others who’ve done this a lot longer than me. There’s an older couple across the street who are masters of the art. I’ve learned a great deal by watching how they move their blower and form their piles. And today, after I thought I’d completed my task, I watched another neighbor sweep the leftover leaves in her gutter next to the street into a mid-size cartable container and bag them up, leaving her house with much better curb appeal than I’d left mine. Next time, I’ll do the same.

Then there’s the art of mastering the leaf blower itself. Like how to move a pile faster by first blowing into the middle of it rather than trying to blow the whole thing from its back edge. And how to break up piles that have gotten too big by blowing down into them and watching the leaves bubble up and scurry as if there’s one of those prehistoric worms from Tremors fleeing underneath. And how direct attacks aren’t always the best moves; sometimes blowing slightly to one side of the main area you’re wanting to move can move it exactly where you want it to go much better than a direct assault.

And as I learn how it all works, I can’t help but think of deeper truths. Like how we fare better when we engage in regular spiritual disciplines rather than waiting until one of life’s deluges hits us. We make it through life’s torrents, winds and floods much better when we’ve put the time into learning how to keep our souls uncluttered and swept clean—focused on God and others—as we work and cooperate with God in changing our hearts to be more like Jesus.

And what about those torrents, winds and floods? Sometimes it helps to let them do their job, clearing the clutter and muck from my soul. Or there's the idea of cooperating with what God is doing in it, moving my agenda and vision along with him instead of fighting against him.

And then there are those who have been walking with Jesus longer than me. It pays to spend some time watching and walking with them, learning how it all works, learning from their wisdom and experience.

And, underneath it all, there’s the fact that this life isn’t so much about arriving anywhere as it is about learning to enjoy and master the art of walking with Jesus. Sometimes, it isn’t what I expect. Sometimes, it’s learning to see things the way he does instead of the way I’ve gotten used to. Sometimes a new insight into this life with him comes like a branch whacking me on the head. And sometimes it comes in the still, quiet evening as the sun goes to rest.

Yes, into every life a little leaf will fall. I’ll always be cleaning them up—just like I’m always working with God as he transforms me to be more like he created me to be. But it doesn’t need to be a chore. It can be an art.

(Image: my leaf blower, a Black and Decker, in case you were wondering)

2 comments:

Don Hendricks said...

I could just see the artistry of your descrptions. Its a weekly thing for me, but its the desert dust and spider webs that invade my back patio each week.

Loved Tremors, but you and I know those creatures could never travel through the "Kaleche"??? that is the desert floor as if it were sand. Now leaves, yes, definately.

Don

Carmen Andres said...

heh, i remember all those cobwebs (and the skin-crawly ickiness when i stumbled upon a black widow, arg).

"tremors" is one of those movies i never get tired of watching, heh. i'm willing to suspend my disbelief on that one :)