I’ve reviewed quite a few movies in the time I’ve been writing reviews here. I’ve also managed to talk about a few books, a few podcasts, a few web-only video projects. But all of that has been, to varying degrees, frustratingly pedestrian. So today, something truly unusual: a review of my time raking leaves yesterday afternoon.
For whatever reason, it seemed to be leaf day in the neighborhood yesterday. On arriving home from breakfast, the neighbors on both sides were using leaf blowers–a toy I neither have nor particularly want. While I was raking my leaves, someone two houses down got out his leaf vacuum and went to town with another toy I’m not sure I’d want.
There’s something elegant, not to mention green, about a rake. It’s not exactly the fastest way to move leaves or grass clippings, but it’s more peaceful. Something about using a motor to move leaves–either pushing or pulling them–feels wrong to me. And it makes the excercise a feel much more industrialized, something I’ve always thought yard work was supposed to be a buffer against.
Having said all that, I understand the appeal of powered lawn instruments. Using an unpowered lawnmower to cut tall grass is something few people would ever choose to do. It’s also something that–with riding mowers becoming common in even small yards–few people have ever done. And like that unpowered lawnmower, raking massive piles of leaves, and loading them into bags by the armful isn’t exactly easy work.
But even with the long work and the soreness in my out-of-shape body, I’m glad I used a rake. When the grayness of yesterday’s fall sky was broken by the sun, I noticed. I couldn’t not notice. And I noticed that the man with the leaf vacuum didn’t notice. Perhaps the difference was simply a matter of temperament, but I think it has at least a little something to do with that rake.
Were I without a yard, or a large quantity of leaves in need of removal, I’m not sure I’d much miss the act of raking. After all, the biggest advantage that it had when I was young–jumping into the large pile amassed–is hardly something I would think to do now. The number of leaves I would require for the task is certainly larger than the number the trees produce.
And I can’t avoid the constant nagging thought that raking leaves, like mowing grass, is an absolutely absurd thing to do. At least in this part of the country, we water and fertilize grass encouraging it to grow, and then chop off the part that has grown. So too do we rake up leaves, presumably for the health of the grass, when it’s rather likely that properly decomposed leaves would make rather good fertilizer for that grass.
Regardless, it is an experience I would certainly recommend for those with the time, energy, and desire. It’s not be the most fulfilling work in the world, but it may come close.