leaf-raking on a blustery day
maybe i should have noticed, clear up and down my street, far as i could see, i was the sole soldier armed with rake the other afternoon.
maybe i should have sniffed out my sisyphean traits before snapping up my old down vest, slipping on my red woolen mittens.
maybe, had i not been so deeply lost in sheddings from on high, i might have caught on earlier to the pathetic notion that every time i’d piled up a meager, humble, pitiful excuse for a heap, the wind blew.
oh, i don’t mean a little whuff of air. no mere ruffling of the fallen oaks and ginko droppings.
no, ma’am. this wind was making like the big bad wolf in every scary fairy tale. it was hungry, and it was howling. made snacks of all my measly mounds. snickered slyly, i now surmise, as i shook my stick and raked them back again.
it was in the middle of, say, my 88th attempt to get the misbehaving leaves lassoed back into their corner, that it dawned on me, just what a fool i was.
and how very often i–and maybe you and you–attempt to rake a rodeo of leaves on the blusteriest of days.
don’t we, some of us, exhibit quite a knack for doing life the upside-down-and-backwards way? aren’t we inclined, some days, to try to mow the meadow, one blade at a time. with cuticle scissors, besides.
why is it that we put ourselves through what my gramma called the wringer?
why, i wondered, do i decide it’s high time to neaten up the yard, on the very afternoon the winds blow at 50 miles per hour?
but then, while dried-up wrinkled bits of autumn’s gold and crimson garb cascaded all around me, while i raked and raked until my shoulder ached, and then my back joined in, i found to my surprise that i rather savored getting lost in the eye of that leafy swirl.
so what if i alone saw fit to exercise the rake that windy, windy day?
so happened that my place beneath the trees that howling afternoon brought me what can’t be shoved in leaf bags, or carted off in croupy trucks.
not only was the whipping of the wind whistling past my ears in melodies i might have learned to hum along.
not only was i standing there alone, chuckling, frankly, at my certified absurdity.
it dawned on me, like a branch klonked on my head, that were it not for my up-churned piles, and the evidence that scattered with every darn-blasted gust, i’d not be witness to the choreography of air in flight.
that very thought stilled me.
for years now, i’ve had a rabbi in my life who posits this as proof of God: have you ever seen the wind? he asks, thus setting up the paradigm for what he suggests is knowing the unknowable.
question two, according to the rabbi’s logic, always is: why then do you think you need to see to believe when it comes to the Holiest of Holy?
i’d barely thought the thought when i saw, quite clearly, the divinity in the honey-locust castings.
it is the very leaves themselves, quarter notes climbing the C scale, playing loopdy-loop around my thighs, my waist, my ears, that bring to life the ebbs and eddies of the wind.
i see the wind in the blowing of the leaves. i see God, then, in the messy world that won’t be raked in piles.
i see, that is, if i slow down long enough to notice the air ballet that swirls around me. i see, that is, if i don’t insist on battening down the scattered shredded bits.
maybe the point of raking, after all, that windy afternoon, was to discover the messiness of joy. or, perhaps, the joy of messiness.
maybe ours is not supposed to be a yard–or life–that’s manicured, a grassy carpet vacuumed leafless.
maybe rather, we stumble on the richest riches when we stop amid that raucous riot of the day-to-day, and recognize the one who choreographs the wind. and stirs the music in the simple raking of the fallen leaves.
it’s late, and once again i am bone tired, but unwilling to let a wednesday pass me by. do you, like me, try your hand at raking–or any other chore that must be undertaken–on the unlikeliest of days? when winds howl, and you’d have to be a fool to try to gather weightless leaves? and, despite yourself, do you sometimes stumble onto discoveries that could only be divine?