Leaf Raking While the Earth Tilts
by Jerry DeNuccio
Looking out the kitchen window this morning, I notice that the backyard is carpeted with leaves—carpet bombed, actually, leaf-assaulted, for it was clear the day before. And I find myself feeling a pleasant anticipation. I cannot wait to begin raking them up.
I’m not sure why, exactly.
Sure, there’s the exercise of it, the simplicity of rake and arms, the technology of tool and muscle, briskly applied, in the pale-gold light of an autumn afternoon. And there is the sight of my shadow, now cast forward, now behind, a silhouetted me, always attached, prompting me to whimsically wonder which is the real me. There is the coming, the unannounced, unaccountable coming, of thoughts, urged perhaps by the rhythm of repetitive motion, re-emerging from the deep recess into which they had silently slipped. And as much as I like watching the tumult of leaves falling, the abandon of it, the mad whirl and drift and tumble of it, I relish the neatening raking involves, the restoration, the feeling of satisfaction in looking back when done and seeing the visible change I have made. But there’s more to it than that, I think.
Each of those leaves is a tongue. My backyard speaks in tongues. Each of those leaves is a communique of blades and petioles and veins and midribs and waxy cuticles and stipules. Each of those leaves, scissoring itself at its axil, casting itself adrift, tells how long long enough is. Each of those leaves is the tree’s self-wounding, creating an absence in the now that makes way for a presence to come, a leaving that makes way for an arrival. Each of those leaves is a sign of transformation, the trees’ summery green chatter turned autumn’s red-yellow-bronze-brown solemnity turned acrid-woody incense slipstreaming from the censer of the fire pit.
But more than those things, even, is this: ceasing for a moment, standing still, I will imagine I can feel, slightly but perceptibly, the earth tilting away from the sun, and then I will resume, bending back into the work, lost in the sheer embodiment of it, the felt experience of its physical motion, the being in the doing.
For reasons I can enumerate and rank but can neither connect nor comprehend the implications of, raking the leaves is the very thing that, at this particular time, I find it necessary to do. It seems the customized piece for some jigsaw-puzzled need. What that need is, I cannot with confidence say. But, then, perhaps not to understand is to understand that which is necessary, that which is true.