The year was 2001 and it was my first as a homeowner. Having grown up in apartments, I knew little of the tasks required. One of the things that attracted me to my home, purchased in the summer of 2001, were the many trees spread around the quarter acre of land. Ah, nature!
Until you have to deal with it, that is.
After the first leaves of fall began to blanket my large yard, I got out the brand new rake, which I had purchased with hope and pride at my local ginormous home improvement store. With the dark shadow of 9/11 not so far behind me, suddenly I felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm as I surveyed the land on this sunny, crisp autumn day as I began to rake. And rake. And rake. And rake.
It seemed like all I did that day was rake, rake, rake. That is because all I did that day was rake, rake, rake. After a few hours, many leaves remained on the ground, I had filled numerous big brown leaf bags, my back hurt and my hand was sporting a blister to rival any I had seen before.
That night, I put down my rake, declined a dinner invitation and took a long, hot bath. I also decided that I would never rake again. Can’t you see me, all Scarlett O’Hara-ish shaking my blistered fist at the sky! Never again! I called a local business and suddenly, my yard was magically cleared of leaves while I was off at work.
Fast-forward ten years. My yard is smaller, there are less trees and my husband is amazing in his propensity for yard work. I have rarely picked up a rake. However, time and circumstances have conspired to have him away for the weekend, yet those leaves have created a carpet on the lawn. There is but one choice.
I. Must. Rake.
Suddenly I find myself in the yard on a sunny Sunday, a bit warm – not really the crispness that I remember from 2011. This time I am smart enough to wear gloves. I also pray this time – because I really need the help.
Scratch, scratch, scratch goes the sound of the rake against the lawn, the oak leaves creaking themselves into brown piles, with a smattering of long pine needles as company. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.
It occurs to me that I have broken a vow – my vow to never, ever, ever and I did mean never ever, rake again. Fiddle-dee-dee – isn’t life funny? Yet here I am, dragging that same fancy rake (I did keep it and my husband has only recently pressed it into use after his old rake fell apart) around the yard.
Grace is with me in this sacrament of raking. This raking is not some heroic task – that I can assure you. I am no martyr-of-the-yard. What this is is different. The amount of work my husband has to do exceeds the time which he has. I must help him. It is that simple.
Listening to podcasts, then music, on my iPod, I continue to rake, stopping only once to converse with a neighbor. “It looks great,” she says. She and her husband are new to the street and I think that they are struck by the amount of leaves everywhere. You see, like my old house, this area has the appeal of so many trees – big, old, oak trees everywhere. It is beautiful, but that beauty demands a sacrifice. The sacrifice is the rake.
I tell her that this is how much I love my husband, so much that I am actually raking, that it is a sacrament. We laugh together, she understands. We speak of the ways in which marriage shapes us, the invitation to go to the hard places and stay there. “Hanging in,” she calls it. Yes, hanging in.
Rake. Rake. Rake.
Hours pass. I am slow at this but somehow 7 large bags are full of dry leaves. The sun is setting and I must go indoors.
Marriage is often a dream of romance, but I think I have found the better part as I took up my rake. It was a sacrament and to it I will return.
Over and over and over again.
I love this, Fran. Beautiful! Bravo 🙂
great work Fran, I agree …. although since I am now solely responsible for that pile of leaves, I choose to use the mower and mulch …. leaving them right on the lawn, chewed up. Great fertilizer …. or compost.
You’re the best! 🙂
Lovely, Fran–thanks for sharing this. (I agree with Tina, though–compost! 🙂 )
Fran, this is a beautiful reflection! It will give me something to think about when I rake….
Wonderful, Fran. I hear a touch of St. Therese in your words. “Do everything, even the smallest, for the love of God.”
What a fabulous post! I love how you connect this to marriage and the sacrifices we make for our spouses. Out here in CA, we don’t have as many leaves as you do — but my in-laws’ home in upstate NY is surrounded by trees, and it’s easy for me visualize what your task must have been like. You are a champ! Thanks for the great story to start my day.
What a lovely love story in the leaves. :sigh:
You are blessed.
Thank you for sharing.
I have recently been planting deciduous trees in my new garden. They are small as yet so will not be a major problem for a few more years. However I have only ever swept the paths as I think leaves do a great natural job of mulching the garden. The lawnmower man can deal with those on the grass but my plan is, as with my previous house, to gradually remove most of the grassed areas. I hate mowing much more than raking. Hope your husband appreciates your efforts.
Thank you one and all! It was quite a different way to see the raking and I am compelled to share the grace I was given to *do* the actual raking. Plus – I love my husband. Very. Much. It is that simple. This took a burden off of him and the yoke, again thanks to the grace, was not heavy for me.
“We speak of the ways in which marriage shapes us, the invitation to go to the hard places and stay there.” Beautiful! Sometimes we forget that sacraments aren’t fleeting, a one-time-shot in a church. They’re everyday but still full of grace. Thank you for sharing this.
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