Raking Leaves

“Trees have a curious relationship to the subject of the present moment. There are many created things in the universe that outlive us, that outlive the sun, even, but I can’t think about them. I live with trees.”
~Annie Dillard

The weather on Saturday was ideal for a great number of things; unfortunately for me, that included raking leaves. We live with trees, and in the spring, summer and early autumn I enjoy them. Our home is surrounded by a panorama of Elms, Red Oaks, Pecans, Chinese Tallows, and one spindly Magnolia. A gangly Sweet Gum and stocky Fruitless Mulberry, both useless in my opinion, are also part of the mix. When the afore mentioned begin to shed their shade, our yard looks like an ocean of leaves, and every stiff breeze conjures up still another amber, gold and purple wave. Trees may be our friends, but the bottom line is that they leave a major mess for me to clean, and Saturday turned into a day of reckoning. Multicolored leaves covered every inch of ground like stippling in a Van Gogh painting; my grandson and I raked, shoveled, hauled, and burned for hours. Exhausted and game called on account of darkness, it seemed like we could work for days and be no closer to the goal. There is an end, we just can’t see it for the leaves.

Life resembles raking. We exert great effort at doing good; kind words, gracious gestures, helping hands, sacrificial service, ad infinitum. Then one day we look up and everything looks the same, so we ask no one in particular under our breath, What’s the point? The bad get ahead and the good are left behind; injustice spreads through the world like an incurable rash. Will the madness never end? The answer is, of course, that it will, for each of us. I cannot speak with certainty on what lies beyond if anything, but I can speak about what remains. Reputation lingers. Acts of grace and mercy outlive us. Buechner writes that love is the frame through which we see our neighbors; I would add that love is a fitting frame for any life. In the end, we are a lasting impression that we leave on the ones we love.

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