By: Matt Gordon
This weekend I spent over an hour making the largest leaf pile on earth. My son called it a “castle.” It was monstrous in width and height, a wonder to behold. After bounding about in the labyrinth of leaves and getting every type of allergen and small bug lodged tidily in our throats and eyes, we went inside for dinner, bath, and bedtime.
The next morning I awoke, a simple fact that should produce gratitude. I breathed deeply, feeling the raspiness of fall deep in lungs, and it, indeed, felt good to be alive. Up until the moment I looked out the window to the backyard, where the leaf castle towered. Where just yesterday the brown palace was bordered on all sides by fields of green, now felled foliage dominated the landscape. There were leaves everywhere. Redoubled tree litter covered the lawn and my very heart. I wish fall would just leave—and leaf—me alone. Dead and flailing, my moments-old gratitude fell to the ground; my tired hands took up familiar rake and out we went, all muttering futility.
I hope Christianity is true. For those who follow any faith, this is the wish. The Atheist wants what his life is built upon to pan out, even if the prize for being correct is the right to become worm food. Buddhists long for enlightenment and arrival; Muslims, their Jannah. For me, I hope the claims of Christianity bear fruit and this is usually fixated on the lofty notions: my sin is forgiven and I am redeemed; death loses its sting; I am with God as His beloved and see things clear; eternal life. You know the drill. But for our pragmatism toward paradise we oft neglect the sweetly practical. You want Heaven? How’s this: Forget tears, He will wipe away every leaf! Sign me up for that.
But for now, I am earthbound and flummoxed. What do I do with approximately a trillion leaves? I could do some sort of viral video where each leaf represents a dollar and my lawn depicts the wealth of Jeff Bezos. But even the amazon of industry doesn’t accumulate wealth like my lawn collects tree debris.
And we aren’t just talking about my trees either. It is an impossibility. Somehow there is a scientific principle that causes all the leaves of the neighborhood to find their way to my lawn. Perhaps, there is a voucher program or some sort of autumnal incentive plan? Maybe the leaves know that I will be less diligent than the neighbors—some of whom were out at 7 AM today, mind you—in battling their pestilential presence? But somehow they keep piling up. Forget your COVID-19 concerns, this is the true disease—a seasonal plague, unrelenting and tragic.
I’ve tried to hide some of the leaves in the very back of our yard, but I can only go so far as our property comes up against a neighborhood trail. Now, I’ve asked in the dark places of my heart during the dark phases of the night, “Perhaps I could go a bit farther? Maybe those leaves could find their way to that publicly cared for trail?” But I’m a sucker for appearances. Even in the stealth of darkness, my leaf blower would give me blaringly away—inviting the bleary-eyed neighbors to judge, to scold, to grudge. Speaking of neighbors, one plucky elder blew a vast amount of leaves into the street. I respected him for this, maybe even loved him. Up until those very nature scabs floated along to take up residence in my own yard. I wanted to pile them, tarp them, drag them, and deposit them from whence they came. But it would be Sisyphus all over again, for the leaves would return. They always do.
The neighbors across the street take the leaves out by the truckload. Where they take them? Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve planned for weeks to trail them at some point—it would be as easy as just following the leaves—but the timing has always been off, along with my pants, so by the time I’m dressed and suitable for espionage, the train has left the station. Also, even if I find their secret drop location, I have no means by which to transport my endless load.
Yes, I’ve considered burning the leaves. It is frowned upon, yes. Dangerous, sure. One person warned me, “That can catch your trees on fire.” Which is about half the battle, if you ask me. Yes, by all means, burn ‘em up! Bring down the tyrants and their annual treason with them! It would be glorious. My hand quivers with delight at the thought of striking that merciful match.
It could come to that. “That’s madness,” you and my wife say. Precisely. And that would be my defense. You can’t be too upset at the crazy-arsonist neighbor for being crazy and arsonistic, can you? And I feel the madness piling up around me like the walls of a castle, leafy on all sides. I am hemmed in and can see nothing but this indomitable obsession. I wish it would just leave me alone, leave me be, leave, leave, leave, leaves, leaves, leaves . . .
Rake in hand, I dog-cuss the trees, the earth, this very existence. I yearn for a leafless Heaven, where the streets of gold beg for no blast from a blower. Where the trees hold what is theirs and abide by the simple laws of neighborhood decency: No Littering. And with eyes closed, I feel the brisk fall wind dance upon my face and hear the soothing rustle of the trees. I transcend to a better place. And then something else runs across my face. And another. And another. The pestilence rains down, earthbound like me, and the demonic dance of the season goes frightfully on.