Though the calendar indicates a few more days of summer, here in this rural northern clime, the long slow pageant of Autumn has begun. Rich, vibrant color is creeping into the palette of greens the trees have worn all summer. Mums are for sale at all of the farm markets. Soon the leaves will begin to fall from the trees and leagues of tidy, diligent, homeowners will pull out their rakes. There is something picturesque about piles of fallen leaves in neighborhood backyards.
In the small pretty village near our home, residents sweep their leaves, bag them, and leave them on the curb for several a special pick-up. The department of public works will tend to the task of turning the leaves to mulch and compost for community gardens. Out here in the country there are other possibilities. Some folks still rake and burn their leaves, scenting the air with nostalgia. Others, rake and compost their own leaves, and conscientiously top-dress their gardens.
We have very few trees on our own little plot of countryside, since our property was a cow pasture before we took up residence. The few trees we have drop their leaves, serenely unbothered by what will happen next. The pear trees in the Orchard Garden drop leaves of a delicious shade of apricot that puts the greenish-brown fruit of late summer to shame. Our maples blaze in fire-kissed shades of red, orange and yellow. This year our new Thundercloud Plum will drop leaves of crimson and purple on the flower bed and across the front porch. Like the trees, we are serenely unbothered by what will happen next. We let the wind sweep the leaves away. Time and sunshine, as well as autumn rains and winter snows, will ensure that the leaves eventually enrich the Earth.
We are all so worried about eliminating clutter in our homes these days. There are countless articles and television segments on the subject. For some of us, no matter how hard we try to combat the situation, more clutter appears and seems to grow on tabletops or in the corners of our rooms. I wonder if our struggle with physical clutter is an outward manifestation of an inward battle with the clutter in our psyches? Who wouldn’t rather rake, bag up, and send away their most difficult memories? Wouldn’t things be more beautiful within our minds, more peaceful and uncomplicated, without the issues and frustrations of the past?
I try not to spend too much time worrying about my own psychological clutter. I watch the circle of the seasons, try to stay connected with the cycles of nature, and realize that if a little fallen leaf debris will enrich the Earth, a little hardship must certainly enrich my soul. I can’t even pretend to be “serenely unbothered” by the trials and tribulations of my life, but each year as I watch the trees release their leaves with perfect grace, I get a little bit closer to letting go.
photo by Haiku, 2006