Here in western Oregon we don't have afflictions that curse other parts of the country: hurricanes, tornadoes, long bouts of hot humid weather, deep snow, scorching temperatures.
But this time of year the karmic weather account balances out somewhat, because one thing the Willamette Valley does have is leaves.
Billions, trillions, gadzillions of leaves! Most of which seemingly end up in our yard.
For the next month or so the adage what does not kill you will make you stronger courses through my brain frequently, offering me some degree of comfort that all the work I put into leaf maintenance will translate into more vibrant health -- assuming I don't commit suicide with my Stihl leaf blower after I contemplate our landscaping in mid to late October.
We do not have an "easy care" yard. In fact, one would be hard pressed to come up with a more perfect unfriendly-for-leaf-pickup design.
Quite a few large oaks surround our rural home site. Oaks, I've learned, are the Devils of leaf-dropping. Each tree lets loose its leaves at a different time, and never all at once. Thus the oaks produce a steady stream of leaves from early October until December, or even longer.
An archetypal image of leaf maintenance is a smiling family enjoying a sunny day, raking into piles golden leaves that have dropped neatly onto a manicured lawn from a single arching tree.
This is not how it generally goes in Oregon. Certainly not in our yard. Scratch the smiling.
Plus, the days I deal with leaves rarely are sunny. The leaves often are wet and soggy. A huge proportion have lodged themselves behind, between, and under the insanely complex web of rocks, ground cover, and evergreen leaf-catching shrubs scattered throughout our yard.
I've evolved a leaf blowing system that works pretty well. But it isn't straightforward, or easy. Some day I'll have to make a You Tube video of my approach so it doesn't expire with me.
Since we live in the country, some leaves -- blessedly -- can be simply blown from the edges of the yard into the brush. Central-area leaves, though, must be blown into piles, put into a leaf bag, and dragged off into various dumping zones.
Now, I feel grateful that we live on ten acres that has plenty of room for leaf disposal. People in Portland have a much tougher job getting rid of leaves, especially this year.
It's impossible to deal with all of the leaves via my leaf blower. After a string of leaf collecting in that fashion, I have to start picking them up manually, with my gloved hands.
This has a certain Zen simplicity to it.
Except when I'm cursing our decision to landscape our yard so naturally, and wishing we had one big expanse of flat lawn rather than so many leaf-catching rocks, bushes, and shrubs.
I've gotten to the point that when Laurel and I discuss a potential change to our landscaping, I focus almost solely on the leaf effect. If a change would lead to a net reduction in fall leaves, invariably it seems like a great idea to me.
Some large lilacs are gone this year, as is a large tree that blew over in a windstorm last winter. At the time I was sad to see it go. Now, I'm happy that the replacement tree is so small and leaf-miserly.
Lastly, before I moved to Oregon (way back in 1973) I had a naive conception of "evergreen" -- as in evergreen Douglas Fir.
This doesn't mean that Douglas Firs keep all of their vegetation. They simply lose their needles continuously throughout the year, a fact I'm reminded of whenever I go out to our driveway after a windy day and see what a couple of "evergreens" have deposited on the asphalt.
So add copious wet leaves and needles to your list of why Oregon is a nasty place to live. Especially if you're thinking of moving here. (It's already too crowded.)