After 31 years of living in a rural south Salem property that I at first considered Leaf Hell, I've upgraded my opinion to Leaf Purgatory, since Leaf Heaven is beyond my reach -- unless I develop a brain tumor that somehow makes me love to deal with gigantic amounts of leaves every fall.
Actually, I don't mind leaves all that much.
Especially on a fairly warm, sunny, calm day like this Saturday in very late October. They're undeniably beautiful. At least, when they're still on trees. Once they reach the ground, my affection for leaves diminishes.
But rather than curse my leafy fate, which comes with the territory of a house surrounded by large oaks, with a yard containing numerous other deciduous trees, I want to praise my ability to make copious quantities of leaves disappear from where they're not wanted.
In a recent issue of The New Yorker, I learned about Master Class. That's where, the web site says, you Learn From the World's Best.
OK, Master Class executives -- here's my pitch for hiring me to put on a Master Class in Rural Leaf Blowing and Disposal.
Let's get one issue off the table right away. I use a leaf blower. A two-cycle Stihl backpack blower. Yes, the sort of leaf blower that is nastily proficient at spewing out hydrocarbons.
"If you look at the unburnt hydrocarbons you find that this leaf blower in 30 minutes of operation...is, in fact, emitting more hydrocarbons than driving an f 150 or any light-duty pick up from New York City to Los Angeles," Leamy said.
However, I like to believe that if Al Gore or Greta Thunberg had visited me this afternoon, once they saw how many leaves I had to deal with, they would have said, "You've got our blessing to fire up that leaf blower, Brian."
(There's no way an electric blower would be able to handle our leaves as effectively.)
Slopes require patience. There's several places in our yard where leaves must be blown uphill into an area where they can rot away in a suitable location. This requires a certain Zen sensibility, since leaves, like water, prefer to flow downhill.
And when a gust of wind blows downhill, as happened to me today, that's where leaves go: in the opposite direction from where I'd just blown them. But here there are, off of our grass and walkways.
Anyone can handle leaves on a level lawn. It takes a Leaf Whisperer like me to herd them in an area with many plantings of Oregon Grape, each of which likes to function as a leaf barrier. I forgot to take a before photo of this area. This is the after. By the way, can you find the canine in the photo above?
Don't look up in early fall, before all the leaves have departed trees. But if you do, consider that the remaining leaves will serve to hone your leaf disposal skills.
They aren't out to drive you crazy, even though I have accused our oak trees of doing this, since each tree has its own leaf falling schedule, which means they cast leaves into our yard over a period of quite a few weeks, not all at once.
I like to let leaves lay close to where they fell. This is both environmentally and philosophically pleasing. Also, the easiest thing to do. This is the beginning of a leaf pile that, by the end of leaf season, will be deep enough to make our dog delight in being able to bury herself in them.
I'm sure that she, like the oak trees, didn't do this to drive me crazy, but to give me an additional opportunity to practice Zen-like leaf blowing patience and artistry.
Bank shots are as satisfying in leaf blowing as in billiards. This corner attracts quite a few leaves as they're blown off our deck. Blowing them into the corner at a medium speed results in a rebound effect, getting them into a place where regular leaf blowing can happen. Just one of those skills one develops as a Leaf Whisperer.
Lastly, after you've put in a couple of hours on your leaf blowing craft -- which is how long it takes me to go through our yard on a day like today with lots of leaves -- take a moment to behold the majesty of what you have wrought.
Just a moment. Because until all the leaves have done their falling thing, by the next weekend you'll be doing the same leaf blowing thing.