The Rains Have Arrived
And winter is not far behind
Days ago the long hot summer in the Pacific Northwest gave way to cool showers, foggy mornings, and a general feeling that fall has arrived. Autumn has painted the trees and filled the small streams that meander through Portland’s southwest hills, gathering momentum and volume as they wend to the Willamette. Their path is one of least resistance, worn into the mountainsides. It’s a steady, relentless cycle that goes on silently as the world changes.
In the summer, when the leaves hung heavy on the growing branches of the maples and oaks, there was lawn mowing and flower planting to be done. Gardens grew fat and colorful. All over town, men and women bent to pick thick, heavy squash from thorny vines. Summer is the season of maintenance and growth and bounty. Autumn brings the reckoning. It is a season of cleaning and clearing. Winter is the time of endurance –– of getting by.
Something happens to the mind as the seasons shift. We slow. Dark moods darken in the new environment. Bright moods dampen. It’s easier than ever now to ignore the chores and the work and to pull a flannel blanket over your cold legs. To crack open a book or to stare into the glow of a football game.
Autumn is wet and getting wetter. It becomes hard to muster the desire to travel to the grocery store or to make the rainy commute to work, let alone to rake the fallen leaves, to trim the overgrown branches, and to clear the brush and debris left from summer’s gardens and growth.
And yet we must push on. We cannot wait for winter to arrive. Have you ever shoveled a driveway that was covered in leaves, weeds pushing through the widening cracks? Ignoring the fallen leaves is the first thing you will regret when you see your green lawn in the spring. Patchy, muddy lawns with rotting brown leaves stuck deep in the thin tufts of grass are a poor greeting for green-starved eyes. A green lawn and the yellow and red shoots of spring flowers are dependent on the work you do this autumn, before the damage can be done.
The dwindling daylight doesn’t help. Soon, most of us will set the clock back to capture more of the morning sun, but we will lose our evenings. By December, it will go from gray, dark days instantly to black nights. From light to dark, with no warning and little transition.
Let’s explore a few ways to muster the motivation necessary for raking wet leaves. Let’s look, together, for ways to lift ourselves off the cozy couch, to extinguish the pumpkin scented candle, and to get our hands dirty doing the necessary work.
The Storytelling Method
In the new era of social media and online content creation, we are all storytellers. We follow along as others travel. We watch the transitions of our friends as they lose weight or explore a new diet. We even have work social networks where we follow each other’s careers, job changes, and calls to actions.
Consider telling us the story of how you worked all weekend to clear the leaves and haul the yard debris to the compost pile. Take before photos and videos of your lawn and your yard in early autumn disarray, and then document the steps you are taking as you tidy-up the yard. Share the stories of how the bag full of leaves busted just as you got it to the curb, and try to focus on the humor of the moment before the maddening frustration kicks in.
Telling others your story helps you to gain perspective. It helps you to understand how you are thinking and what your motivations are. When you’re done with the yard debris removal, take the after photos. Show off your work and your clean yard. You will gain a sense of great accomplishment that will help motivate you to keep up the hard work. Others will also benefit, as you inspire them to get outside to do their work.
The Partner Method
Do you have a neighbor with a similar yard to yours? Maybe your tree even drops most of its leaves onto their manicured lawn. That neighbor might be your best ally as you begin this difficult work. Why not spend a weekend each helping the other get their yard in shape? You can learn from each other, you can talk and grow closer, and you can clear out the brush with the added ease of an extra set of hands.
If you’re feeling brave, try making a date out of the yard work. We go on running dates and dinner dates, movie dates and playdates, why not cleaning dates? Raking on a cool November morning as the leaves finish their fall and the sun fills the sky with a last show of its autumn strength, you will find moments of romance. Share a cup of hot coffee or cocoa and sit side by side, hip to hip, as you survey the morning’s accomplishments.
The Attack Method
If all the poetics and wistful prose have you feeling queasy, this is your method. Attack the yard. Slay the beasts of summer’s growth. Get your heart rate up and your hands dirty. The lawn doesn’t care if you’re grunting and cussing as you yank the leaves from its damp grasp, it just wants the damaging foliage cleared.
When you’re done, warm-down slowly. Walk through your newly refined yard and stand tall and proud, taunting the leaves that dare to fall now.
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