I saw the kid walking down the sidewalk out of the corner of my eye as I was raking leaves. He was perhaps 9 or 10 years old.
I went about my business until I heard his voice: “Why are you doing that?”
I stopped and looked at him.
“Doing what?” I asked.
“Raking leaves. Don’t you have a leaf blower?”
I smiled, muttered something that was incoherent, and he went on his way.
It was a good question.
I have more trees than anyone for blocks around. Last fall I filled eleven 96-gallon green Toters with leaves and still had some leftover at curbside for the city leaf collection. And that is without removing all the leaves as I like to keep a nice blanket of them on the ground for natural mulching.
Given a choice between hearing the scraping sound of a rake against asphalt or the motorcycle-like drone of a leaf blower, I’ll gather leaves the old school way.
Of course, leaf blowers aren’t used primarily for sweeping up leaves. Besides being used more than once by some folks in the neighborhood to dry off their vehicles after washing them, they are used primarily in an attempt disperse stray lawn clippings, dust and other yard debris.
I say attempt because rarely does anyone blow such stuff into a pile and then take a broom and dust pan and deposit it into a yard waste Toter. Instead they blow it to the four winds until they can’t see it.
That means the dust and lawn clippings are simply moved down the street into someone else’s yard. It’s only fair because they’re probably downwind from someone doing the same thing. It’s the equivalent of cleaning your house by taking the dust and clutter from one room and dispersing it to the next.
The most bizarre use of leaf blowers is by yard maintenance companies. Folks are essentially paying them to move the mess around and not clean it up. If we paid someone to detail our car at home and they simply dumped all of the garbage and dirt from inside our car into our neighbor’s yard we’d go nuts.
And while leaf blowers allow you to push leaves into a big pile, it is one of those things that make health clubs, the medical industry, diet product manufacturers, and fitness gadget hawkers rich.
You really don’t save all that much time blowing leaves instead of raking them. You do, however, save a fair amount of calories from being burned. It also doesn’t do much to keep your body parts in shape.
Leaf blower aficionados argue that their yards look cleaner. Can’t argue that. A lot of people like the “perfect yard” look where nothing is out of place nor is one leaf left on the ground after they’re through using a leaf blower.
A rake is pretty basic. It doesn’t cost a lot of money. You don’t have to buy gas, roll out a power extension cord or recharge it for 24 hours before you can use it. You just grab it and start raking.
And unlike a leaf blower, a rake doesn’t generate more air pollution in 15 minutes than your car does all day.
But perhaps the best part of using a rake is the fact it lets you savor your yard.
I’m not talking communing with nature. Yard tasks allow you to “wind down” or, if you are of the 21st century mindset, “go off-line” for a while. Raking leaves is a mindless task and that’s the point.
It is easier to put things in perspective.
My granddaughter Ashley, like most 21-year-olds, is impatient, frustrated, and generally hard on herself for where she is at in life. We all have the tendency to want to “get there” now when it comes to our goals or dreams and are frustrated when we seem to be treading water or moving at a snail’s pace.
Telling her she’s “young and give it time” and that she’s already come a long ways doesn’t seem to cut it.
She doesn’t have the advantage of being able to measure life. That 15-gallon California pepper tree I brought home in my Escape that my grandson Ryan helped me plant seven years ago as a 10-year-old is now 35 feet tall and dominates the back yard. The same is true of most other trees in my yard. They have grown taller and wider. Some have done at a fast pace and some have taken their sweet time. But rest assured their leaf production is proof that they’ve gotten a lot, lot bigger over the years.
Raking is a way of contemplating their growth. You just don’t get that when your ears are assaulted non-stop with the incessant din of a leaf blower that makes a landing 747 sound like a chirping bird in comparison.
In a way, that’s the problem with many modern conveniences whether it’s personal electronics or yard equipment. They hurry us through tasks in the name of efficiency. And in doing so, it becomes a race to get things done. It makes getting there more important than the journey.
And as such you measure life as if you’re hell-bent to cross off everything on your life’s to do-list.
The last thing you want to do is to arrive in the fall of your life and realize that you didn’t savor the years you spent getting there.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.