It will be another good year for hawks, I think as my rake uncovers another cache of nuts beneath the leaves. For weeks, I’ve heard the rifle-like retort of falling nuts smacking the hoods and windows of cars in my neighbors’ driveways. It will be a bumper crop this year. The more nuts, the more squirrels and chipmunks that run around collecting them, which makes them less-wary targets for the raptors. The more nuts, the more to cache, and later to feed young squirrels and chipmunks, which creates yet more food for the raptors.
This is what I am thinking as I rake. As the years go on, I like this annual chore less and less. My mind wanders. I tell myself I am outside and exercising in a more useful way than riding a stationary bicycle. But my arms, legs and back ache. I do not like that. Most of my neighbors hire a service. For them, if you have a lawn, particularly a large one, you hire someone to maintain it. We try to do it ourselves. One mows, the other pulls weeds. One puts down seed and fertilizer, the other cuts back overgrown hedges, and puts in flowers. Both of us rake or use the little electric blower to move the fallen autumn leaves.
At this moment I have finished using the blower in the backyard to push the elm, oak and maple leaves into a large pile that I will rake into a blue tarp. My husband (MH) is using the big rake to bring the locust pods on the front lawn down to the curb. He will join me out back when he’s done.
As I rake, I think of the town official who thought locust trees would be a good choice to line our quiet suburban street, not knowing then that locust roots push up sidewalks and streets, and the pods of female trees create a thick mat on the lawn unless they are removed. Every year, I think I would like to punch that town official in the nose.
I hear a Carolina Wren sing, and that switches my train of thought back to birds. There are eagles, hawks and falcons flying south for the winter, perhaps several miles above me as I work. The more nut-fed squirrels they eat, the more young raptors there will be, too.
As the tarp fills, MH quietly joins me with his rake. At first we are in each other’s way. I chide him for putting more leaves under the tarp than on it. But from long experience with leaves, and each other, we start working together while trying to stay out of each other’s way. It has been like this in our marriage, too.
We fill the tarp until it is nearly full and then each grab two corners, and pull it to the curb to empty. Then we go back and repeat the process, again and again, until we are done, or can take no more. Whichever comes first.