Clearing The Leaves

Today after several weeks of procrastination, I finally got around the lifting the leaves from around my home. This has never been my favourite job and this year I found mysef putting it off, day after day, week after week. This need to avoid was much stronger than in previous years. I found it hard to find the motivation to get stuck in as 1 usually would. I’m not sure why this has been so, particularly when I think back to the enthusiasm with which I tackled life in the outdoors earlier this year.

The garden became my refuge after the onset of Covid 19 pandemic. I erected a new, second greenhouse, and prepared more planting space than I normally might use. The nation was in lockdown, all the talk was of the unavailability of basic medicines, cleaning products and foodstuffs, so the idea of, indeed the need to grow more, especially our own vegetables and food made so much sense. The time would also be available.

My wife has always been a keen gardener, but she concentrates more on flowers for the beautiful window boxes and hanging baskets she creates each year. These I have to admit, are always extremely colorful and eye-catching. A real labour of love for her. For days on end, after lockdown was called we were able to work alongside each other in the garden, each doing our own thing whilst producing what we knew best. We would take turns at making tea or coffee and surprising each other with the various types of sweet treats we would manage to get our hands on. Life was good and the long hot spell of good weather at the start of “Lockdown”, made this a very pleasant time indeed. Often we would sit out long into the long warm nights of early summer, chatting about life, jointly appreciating times past and relaying our fears and hopes for the times ahead.

Time stood still back then, and we embraced this new opportunity for time together and the space to value each other and our family. From all around the world, on our TV screens and social media platforms , despite all the darkness and fear, came news of joy and contentment. There were reports of people finding themselves again, connecting with life and the things they were truly grateful for. People talked of fulfilment of the peace found in a simple lifestyle and appreciating all that they had.

I, as well as losing myself in the garden used this time to reconnect with my love of cycling and also built in a couch to 10k for good measure.

As my wife and I sat in our garden we sat in silence and watched this bee, totally oblivious to the Covid Pandemic goes about its business…

After a couple of months of this though things began to change, as more and more people returned to work. Daily life in my wonderful little cocoon, a world that included only myself and my family each day soon began to disappear more and move. Firstly my wife, and then the two children at home with us returned to work. My other daughter who had married the year before remained close to her work, which was deemed “essential” in Belfast.

Schools were soon to close for the Sumner so my role as a school counsellor was shelved indefinitely. The community organisation that I work for stopped seeing clients face to face so here I was without any work or daily commitments bar the wonderful outdoor life of the garden.

Gradually the garden began to lose it’s appeal and at times became a place of solitude, and indeed a lonely place to be. Missing the fun and the loving supportive companionship I had become accustomed to, lead to long periods of over-thinking which in truth, was more negative in nature than I needed to be indulging in.

Much of the fun I had discovered and learned to value in the garden was no longer there. News of the threat and danger of Covid seemed to be closing people down again. Our language now was of a “New Normal” and the joyful times spent together in the sun and fresh air, tuned into truncated conversations as we hushed each other to hear report after news report on daily briefings on facts and figures, “Cases and deaths”.

Soon after this time, l found myself needing to escape the news and all things and people “negative “. All the soothsayers of doom and gloom were beginning to get to me. I became somewhat disillusioned in my mew lifestyle and began to see no point in maintaining that recently renewed relationship with life in the garden.

In truth i had lost my motivation and as the summer began to draw to a close news came that the schools would re-open in September. Almost immediately, just like that almost, I seemed to lose complete interest in the garden and even in harvesting the crops that I had derived so much satisfaction from planting.

Then the rain come, the weather broke and the gate remained unopened… unopened that was …until yesterday..

For the past few weeks I was beginning to feel rather guilty about the state of the outside of my home. My father was very “house proud”and liked to keep our family home looking clean and tidy, (on the outside anyway) . This is something I have inherited and carried into married life with me. Despite regarding this as something I needed to do too, I never really enjoyed this “self-adopted” role.

In order to make the “leaf gathering task” that little bit easier, I used a tip I once heard my father share with a neighbour some years ago.

One chilly autumn morning, through my open bedroom window, I heard my father jokingly poke fun at a new neighbor for being constantly busy, always being outside sweeping or blowing up the leaves around his home. “Why don’t you do as I do?” my father chided. “I let nature take it’s course, and I know that if I wait long enough, the wind and mother nature will do it all for me”. Instead of going out each weekend to clear up that week’s leaf deposits, my father would wait the few weeks it took for all the leaves to come of the trees and then clean the yard.

Often after a particularly windy night he would go out in the morning and find that the “Leaf fairy” had blown the leaves into neat, ready-made little piles here and there around the family home. All he had to do then, was lift the little piles of leaves from the front door, the back porch and all the other little nooks and recesses around the house. This would take him about half an hour or so, all thanks to patience and the kind intervention of mother nature….

Yesterday I had reached the point where could no longer Look the mini piles of leaves that had formed here and there about my home and garden. My “self-imposed exile” from the garden and working in nature would have to end. So I searched out my old gardening clothes, opened the gate to the garden and form the shed took my rake, gloves, garden sacks and wheelbarrow. After an hour or so i was joined by my married daughter who had returned home for the weekend. As we lifted pile after pile of leaves into the giant sack, I smiled inside and joked once again with her. This was like the old days, here she was to help me, and my aging joints and limbs very much appreciated her help. In August 2019, I had walked her up the aisle of our local church to give her away in marriage. I felt that day my life would never be the same again, yet here we were over a year later. A different sort of relationship perhaps but a stronger and better one than ever before. It served to remind me that times our thinking does jump to conclusions and at times, if we let it loose, to run wild like a wild horse on the open prairies it will drag us to places we do not need to go.

If we let them run wild our thoughts can be hard, almost impossible to rein in again…

Nature has a wonderful way of taking over if we don’t take action. The longer l would put this task off, the greater would be the possibility of the leaves decaying into mulch and muck all around me. The choice was mine and only I could make it.

Just like the leaves I had allowed the wild horse of my negative thoughts, my fears and frustrations to pile up around me and burst through the stable door. My thoughts like the leaves too, had begun to decay and rot away my ability to rationalise and propensity for joy and happiness.

The time had come to act and act I did. I set about my task with gusto,. Strangely at the end of the day I felt I was blessed once more with a clear yard and a clear mind. Thank you mother nature.

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