Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Peaceful Sort of Inefficiency

I'll say right off the bat that I hate leaf blowers, just loathe them. They are pretty darn close to the devil incarnate and something I sincerely wish would disappear from the face of the earth. Last year around this time, I had an hour to go running at a park next to my daughter's dance class every Tuesday. And every Tuesday the park maintenance guy would fire up the leaf blower, belching smoke and a vast amount of noise into the air to blow the same 20 leaves off of the sidewalks, until I would abandon the lovely park with its knee-saving bark trail and go run on the residential asphalt just to get away from it. Some days, he would do this in the rain (I watched him blow for at least two minutes on one wet leaf) and somedays in the wind, with the leaves whipping back onto the sidewalks behind him.

I bemoan the lost art of sweeping and raking. Quiet, peaceful, what is more serene than the image of a shopkeeper sweeping his front step and chatting with the passers-by? Instead, the passers-by are assulted by a veritable wall of sound and flying debris. It's hardly neighborly.

All this being said, however, we are now the owners of several gravel paths, for which I am extremely grateful. Last year, when I went down the slope to the chicken coop or garden, it was a slippery mudslide that I descended. This summer, my husband spent an awful lot of time with a wheelbarrow and a shovel dismantling a large gravel pile and turning it into nice, slip-free paths to which every leaf off of our oaks and big leaf maples is now sticking, wet and stubborn, just daring me to try to sweep it up. As I approach the leaves, they wrap their wet leafy selves around the pieces of gravel, bringing half of the path off with them as I rake. Yet if I leave them where they lay, they will once again turn the gravel path into a treacherous slide. The beauty of mother nature returning everything to its natural state.

Of course, the brilliance of the leaf blower is that it's virtually frictionless. Gravel, being heavy, stays put. Leaves, being lighter, fly off. But I Will. Not. Succumb.

So yesterday I spent the afternoon picking the remaining wet leaves off of the paths and throwing them into our raised beds as mulch, cursing the fact that I know a technology exists to do this so much faster and easier. After awhile though, with the peaceful chickens scratching beside me, I just got into a zen-like state of leaf picking and the task became enjoyable: something that got me outside on a blustery day when I probably would've stayed indoors, something that let me work my body - surely the bending and picking were so much better for me than standing in a haze of two-stroke engine fumes and letting compressed carbon do the work for me - something that gave me time to think and contemplate in the middle of a busy set of days.

Today, I have leaf-free non-slippery paths, and a new appreciation for the simpler ways of doing things. Now I'm off to sweep my sidewalks and wave to the neighbors.

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