By Joe Rector

Last fall, the leaves cooperated by falling from the trees early. A dry, hot summer and strong winds combined to wither leaves and disperse them into other yards and the field behind my house. I know that folks didn’t appreciate that, but my work was cut in half.

This year’s outlook is a bit dimmer. A couple of gusts have knocked some leaves from their branches, but too many trees still hold leaves that are green and healthy looking. That means that I’ll be working on blowing and mowing them until the end of the year when, once again, I’ll run out of energy and surrender the war to Mother Nature.

The fact this year is that I don’t mind the leaves so much. For one thing, I’m not working. The coronavirus has kept me from feeling safe inside school buildings this semester. The extra time keeps me from feeling rushed to get the piles of brown detritus from the yard. The rain has held off for the most part, so I don’t feel compelled to remove the soaked stuff before it smothers the grass.

I like leaves much more now. For one thing, the fall smells from wooded areas are more acute this year. The combination of leaves and pine needles remind me of times so many years ago when Jim and I would play outside. A subdivision sits now where we roamed in the woods with other boys in search of adventures. We’d wade through knee-deep waves of leaves made by winds and time. At some point, one of us would let loose a loud squawk as a foot sank into wet ground that oozed up over shoes and soaked socks. That mattered little at the time as we concentrated more on the game we played or the imaginary war we fought with opposing armies.

For some reason, I’m a much mellower guy these days. The afternoons find me content to sit in a rocker on the front porch while I read a book, listen to the songs I’ve discovered by Keb Mo, or just rock and simply enjoy the weather and view. Leaves might be blowing across the front yard or through the woods on either side, but I just don’t care. They’ll be there waiting for me another day. Our dog Sadie pokes her head close to the bottom rail of the bannister to keep watch for critters that intrude or cars that pull in the driveway. She walks over to my rocker for a pat on the head before returning to her sentry duties. Fall life brings a slower pace that leaves no longer spoil.

No, I’ll never enjoy the worst fall chore of all: ridding the yard of leaves. Before that job is completed, I’ll have gone through one prescription for an upper respiratory infection caused by the mold and dust from the decaying things. I’ll have lost half a dozen or more golf balls in the middle of fairway as they hide in plain sight under leaves. Maybe a maturing mind and more contented spirit keep me from obsessing so much to never have a single floating leaf sitting atop my grass.

Happy fall!