The last leaves fall the first of November, just in time for cold days and freezing nights. Let the calendar disagree with me, but I say this is where winter begins, bleak and down and lonely.
Through October I spend every Saturday mowing up the trees’ prodigious leavings, just me and my old tractor. I cling to this ritual, which readies me for the closed-up months to come.
Most years I mulch the leaves back into the lawn. Some years I bag the shreddings. This year I dumped them behind the low fence in a corner of the back yard; the years will turn them into dirt. It’s mindless work: mow for a few minutes until the buckets fill, drive around back and dump, repeat, repeat, repeat.
But in November, after the trees are bare and the yard is clean, a ceremony of sorts: the putting away. Unclutter the garage so the car can go in, clear the deck to protect summer things from rust and decay. Into the shed go the yard tools, the bicycles, the patio furniture.
As I move each piece, a summer’s events project on my mind, idyllic like color slides: the new brown bicycle I couldn’t ride after foot surgery, the dirty red wheelbarrow I used to spread fresh and smelly mulch, the new green electric cultivator that leveled and mixed compost into my front yard all torn up after the new sewer connection. My whole family worked an entire Saturday with me to do that and plant new grass. What a good day.
The patio furniture went in next. I hardly used it this year thanks to the thick, relentless mosquitoes! The citronella candles on the table didn’t help at all.
All secured, it was time to run the gas out of the mower and tractor and put them away, too.
While I waited, I walked around the yard, clear of leaves and still green, especially the new grass. That color will dull and fade through November; now is the time to enjoy it.
I noticed the work I didn’t get done this year. The driveway’s cracks need filled, dead limbs need cut from the maple, the windows need scraped and painted. Next spring, for sure.
The motors soon shut off, one and then the other, out of gas. I pushed the tractor in first, the mower in next, and then locked the shed. One more job, which I hired out: haul that brush pile away. It was gone the following Tuesday. It feels good to have all those overgrown trees and bushes cleared out back. I worked at it here and there all year, sometimes alone, sometimes with one son or the other, once with my parents newly moved to my town and eager to do normal family stuff. Good memories.
Good memories indeed. It was a summer well lived. Okay, winter, I’m ready for you now.