Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Why Rake Away Such Fallen Splendor?'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Why Rake Away Such Fallen Splendor?'

Article excerpt

I LOVE this time of year, with all the vibrant foliage. And I love walking through the fallen leaves -- that singular earthy smell and that soft crunching sound under foot.

But I am becoming less of a fan of raking leaves or hiring someone to remove them -- particularly with an utterly obnoxious gas- powered leaf-blower.

In fact, with a few important exceptions, I now try to avoid removing fallen foliage as much as I can. Maybe you should, too.

Don't get me wrong. In the hierarchy of seasonal yard chores, I find raking leaves the most tolerable. It's akin to Baby Bear's porridge in the fairy tale "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."

Mowing the lawn in the summer is way too hot. Shoveling snow in winter is way too cold (and back-straining). By comparison, raking leaves on a crisp autumn day is "just right."

It's a tour of duty that brings back memories of childhood days, when we were built closer to the ground and fallen leaves almost seemed magical. But the memories are not about the raking. They are about those fallen leaves themselves.

Remember the first time you picked up a maple leaf and noticed that the veins in the leaf resembled the veins in your hand?

Or the days when diving into a big pile of freshly raked leaves was an annual rite of October?

Or all the times when you or a neighbor kid would press the leaves in wax paper or place between the pages of a favorite book for safekeeping?

A part of nature

We understood back then that fallen leaves are a part of nature, wondrous and beautiful in their own right, and packaged in an enchanting palette of shapes and colors: the bright crimsons of the red maple and sweetgum, the golds of the ash, the orange hues of the hickory, the yellowish greens of the redbud.

Heck, Martha Stewart has been known to decorate with fallen leaves, although she seems partial to coating them with gold paint - - her version of gilding the lily.

On a more practical level, leaves protect flower beds over cold winters, and they are home to all sorts of wondrous insects. …

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