Monday, October 20, 2008

Long, lawn war against autumn

by John D Ramsey

The sun is warm, but a cool breeze blows from the southwest. Working outside, my body throws cycles of sweat and chills. My lingering chest cold impairs breathing, so the joy of yard work in autumn threatens to become drudgery. Lisa prepares flower arrangements on the deck, and when the light is right and my body winded, I break from mowing to help her take photographs. The sun trickles through the hackberry and I catch it with a reflector and send it back at the crabapples and hydrangeas that Lisa has arranged in a clear vase. Photos captured, I go back to the yard to finish mowing.

Earlier Claire helped me by mowing the north side yard while I trimmed the yew by the front walk. Today was the first time she used the bagger. Next year she will be a lawn pro. Coming into the back yard, I saw that Gabby had moved a pile of leaves around a bit with a rake. I had already corralled them with the blower, so her raking merely divided the whole into parts with no harm done. I would prefer she pick up birch sticks, but leaf piles are irresistible to a child. Daylight fades quickly this time of year, and the girls have no idea how their efforts do help. They do not yet understand how precious I consider the time we work together.

In summer, I mulch the grass, but in autumn, I bag in order to vacuum up the fallen leaves. To me, each leaf is a potential dead spot on my lawn. Early in the spring, we hand raked what few soggy leaves left over from last year. For weeks, I watched to see if the grass would recover. Of course, it did, but spring and summer are fleeting so I have resolved to do an even better job of keeping leaves off the grass.

Now there are few precious weeks of green remaining, and the leaves are falling. I have done as much as I can today.

I put tools away, and haul a wagon loaded with two large poinsettias back into the darkness of the garage. Lisa dug them from the garden last week. A diet of restricted sunlight and ample shadow will draw their beauty out in time for the holidays. I stand in the yard viewing the beauty of the fresh mowed grass. Within a few hours, the leaves will clutter the grass again, and I will be planning a time to freshen the yard once again.

As I write, I notice outside my window, a mother cardinal feeding alongside her fledgling. It is late in the season to be raising an adolescent. The young bird follows its mother mimicking her feeding. At times, it waits for a supplement from its mother, which she provides. The youngster’s feathers are puffed apparently battling the chill of the shadows. It has not been out of the nest for long, but summer has passed. There is urgency to the birds’ actions.

My leaf blowing earlier in the day has revealed a hidden bounty of fallen hackberries. The young cardinal struggles to crack the hardened fruit. Suddenly the mother takes flight, and the smaller gray bird follows her only to learn the answer to his jeopardy, “What is glass?” He recovers from the crash and flies away. A squirrel coming to the feed from the same tree had startled them.

The oak trees have produced no acorns this year, and the girls have cleaned up all the apples. I doubt that hackberry is the squirrel’s first choice for dinner, but dine he must, or die. I would prefer that he leave the food for the songbirds, but he has his own interests at heart.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, but it also reminds us how quickly the spring and summer write themselves into history. The older we get the quicker it seems that each year passes into the next. Each year, we qualify youthful adventures and ambitions with “never again” or “not likely.”

I thought of a sight pun today at which Mom would have laughed. Lisa chuckled out of kindness. I sent it to my little sisters, saying, “I miss Mom.” I suppose this is the first of many funny things that will no longer earn Mom’s laughter.

I sent photo’s of the little girls to Cara the other day. Cara remarked that they are growing up too fast. If Cara only knew – I still think of her as my football baby because she fit so perfectly on my palm and forearm just twenty-four years ago.

The longer we live the better we realize how short our time upon this earth is.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

Psalm 103:13-18 (NIV)

1 comment:

  1. oh how I too miss your mom's laughter! So blessed to 'come under her influence'...(I think you'll understand, I mean it in only the best of ways)..whilst living in central NE. 1985. I was "Belle" in their play...or maybe Bonnie was Belle, I've forgotten. Best wishes to your Dad, hoping he'll look up the Collins in Shawnee, next time he is down this way. Those daughters are beautiful. Arlene