The property was loved for many years, there’s no doubt. It’s everywhere. Sometimes it feels like what’s squishing under my muck boots is that love coming up to cushion my feet. It’s in the melody of the birds that wake us every morning. It lures me to walk to the pines. It calls me to interrupt our routine-and what mom likes to do that?-to take Belle and TLD for a quick run in the field or excursion to the barn. I enjoy getting the mail and bringing in the trash bins because I get to stroll down the long driveway that winds around tall maple trees, lots of different evergreens and a gang of hollies. I take proud, sure strides and the gravel softly crunches under me.
Certain maintenance fell off the priority list for the past owner though. As Babe and I become better acquainted with this land and its demands, it’s hard to blame Helen for never raking after Keith died. I feel lucky that the grass was well maintained always, and the grounds are stunning aside from the leaves.
By paying a lawn service and letting the leaves go where the wind would take them, Helen could focus on a large garden till she couldn’t anymore. It took up a good half-an-acre next to the house. She also planted the many hostas and other treasures that I’ve been discovering.
So, about those leaves. It took me and Babe four hours to rake along the path that goes from the barn to the back patio. Four hours allowed us to clean up an area about the size of our old back yard. That’s not much, especially when you think that we could fit about 30 subdivision lots on this property! We cleared years of muck from under trees and between stones in the retaining walls, fallen branches and other debris (empty mason jars mostly). So many leaves: wet and heavy, dry and crunchy, clumpy, confetti-like. We had so many.
Most of that time I was writing my novel in my mind, working out how one character meets another and how certain conversations happen and should I do this or that. Between the birds and crackling leaves it was just too loud for me and Babe to talk much so I could dive into my thoughts as if I was alone. Occasionally I’d leave the desk in my mind to find one of Helen’s babies hidden under pounds of debris. My garden’s secrets were coming to light! I found countless buds and another brick path (to nowhere) under it all.
It was a dirty job and we’re still sore but we had a beautiful time. We dumped the leaves into the back of Babe’s pickup and shoveled them into the brush pile behind the pines. We made five trips back there that afternoon, sloshing and fish-tailing through the wet grass, with country music on the radio and smiles on our faces.
With the bright sun overhead, my overshirt hanging from a branch and glasses of lemonade on the patio step, The Tenderfoot could have been a movie set. There’s nothing easy about the simple life, I’m finding, but I’m joyful here. I’m always so joyful, and often near tears about that.