I am moving a monstrous pile of leaves to the street to join the other monstrous pile that is already there, and I have reason to be embarrassed. It is the highest pile in the neighborhood by far, and I feel like someone who has had a big party and is trying to hide the evidence.
How, I wonder, can a house on a corner lot in a residential neighborhood accumulate so many leaves? I have just moved here from a coastal city in New England where scrub pines and scraggly oaks are the most prominent tree species, and an hour of raking our large yard had always been enough. Here in Lakewood, I have spent six hours a day for six days raking leaves on a lot that's half the size.
There are nearly 20 trees on our average sized lot, not counting leaf-baring bushes, but I hadn't thought to count them when we were buying the house. I was in love with the newly remodeled kitchen and the old windows and doors. Leaf raking isn't a question most people ask their realtors about when buying a home, but I probably wouldn't have changed my mind if I had. We all know love is blind.
After days of raking, I finally broke down and hired some outside help. A father showed up with his teenage daughter and one rake. I have a cheap leaf blower and my own rake and the three of us set out to rid the yard of leaves. We each claimed a corner of the yard (although his daughter spent some time sitting in the car as daughters are apt to do) and after four hours we were in much better shape. As he was pulling away, leaves were raining down from the trees, carried by the wind from an impending rainstorm. He rolled down his window and offered to come back in a week. "It is fall," he said. He sensed my exasperation and wondered if I'd grown up around palm trees.
I woke up the next morning to a yard full of leaves, as if he'd never been here.
I'm not sure about leaf blowers. They seem to just blow the leaves around and the art of keeping them flowing in one direction isn't easy when you're tangled up in a long extension cord. I wonder if my new neighbors watch me from the window as if I'm a real life episode of "I Love Lucy."
One morning, after it had rained all night, my front walk looked like a few hundred feet of the Portage Trail. Now that I'm an expert, I calculated that it would be a two-hour task to rake the newcomers. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I live on the grounds of a leaf-making factory, but you really have to see it to believe it.
Recently, the new vacuum truck in the village came by and snorkeled up my 200-foot wall of leaves on the street beside my house. It took them fifteen minutes.
I wanted to run out and ask them if I'd won some sort of a prize, but I was happy to watch the leaves disappear into the giant vacuum as if I were waving goodbye to difficult relatives. Based on the number of leaves still clinging to the branches, the new vacuum truck will be back again soon.
You might implore me to stop the whining and buy a leaf mulcher or cut down the trees. Perhaps after we get the snow blower fixed we will consider those options. For now, it feels good to complain. We're still happy to be here, even though beauty comes with a price.
Margot Russell is a freelance writer, who has also worked as a reporter and a news broadcaster. She is currently an international tour director, and owner of Blue World Journeys - a tour company specializing in small group tours to Peru and Machu Picchu.
Margot grew up in Amherst, but spent her summers by Chautauqua Lake. Before moving to Lakewood in 2012, she lived on Cape Cod, Mass. for more than 20 years, where she was a staff writer for Inside Cape Cod Magazine and a news broadcaster for WQRC radio and raised three daughters. She is happy to finally be back by Chautauqua Lake.