Leaving with Rake
Our walk was started with awareness because the clouds were graying dark and the wind sharp touched us as it whirled the leaves in dance. We walked with great speed knowing that soon the rain would fall and we could easily be soaked.
Already during the night, the winds had cleared numerous branches and deposited in every gutter and drain. I scraped my hands and the sides of my shoes digging deep into each drain to remove the piles of leaves. My friend John was heading towards his car for work and saw my endeavors, questioned my motives, and went in to his shed for his own rake. In minutes, his drain and gutters were cleared. Thank you.
The house that is not rented is covered in red leaves and I bend and swoop my arms with big loads and deposit the bundles up higher in the yard and in the garden beds. Puppy tries to help and I remain ever watchful of the cars and buses going by; they seemed to take no notice of us. My head grumbles about the property owner’s neglect.
We head home and I sweep the plum leaves from our driveway and add them to the compost pile knowing that I must gather my gear and head off to the worst offender at 8th and Decatur. Rake, bucket, scoop, and gloves and I proceed to clean up and let the water flow. I am feeling self-righteous. I am feeling angry. I want to come up with a whole list of words to encompass my feelings about the people who live beneath these nine huge maple trees. I want to bring these words to a boil and let them churn about within me as motivation to clean up and free up the drains and gutters.
The lady of the house comes out and says, “what are you doing?” I explain that all the leaves are blocking the flow of the rainwater which will in just minutes run into my house, make the sump pumps run, and filled the city drains to overflowing. Whereas, if I rake up all the leaves blocking the flow, the water will run in intervals off the street, through the storm grateful and drain system thus bypassing my house. She said, the city workers will be by to do this in about a month. I replied not anymore, for three years leaf cleanup has been taken off the city budget. I could call for an extra trip but I would have to pay lots of money to have them come. I do not wish to use my money that way.
It has started to rain and I go back to work moving the leaves. It is totally out of her awareness that these trees and leaves are her responsibility.
Kindness begins to saturate my heart and my mind is feeling the repercussions of this flow within me. I am raking and moving the leaves because I am selfish. I do not want a river of water rushing into my home. I do not want all these leaves blocking the drains and making my sump pump$ run and run. What I want is my home to be safe and dry. What I want is to be able to go away for a week and know that my home is safe and dry. I can achieve this by loving each bundle of leaf and by placing the bundles safely away from the street. Meditation begins.
The passing cars begin to move around me with greater care. The two city bus drivers, who are on this route today, smile and wave each of their 20 minute excursions of passing. A walker says, “Aren’t the leaves beautiful?” I hear her but I do not respond for my mind is full of the beauty of these leaves. My body is telling me it is tired and the rain is feeling heavier; I look around and see that the job is generally done. I stretch up and see the many leaves still hanging on and know I will need to return.
It has taken me nearly 20 years to achieve this level of kindness in my practice. I am full of Thanksgiving for this opportunity and for the grace of this day.
Have you been practicing something for 20 years? Has it become a practice of loving-kindness? Does it change your heart and mind?
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