The Rockwood Files: Race to Leaf Mountain

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Tomorrow a maroon pick-up towing a long, flat-bed trailer mounted by lawn mowers will pull into the cul-de-sac in front of our house. It will stay parked there nearly all day while the family who owns the lawn service works under the big trees in our yard and the yards of our neighbors.

This time of year, we see a lot of this hard-working family because we have what might be the leafiest neighborhood in all of America. I haven’t done an official leaf count, but that’s my hunch.

The trees are what drew me to this quiet, curvy street. When I accidentally drove into the neighborhood four years ago and spotted the for-sale sign in one of the yards, it was the towering oaks that seduced me first. They made it feel cozy and natural, like a real home should be.

Trees have always felt homey to me, partly because I grew up with a dad who’s a tree trimmer. He never smelled like cologne when I was little. He smelled like soap and sawdust and still does sometimes. As my older brother and I were growing up, sometimes we’d go with him to work and help pull tree limbs out of a tangled pile over to the dump truck where he’d toss them up and in.

When we came home from school in the winter, we’d smell a stack of freshly split wood by the fireplace. And for a few years, we watched as he flocked real Christmas trees with fake snow for some of his customers. So for me, trees always feel like home.

The trees around our house are incredibly busy right now. I can hardly see a hint of grass out the front windows because the big brown oak leaves – each one much bigger than my outstretched hand – have practically carpeted the lawn. One day last week, I let myself stop rushing around for five minutes so I could stand in front of the window and watch the leaves fall. It surprised me. You’d think falling leaves would be a slow, lazy process. But that’s not how I’d describe it.

Even though it wasn’t a particularly windy day, the leaves fell quickly and constantly in a silent yet steady stream. Once they landed, they skittered across the driveway and huddled up next to bushes and the tires of tricycles left out in the driveway. They crunched underfoot as I walked out to check the mail, and I noticed how their warm, brown color has permeated nearly every part of the yard.

The trees around our house aren’t particularly showy. They drop your average, run-of-the-mill brown leaves. One of my neighbors up the road has a tree that turns a brilliant yellow every year, and I admire it every time I drive by. It’s as if that tree wants to go out in a blaze of glory, to make us miss it while it’s gone for the winter – and we do.

We try to make the most of our wealth of leaves while they’re here. Last week, the kids and I raked them up into a huge pile on the driveway near the garage. Then the three of them took their bikes and trikes to the end of the driveway which slopes down toward the house. “On your mark, get set, go!” I yelled, and they all raced downhill, never hitting the brakes once, until they crashed squarely into the mountain of leaves, sending them flying once again. Just for dramatic effect, 5-year-old Jack fell off his bike and rolled around in the leafy mountain while I snapped as many pictures as I could. Then they grabbed their bikes and headed back up the hill to do it again and again and again.

When the family who owns the lawn service shows up tomorrow, they will work their magic with powerful leaf blowers and mulchers and baggers. And by the time they finish, the lawns lining this street will look neat and tidy once again. But then the wind will blow and half a day will pass while the trees continue their work, erasing any sign that the maroon pick-up was ever here at all.

We’ll glance around and wonder how there could possibly be any more leaves still to fall. And then we’ll look up and realize there are more – thousands more. More swirling leaves in the air, more races to “Leaf Mountain” on the driveway, and more visits from our friends in the pick-up truck. We are blessed with “more,” and we’re loving the Fall.

Want to read previous installments of The Rockwood Files? Click HERE.