My husband and I sat in our driveway, in the front seat of the truck, reluctantly surveying the leaf-filled yard.
“Should we do the leaves?” he asked.
The heaviness of a Sunday afternoon hung like it did when I was young. The clouds loomed gray and thick, as did the Monday morning ahead. I could see puffs of breath escape from Abby and Henry as they ran about the yard, playing.
“Well,” I answered quietly, “it’s not going to get any warmer or drier.”
With two hours of daylight left, we rallied and all headed inside to don old clothes, hats and gloves. The weight of the work ahead slowed me down. The kids’ jubilant exit to the yard and the slam of the garage door echoed in our small mud room. I slowly tied my old tennis shoes, stiff from months of neglect.
I collect heart-shaped items I find in nature. Rocks and shells from my life’s travels sit near my kitchen sink, in a bathroom drawer, and at the bottom of every beach bag. Each time I discover one, I stop and admire. And if I can’t pick the Heart up, I snap a photo. Heart-shaped moss on an ancient tree in Ireland. A subterranean rock, exposing itself to the surface, spotted on my run. Stop, they seem to signal, stop and see. Love abounds. Here’s proof. Blink and you’ll miss it. A small, prideful puff blooms in my chest each time I see one. My eyes and heart are open!, I think, patting myself on the back.
Dusk fell like the leaves in our yard. Crisp, November air pinked my cheeks and my hair stuck haphazardly out of my ski cap. A sharp inhale revealed the scents of a neighbor’s fire and quickly decaying leaves. My crabbiness smoldered with each frustrated leaf-clean-up exertion. Damn do I hate doing the leaves.
“I hate this. I truly hate this”, I yelled to Hubby over the drone of our dueling leaf blowers. “Me too”, he commiserated. Our whiny accord plumed up and away in our exhaled breaths. We turned back to our work, and I to the lonely maze of my mind. There I found remnants of a terse conversation with Hubby. Also vying for attention was Abby and MY GOD did she REALLY leave her backpack there in the family room ALL WEEKEND despite my kind reminders? She so deserved to lose her allowance for THAT. And Henry. Thinks it’s unfair that he has to vacuum the WHOLE damn house? REALLY?!! Each bitter bit collided. I was emotionally hangover, tripping through my negative mental feed.
Practice gratitude, Denise, my thoughts suggested. Blah blah fucking blah, I countered.
You need to try.
So I did. Amidst the mounds of brown, decaying leaves, I tried.
I’m grateful for the oxygen you give us. The shade, too.
I’m grateful for the whooshing crescendo of your leaves dancing on a summer breeze.
I’m grateful for my old jeans and old tennis shoes, not caring that they’re dirty and collecting burrs.
I feel my muffin top and flabby stomach, smooshy in these jeans, each time I move. (Redirecting…)
I’m grateful to have a safe yard in which to rake. I’m grateful for the warm food we’ll eat in our warm home when we’re done. At some point, we’ll be DONE.
I catch a glimpse of our kitchen through the back windows. Damn I hate that curve in those top cupboards. So 1985. (Oops, try again)
I’m grateful for my strong legs and arms, for my eyesight and my health.
A flash of phosphorescent neon disappeared into the growing mountain of brown. A gurgling giggle accompanied the swoosh of Abby and Henry.
I smiled, in spite of myself. I stopped. I saw. Two hearts. The argument with Henry fell away. The snappy snark with which I addressed Abby and her stompty-mcstomp-stomp response fell away. My pissy attitude
A lone leaf fell out of the muted gray.
I was left with a collection of leaves and three, very full hearts.