October 28, 2001

Spores, Spores, and More Spores

Spores, spores, spores! That’s all we’ve been hearing about here in DC. And it’s clear those pesky little things are harder to control than the CDC originally thought. It is making me just a tad nervous.

horoscopeBut what’s really on my mind this weekend are spores of another kind: mold spores! For the month long La feuille Souffler la Fête (or Festival De Soufflement De Feuille, depending on which web translation page you use), what better way is there to put a positive spin on my yearly encounter with my handy dandy leaf blower than making it sound so, well, so much fun!

Our annual Leaf Blowing Festival takes place from approximately the middle of October to the middle of November. With about 80 trees on our “plot” of land, that’s a bunch o’ moldy, mildewy leaves! And, despite fun activities for children of all ages, I have yet to convince any of my friends, acquaintances, or people walking down the street to join in.

Be that as it may, like precautions others are taking with more deadly spores, I too use protective gear. Dust mask, baseball cap, and protective eyeware are always in place. Ear phones attached to my industry-approved and inspected Walkman fit snuggly on my head. And, finally, my Toro Leaf Blower, Model 1540. Never have I felt so prepared to face my fate and the elements. I am ready.

The first blow of the season requires special attention. First, I have to find where I left the blower. Then we have to assemble all of our extension cords from around the house. We have one of those wheels we can wrap them all around. Makes it easy to carry.

And then it’s time. After only 8 years I’ve developed a pretty good system (coming from Southern California, my only previous Fall experience was clearing away a few palm fronds). Oh, I’ve tried the rake (too many blisters) and I’ve tried the tarp and rake combo (not bad, but I’m not convinced). But I really think it’s simpler and more elegant to just blow.

I remember our first year here with nostalgia. We had just bought our blower when suddenly one early morning, as we were both laying in bed, we heard them coming! The county! They come twice a season to suck up leaves we’ve all placed neatly by the street and if you miss the opportunity, you’ve got to bag and get rid of them on your own. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my clothes and raced outside. Luckily, they were starting at the other end of the block. I still had some time. My neighbor rushed over with his rake yelling, “It’s too late for me so I’ll help you!” I felt like we were racing against the elements to get our crop harvested before an early blizzard. What team work! What a sense of community! It was invigorating.

I vary my approach depending on initial conditions—how many leaves have fallen; has it rained? Rain is a leaf blower’s nightmare. Wet leaves ten deep turn to cement. Blowing does no good and raking is hardly any easier. The weather leading up to this year’s inaugural event was perfect. Nice and dry. And with my new Toro lawn mower, I was able to mulch the early crop twice.

Blowing is contemplative. While I’m clearing the leaves, I’m clearing my mind. And it’s an anal-retentive’s version of heaven (not that I am one of course): one walks around with a huge and powerful phallic device, herding a wild herd of leaves. You must control them! First this way, then that. As you do, you see the fruits of your labor immediately and experience an incredible sense of accomplishment. You are one with the world.

And, of course, as soon as you are finished, a few days later you get to do it all over again!

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