I've never operated a leaf blower. Neither has Brian, but he is not as attached to the act of leaf raking as I am.
His heart does not leap like mine leaps at the sight of a lawn loaded with leaves. His adrenaline does not rush as mine rushes with the thought of raking a yard clean just in time for the first snow.
While Brian assembles his newfangled gadget, I read the product description on the outside of the box. It says it cleans leaves and just about anything else in its path at 195 mph with 400 cubic feet of air per minute. Oh, really?
This yard vacuum mulches at a 16:1 ratio – whatever that means. It has a comfortable handle, built-in cord retainer, a powerful 12 amp meter, a vertical style for use in either hand, two airspeeds: 125 mph and 195 mph, lightweight, easy to handle, threaded tubes for secure fit, with flare nozzle and vacuum attachments. Enough! Given all it can do, the leaf blower still is not a rake.
I look longingly at my trusty metal rake and grab hold of its wooden handle. As I set out for some serious blisters and twisted back muscles, an organic history rises up inside me.
Brian is not far behind with the leaf blower attached to him like an appendage trailed by a super-long extension cord. He plugs it in and turns it on.
Sounding very much like a fog horn, it cuts a swath of green through the lawn. I stay clear of the 195 mph wind tunnel and subsequent dust bowl it creates and rake leaves on the opposite side of the lawn.
From the corner of my eye, I watch Brian power through the yard commanding his new machine simply by aiming. I see how it sweeps the yard clean, like a Nor'easter barreling down from Canada.
I am beginning to lose ground to that motorized contender, that super blower mulching vacuum. I observe its speed and feel myself coming down with a bad case of defensiveness. It won't work as well when he gets to those big leaf drifts by the flower garden. But it does.
As Brian charges across the lawn, I see why this machine is considered the new leaf rake and why I feel conflicted. As I romance raking leaves, I ponder its universal sounds of scraping, scratching and collecting. I embrace the intensity, ritual and history of raking. Someday, maybe, I'll use a super blower mulching vacuum. Maybe not.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2007 Paula Damon