Stranger on a plane, “Just know that time goes faster when you live in Southern California; especially for people like us.”
“How do you figure?”
Stranger, “You’re used to seasons, right? Here: no seasons. It’s just one long summer.”
Stranger, “You wake up one day and ten years have gone by.”
Stranger, “Seriously, you’re like, ‘Woah’.”
I was, like, woah, ready for that flight to be over. Mister 40-something surfer dude sitting next to me had about expired his list of topics I found interesting. And his whole time warp theory was a bit, well, warped.
That was 15 years ago. Damn if the crispy old guy wasn’t on to something with the whole season notion. Now, I’m the 40-something talker on the plane offering unsolicited nuggets to high school musical leads returning to their little ponds for the holidays. Although, I must say, I’m a tad better preserved than I remember the surfer to have been. Sun block. Does wonders.
I was terrified then, and I’m terrified now of all the implications of stoner-man’s theory. From the highest (ironic) stakes of wasting one’s youth by engaging in perpetual teenagehood, to the very trivial consequences of, oh, say, not knowing how to rake leaves.
Raking leaves . . . what a glorious single tasking joy. It became one of the highlights of my recent trip to my parents’ home. To be most accurate, I should say, I was sweeping leaves, as in, from a driveway. Same idea, though. There’s something so satisfying about whisking away light tangible objects, repeatedly. The slight bend and twist almost made me feel like I was working my abs and all the while, whoosh, whoosh, the driveway got clearer and clearer, my little piles of leaves grew higher and higher. I was doing something with visible results for the first time in months.
So this is what I was missing out on during those 15 autumns in Los Angeles. Quiet time in the driveway with nothing but my thoughts and the rustling orange, yellow, brown and red (don’t forget the red) giving way to pavement with each of my strokes. These are sites and sounds you don’t get in January or March or July. A unique period in time marked by piles of leaves lining a freshly swept driveway. Out with the old season, in with the new. Clean slate ready.
Until, I learned, the next morning–when I woke up to a driveway covered in leaves that didn’t care how enlightened my zen raking practice left me feeling 24 hours before.
So I did it all over again. The twisting, whooshing, sweeping–and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first time. I told my parents how exhilarating I found the experience. Just like Van Morrison sings, “Chop that wood, carry water.” I was sweeping leaves.
And the next day nature laughed at me again.
I thought, there’s a lesson in this. And I looked up.
I needed that reminder: there’s lots of life left on the branches.
Oh, and apparently Home Depot sells eco-friendly bags to keep those leaves from blowing back all over your clean slate.