November 13, 2006


Having lost their last bit of color and unable to cling one more moment to the tall oaks, browned, crinkly leaves are the only occupants of my garden bench these early November days.

It's gray, blustery and intermittently raining as I write this. The kind of day I'm just as glad the garden no longer demands my utmost and urgent attention. A day when merely viewing the leaf-strewn lawn and covered garden beds through my living room picture window is quite sufficient, warmer and calmer.

Oh a week or so ago, when my neck gave me a moment's respite from pain, I managed to rake some beds fairly clear of gigantic leaves twice the size of my hand. But within a few hours, another wave of leaves blew in and clustered around the remnants of annuals and perennial stalks in those same beds. My brother once likened it to raking Central Park. A New York reference, but pick a park, any park, in any part of the country and it conveys the same analogy.

Some areas that I've left "natural" (a euphemist title I've given to those areas beyond my physical abilities to properly maintain) will remain a blanket of brown throughout the winter. Only turning white with the first snow cover. When there's just a dusting it sort of resembles a marled, marbled carpet of browns, whites and tans. Quite pretty. Almost as if I designed it to be that way, which, of course, is what I'll tell those who remark how ingenious it was to just leave the leaves lie so as to create such an effect. I have no shame.

I'm relieved to know my bulbs were planted when I had the chance. One more thing off my mind. I'm unable to help my husband with the leaf gathering and shredding this year. Worsening neck problems are limiting many of my usual fall clean up tasks. But I make short forays outside when the weather and the pain allows.

Besides, I'm saving myself in the hopes of controlling any pain and regrouping some physical strength for the remaining indoor kitchen remodeling - which was to have been completed last winter but because of still other physical interruptions - had to be put on hold. It's not so much the bare, spotty-spackled and unpapered walls, or unpainted ceilings or ratty, beyond-ever-cleaning-properly kitchen carpeting that I can no longer bear to live with. It's the clutter. When you learn to gingerly maneuver around piles of "stuff" that shouldn't be where it is, then you know it's been there too long. As George Carlin once said: we all have too much stuff, and we just keep moving stuff from one place to another to make room for more stuff. I've just got too much stuff and have plumb run out of room to move it. Plus it doesn't help that I've married an enabler who can go toe-to-toe with my packrat penchant.

So now stuff just gets piled on top of stuff. Like archeological anomalies, the mini mountains rise higher and wider in each room, revealing sedimentary layers of summer stuff, preceded by a strata of spring stuff and bottoming out in cretaceous remains of last winter's stuff. When I have to dig down and retrieve a woolen sweater in a week or so and should I unearth a fossilized crumb of last Christmas's cheesecake stuffed in the pocket, I think that may be the last straw.

And speaking of Christmas, with the holidays fast approaching, the prospect of my usual full-tilt yuletide decorating and hauling in a tree to adorn - is beyond daunting - it's nearly impossible to contemplate. The only sensation worse is the guilt I feel for even thinking of eliminating that most special part of the holidays. Even last year when things were only slightly less chaotic here, we still managed to prop up a little four-foot charmer I found standing all alone - last in the lot - at Home Depot. Small as it was we still managed to pack over 300 lights on the thing and decorate with most of my handmade ornaments. Mess surrounded us but when house lights were dimmed, all clutter faded in the sparkling colored glow of that little tree and soothed our senses with scents of balsam.

I don't know how we'll manage this year, however, with chaos having turned into deer-in-the-headlight-carrying-cans-of-paint-and-rolls-of-wallpaper panic. I don't think even Rockefeller Center's goliath could have enough lights strung to blot out our additional "stuff".

A friend suggested if it helped to camouflage the eyesores and hold sway some semblance of holiday cheer and decor, I should drape colored sheets over the mini mountains and top each with gigantic bows. I laughed half-heartedly, but it's beginning to sound more and more acceptable. Perhaps a smattering of little twinkly white lights casually festooning each "package". Not exactly Christmas at Martha's, but Martha doesn't have piles of stuff, and if she did, she's got four houses to utilize as storage space and a staff to shuffle things around. It's also highly doubtful she's out there raking her own fall leaves, worried she'll not complete her fall garden prep "all by herself". An abundance of less-than-minimum wage assistance courtesy of former cellmates on loan through prison work release programs has no doubt seen to that. And should she, like myself, require the occasional suppportive neck brace, I'm sure hers is at least made of velvet and monogrammed.

I do suspect, however, she'd think the twinkly lights on the draped piles of "stuff" would be a nice touch. Perhaps...even...a good thing.