Multiple leaf blowers from the small yard across the street assail my senses. The leaves, dry, brittle, and lightweight, could easily, and probably more economically, be raked by a neighborhood high school student.
The small act of hiring a high school student to rake leaves or shovel snow, not only preserves our sanity and hearing, but promotes community. Since the employer is often a senior citizen, he or she has a personal interaction with one of the many, otherwise nameless, kids who walk up and down our street.
Until our elderly neighbors across the street moved, my son had a fine working relationship with the kind, intelligent woman who lived there. When it snowed, he would not fail to get up early and quickly shovel her driveway and walkway. The person who purchased her home, sadly, runs a lawn care business, and has made certain to preempt any entrepreneurial efforts by local students. The tiny yard across from my larger yard is mowed by one or two persons riding not push gasoline mowers, and not ride-on mowers, but incredibly noisy stand-on mowers. Every blade of brass is surely passed over at least twenty times weekly in summer and in spring, nineteen of which are unnecessary. The noise is unbearable. This post will be brief, not only because I am in the midst of a large project with a deadline, but because I have to leave the area. When I return, and it is safe to go back outside, I will also return to my act of protest.
The implement used in my quiet act of protest is familiar to one and all in suburban America. Will it continue to be?
When my boys were small, one of their favorite books was Just a Dream by Chris van Allsburg. Van Allsburg is more known for his books Jumanji and Polar Express, but Just a Dream has a special place in our collection of children’s literature. In one of the book’s vignettes, noise pollution and air pollution have become so noxious, that people are again using the push lawn mowers–neither powered by gasoline or electricity–that my father used when I was little. May this be more than a dream! One day my yard will no longer be a yard, but a field or vegetable garden, or simply a decorative, “useless” garden, but until that day this household will continue to mount its small, quiet, protest with a common rake.