The combination of freezing temperatures and strong winds that recently visited mid-Missouri caused virtually all of the deciduous trees on our heavily-wooded property to drop their leaves in unison, with the exception of the pin oaks that will stubbornly cling to their shriveled foliage until Spring.

Travis Naughton

Every square foot of our two and a half acres is currently buried in a thick blanket of reds and yellows, oranges and browns. Our gravel driveway has been rendered completely invisible, causing our secluded house to seem entirely cut off from the rest of the world. No way in, no way out. I rather like that.

Some people dedicate hours, days, or entire weekends to raking, bagging, hauling, or burning the leaves that “litter” their yards each Autumn. Over the course of a lifetime, a homeowner may wind up spending weeks or even months of their allotted time on Earth trying—mostly in vain—to thwart Mother Nature’s annual attempt to return vital nutrients to Her soil while insulating Her vulnerable, ground-dwelling life forms from the coming Winter’s fury.

I get it. Folks who live in close proximity to one another should try to prevent their leaves from blowing into other people’s yards. It’s the neighborly thing to do. Plus, no one likes it when decaying leaves become entangled in a dog’s fur and make their way indoors. Our miniature Schnauzer looks pretty pathetic right now with his fresh, “no leaves in the house” buzz cut. With his pink skin showing through his tightly cropped white coat, Louie looks more like a naked mole rat than a dog. Thank goodness for doggie sweaters.

Living in the woods, I don’t worry about the leaves. The thatch they create, coupled with the shade they provide while they’re still attached to the myriad branches overhanging our yard, ensures that I have very little grass to cut throughout the warmer months of the year. I think I mowed three times in 2018, mostly to knock down the weeds that provide the bulk of the ground cover here at Casa de Naughton.

I don’t mind yard work, necessarily. I worked in grounds maintenance for a campground and for three apartment complexes back when I was a younger man. I got an occasional sunburn and a touch of poison ivy here or there, but it sure did beat wearing a tie and sitting behind a desk all day—which I’ve done, too. I also stood on a concrete floor in a 40-degree room illuminated by cold florescent lighting for eight hours a day, five or six days a week, for almost five straight years while cutting meat in grocery stores. I’ll take yard work any day over living that miserable existence ever again.

But I won’t rake leaves. I’ll sweep them off the patio once in a while and mulch them with the riding mower come Spring, when the pin oaks add their two cents, but that’s about it. Bethany doesn’t rake either. Instead, she likes using her grandparent’s electric leaf blower to clear the leaves from the sitting area in front of our house. It reminds her of watching her Grandpa Ed and Grandma Viola clearing the leaves from their yard in Florissant, Missouri. They lived in a charming neighborhood full of well-manicured lawns and backyard birdfeeders. They also had several tail-less grey squirrels living in the area that looked, from a distance, as if rabbits were running along the fence tops and the telephone lines. Fond memories, indeed.

Autumn is my favorite time of year for many reasons, from the fond memories made in the backyards of my childhood to the views of the beautiful patchwork quilt Mother Nature recently made and draped across my yard. Every year at this time, I am reminded that life is very, very good.

Happy Fall, y’all.