Raking Leaves and the Novel

Before the winter sets in, you need to get away from the keyboard. Go outside and feel the last few embers of sunlight on your face. Being outside is a great way to replenish the writing well.

Below are a few thoughts that come from an afternoon’s raking. I’m not sure there’s a novel in a discussion of leaf sweeping. A poem yes, certainly, but a novel? Maybe a scene in a novel…

This weekend while I was raking the leaves it occurred to me that I ought to write a book that begins with the subject of lawn care and the suburban male. Something that makes a poem out of raking leaves, tending to weeds and shrubs, to digging out the accumulated wastes of autumn from within the crevices of the bushes. There was something so relaxing in the rhythmic movement associated with raking, the sweep of the arm and light flinging of leaves, dancing them along the surface of the lawn with a sweeping gesture like the grand lead in a ballroom suite.

These are thoughts that a character might have. He might think of things like this and in his sweeping forget that he is engaged in the moment. Breathing. He will become so focused on his own thoughts that the sweeping becomes harder to maintain and he will no longer do it, he will in fact begin to tire of it when he could have continued for a long time without noticing the tiredness in his arms. He will suddenly become conscious of all of these things and by thinking about them it will all become so much worse until that is all he thinks about and then even that will not be enough. He will continue down this path to analyze other aspects of his life, filling himself with paralysis on each and every issues till his muscles internal and metaphysical seize up, bind themselves into knots.

He will freeze like this, turning into a statue on the lawn. Wind will come and go. Snow will fall around him. Night comes and passes without even a single brush of recognition. He cannot see the stars. They are too distant to him, further away than even the most immediate thought. This is a Buddhist thought but writing through it, I cannot see any other way but to continue for the man is still there, stuck within this world of fear around which he has built uncertainties and other structures which allow him to protect himself.

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