I dread the fall. I count down the days until its arrival. When I see the trees begin to shed their leaves, I noticed my anxiety levels rising. I develop rashes and a temper. My chest constricts and I start to drink hard alcohol. I drink to pacify my anger and remove the tension that is building up beneath my flesh; to expel the demon that feels as if they have their hands around my throat. You see, I have a strong need for order. Living in a world that has become as chaotic, impulsive and on the brink of collapse as our world is, I need a space in which everything appears to be safe, secure and under control. An island of sanity. This island happens to be my home. I maintain my home like priest would an alter. In fact my home is my alter, my sacred space. Not a hair of dust collects anywhere on property without me cleaning it away, and I am proud to say that everything is in its right place when I come home. Order reigns in my kingdom.
Outside of my home is a different story. I am a victim of the seasons. The spring, summer and winter months are not terribly challenging. My front and back yard can maintain the appearance of order with only a modicum of work (I have a small front and back yard). In the spring and summer I feel the greatest sense of well being because my yard is populated with all kinds of fragrant and alive flowers and plants. Coming home after a long day in the chaotic world is a transcendental experience. My drinking and anger all decrease in the spring and summer months, and I am inhibited by a general sense of equanimity and well being. Various ailments that I suffer from pass away and I return to what my homeopath refers to as a state of homeostasis. It is only in the final weeks of summer, when there is a particular lingering scent in the air, that my dread of the fall starts to come forth.
I purchase rakes, blowers, lawn mowers and tree nets- anything to stop the downpour of leaves onto my property. But by mid-fall my attempts at mitigating the amount of leaves drifting into my yard seems futile. There are large collections of yellow, red and orange leaves everywhere. They fill my rain gutters and cover my lawn. They blow onto my windows and stick there as if they were trying to tease me. My one man battle against the leaves is a war that can not be won- so I take to the bottle. When I return home from work in the chaotic world, coming home is no longer the transcendental experience that I need it to be. Instead, I feel a fury constricting my chest as I notice the pile and piles of dead leaves strewn all across my front yard and dangling from the edges of the house. My initial reaction is to immediately grab a rake and start to clean my yard of the leaves, but the wind always blows more leaves over from my neighbors yard, and all I can do is get really mad at the leaves.
I kick them. I curse them. I wrestles them and I take them in my hands and slowly destroy them. I stick them in my mouth and crunch them up into little pieces and then spit them out in the street. I dump them in garbage cans and then climb in and enjoyably crush them like grapes. I dance around in the garbage can like a man who has been victorious in battle. But then, as I dance, the wind always blows more leaves into my yard. My momentary expressions of anger seem to do little to alleviate the disorder that collects on my property. Sure, I feel good for a moment, feeling like I am getting revenge, but this does not last long. I throw the rake down, go into my home, where I cover all the windows so that I do not have to see outside, and I start to drink and clean. Raking, working, drinking and cleaning. This is my life in the fall.
There is a support group that I go to once a week for men who are mad at leaves. All the men in the group are home owners, except for me (I rent). They all have worked hard their entire life, making great sacrifices, so that they could own a home. The majority of men in my group say that the reason why they worked so hard to own a home, is so that they could feel in charge, in control over their piece of property. Men seem to face the threat of daily dis-empowerment in our chaotic and technological world and owning a home allows a man to feel like a king. The men in my group spend their off time working on their homes. Their home is their passion and temple. They receive a general sense of well being from the order they can create in their homes, from achieving man over nature. However, in the fall we come together and express our anger towards the leaves, which are robing us of our achievements. Risdin, who is the facilitator of the group, suggests to us that all of our insecurities are being brought out by the leaves. “Our homes are our attempts to create a semblance of control in a world that is chaotic and out of control. Our homes are how we try to not be helpless victims of divine or universal law, in which we are all victims of chance. The leaves are making us aware of just how little control we have, and we do not like how this feels,” Risdin says. Some of the men seem to be uncomfortable with this new age speculation, they just want to come to the group and vent their fury. However, the group is a productive way for me to expel and learn how to deal with my deep, resentful anger towards the leaves.
We do all kinds of projects in the group. We bring leaves from our property and play pin the leaf on the mad man. This may seem silly at first but it helps all of us to laugh at the object of our hate. We also have been doing art projects with the leaves. We make collages and paintings using the leaves from our yards. The idea is to create beauty from hate since Risdin believes that hate is a seed for love. “As you paint with the leaves I want you to see into the heart of things, the truth of things…really see, like seeing into metal and making it melt. See that these leaves have a deeper structure, which is there to teach you something about yourself. If you can interact with the leaves in a more positive way, you can change your behavior towards your environment,” Risdin says. So we make art with leaves, we play games with leaves, we meditate with leaves, we even talk to the leaves and we go to each others homes, where we sit and talk to one another in a pile of leaves. As ridiculous as this all may seem- I am actually noticing that it is helping.
When I return home from my men’s group I am less angered at the collection of leaves on my lawn and in my driveway. I remember what Risdin constantly tells us, “We create our own experience by controlling the thoughts in our head.” I try to think positive thoughts rather than the standard thought process that I normally have: these fucking leaves are fucking up my whole life, ruining my life! Why the fuck wont these leaves go away!! They are making my house look so ugly and destroying my temple!!! I hate these fucking leaves!!!! I am going to rake them up and destroy them!!!!! Crumple them into a million little pieces and then dump them in the garbage where they belong!!!!!! Dam these fucking leaves!!!!!!! Why wont they just leave me alone? Instead, I am learning to control my thoughts, and say to myself as I pull into my driveway: I am home and I am so fortunate to have a home. Look at all the beautiful leaves on my lawn and in my driveway. So nice to see nature playing itself out where I live. I am so fortunate to be able to witness the cycles of nature and to be apart of them. These leaves are collecting now on this land just like they have for thousands of years. Like all things that exist, the wind will eventually blow them all away.