Raking Leaves with the Gods

I’ve been raking leaves. I like raking leaves. We won’t get into the metaphorical experience of raking leaves. I just like raking leaves.

At the same time that I’m experiencing this rather inane mantra of reach–pull, reach-pull, Julie, whom I get to be husband to as best I fallibly can, is within the last two weeks of managing the campaign of Garnet Lewis for State Senate here in Michigan. Garnet isn’t even the opposite of 45, because she is for what matters. To compare Goodness to 45 is as much a waste of an intelligence as writing your first year college paper revealing for the first time the differences between Mother Teresa and Attila the Hun.

So the point: For months now Julie has been working tirelessly in behalf of what matters. Instead of economic greed, displaced human values, a despoiled environment, an educational system that makes it impossible for teachers and students, taxes that keep the non-working class able to continue to not have to work, and and and, she is working to prevent an inevitable loss of democracy and the environment to this unrestrained capitalism and a demagogue.

Yesterday I paused for several hours from raking leaves and texted a very civil message in behalf of Garnet to voters in our district. There wasn’t a pushy word in the text. It was actually more of an invitation, worded not much differently than “Would you like to come over for some wine and cheese?”

Among the responses I received were thoughtful, civil affirmations and responses saying kindly that they were for Garn or for the other candidate. Also among the responses were those using words that actually frightened me. Some were so coarse they are unprintable. Some claimed I was something that I had no idea existed. Some were downright cruel. I kept wondering, why? What turns a child who at one time likely played in the leaves into someone verbally monstrous?

My awestruck admiration for Julie soared. And I went back to raking leaves.

Raking Leaves with the Gods

For a month, there have been leaves.
Scattered over the pea stone paths

that lead us through the shade
of our gardens, beech and birch,

oak, ash and even larch leaves
lie, their ends dry and curling

toward their veins. I rake and
make believe I am a Zen-traveled

monk smoothing the surface, quieting
the loss into a calm within a heart’s

usual storm, the tines’ slow scrape
assuming silence among the stones.

In the branches birds sing. The cool
cloud-covered breeze is my Master

saying, Slow, slow. Move to the edge.
The lack of rain today says, patience.

The gods say, What is there to do?
This, I say. And they say, And this.

They stand their rakes against a tree,
gather in the Adirondack chairs along

the narrowing stream. Yes, there is
also this, I say, nodding toward the water.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Poetry East

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Yes, preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

24 thoughts on “Raking Leaves with the Gods

    • You are more than welcome, Barb.
      And thanks to you for all the good you keep bringing
      and for all the work on the campaigns.

  1. I really enjoyed this , Jack. Surprisingly, seeing fall colors and raking leaves, even grudgingly, is something I miss while living in Tucson.

  2. This Monday our little school of less than 200 students was canceled due to an on-line threat from a young man in a town about 70 miles away toward us. I say us because while his exact target was unclear I feel like my family was threatened. Anyway, the young man made the threat over the week-end but couldn’t be located so our administration decided to be cautious and cancel classes for the day. I have been chilled all week. But this morning, this, your peace filled poem, cast a warmth on my day and reminded me not everything is fearful. Thank you.

    • Oh this makes me sick and sad. So very much so.
      Not everything is fearful, but we’re getting close.
      Those who face it and care are our new Profiles in Courage.
      Peace and gratitude

  3. The political climate in America is nothing short of tragic, regardless of the side one stands one. Love the poem, and I look forward to reading the book when I get the chance.

    • And back to you, cherished Pal. And what a joy it’s been
      to come to know your Bruce.
      And break a leg with your TEDx talk. You’ll knock ’em out
      Hugs and HUGS!

  4. Thank you for this lovely poem. And thanks to you and Julie for advocating for a better path. I’m volunteering with the ACLU on Saturday to canvass in support of Proposal 3. After all of the efforts to suppress the vote in this election, we need to make voting easier here in Michigan.

    • Thank YOU for this kind message, Linda. It feels so good.
      And thank you for your vital advocating with the ACLU.
      I wish you well with that.

  5. Beautiful! I so love my email on Thursdays… Thank you ❤

    Smiles, Laughter and Happiness,



  6. LOVE! Thanks for the cool, calmness of things amidst the frightful and frightened, on both sides. I hear you when I read this. I love your voice.

    • It’s all so horrid and takes is toll on good hearts such as yours.
      Thanks for saying you hear my and that it’s a good thing. One seems
      always to consider ones own voice to be a blend of power mower and
      fire alarm.

  7. Thank you very much, Jack, for your weekly comment on garden and politics 😉 Every Thursday I’m looking forward to your lovely poem which often asks too much from my knowledge of English language – but it always means learning a bit more!
    Your outline of the responses on your invitation shocks me! That the (un)social media seem to be anonymous and thereby tear down the limits of decency and morals is somewhat comprehensible – people sit at home in front of their computer and don’t see the person they insult (it often works when the insulted answers!). But that people of a small community like yours where they know each other (and where social control worked in former times) spit hatred and insults and give up their dignity is very creepy! I see a link to the bomb packages…
    In Germany/Europe develop similar groups of hard right-wings prone to violence – up to now it’s less than in your country: so I’m thankful for the time-gap between US and Europe!
    I cross my fingers for Ms. Garnet Lewis!!! And hope that not only the “silent majority” (which is very loud meanwhile!!) will vote!
    Greetings from Cologne, Germany
    Renate Schneider

    • Hello, Renate

      Thank YOU for your kind and caring response. Thank you so very very much.
      Yes, we must care for each other across the seas and time-gap. It’s all so
      frightening. How these people can justify their hatred is not comprehensible
      to me or anyone I know. You insights about social media and anonymity are
      exactly right. Much of this hatred is cowardly. As is the anonymous violence.
      At times I feel emotionally paralyzed. However, it’s care such as yours
      that bring me back each week. I matters so very much when I sit down
      to compose that I know you are out there. My gratitude is boundless.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s