December 12, 2016
Oak leaf harvest time—
what seems like so much litter
will be soil wealth
It’s been two weeks since I wrote this haiku, but in that short interval the weather has transitioned sharply to winter. We are not at the solstice yet, but the ground is hard and snow covered, more snow is falling, and the temperatures have held to below freezing for days. There is no going back now; it’s winter in central Maine.
The haiku is set in late November—the 28th to be exact–in that brief period when all the leaves are finally down, even from the late-shedding oaks, but there is, as yet, no snowcover.
Knowing that snow is just days away from settling in for good is a strong incentive for getting final winter-prep chores done. For my husband and me that means gathering in a final harvest of the leaves—mostly oak— that lie strewn about the lawn and drive. We rake and blow the leaves into piles, shred these piles with a mower, and then spread the contents of the resulting heaps— now much diminished in size—as a mulch on the vegetable and flower beds. It’s hard, but satisfying work. Shredding the leaves encourages the decomposition process; when the snow melts in the spring the leaf mulch will be a good compost, in place and ready for turning under. Working with the leaves gives a feeling of abundance. Oaks are generous trees.