Leaf Litter Lament

A decaying leaf,
image of mortality
faded and riddled with holes,
hanging in a tree
with mouth wide open
singing a bitter chant–
The Leaf Litter Lament:
Ungrateful humans!
Why do you complain
as you rake, blow, and mow,
mulch, bag, and drag us
off to the dump?
A mountain of leaf litter,
that’s what you called us—
how dare you treat us this way!
Is this the thanks we get
after we gave you the best
days of our short lives?

You should be ashamed
of your thoughtlessness
and lack of compassion.
When we were vibrant,
young, supple, and new,
you said you loved us.
But now that we are older,
when you look into our eyes
you see strange haunted visions
that predict your own demise.
You are frightened!
It’s harsh—we know.
You don’t like our dying faces,
so you don’t want us around.
That’s why you blow and rake
‘til there’s no leaves on the ground.
Here’s something to consider:
A world without leaves
is something to be feared
and maybe…just maybe…
if you keep complaining
we won’t come back next year.       ~ms
I have a lot of trees in my rather large front yard, and our homeowner’s association (HOA) doesn’t like leaf litter.  So, during the fall, I spend a lot of time outside raking leaves. Now I could use a leaf blower like many other people do, but I like the “swishing sound” of the rake as it moves through the leaves. It was in that sound that I first began to hear the Leaf Litter Lament.

I have heard so many people complaining about the amount of time, work, and energy it takes to pick up all of the leaves in the fall. So, as I was raking, I began to think about how the lack of appreciation would annoy me.  I mean, if I was a leaf, I would get upset listening to all the complaints about how inconvenient I had become. After providing everyone with shade all summer long, I would hope that I could at least get a kind word, a kiss, or wave goodbye. Sigh. If I was dying and crumbling apart on the ground, all of the negative comments would definitely break my leafy heart.

The one thing that actually did bother me this year, was the amount of spiders that got into my car while I was carrying bags of leaves to the dump. Trying to drive a car while simultaneously watching a huge spider crawl across the dashboard towards the steering wheel—is rather dangerous. I had to stop the car several times because of close encounters with various spiders, large and small. One time, I even found a little spider hanging from my hair.

Truth be known, we do our best to keep some of the fallen leaves in spots where they are considered “acceptable.” I know that deer need a soft place to sleep, spiders and crawly things need a place stay, and trees love to have warm feet in the winter.
We can’t keep too many leaves though, because when the leaf level gets too high, they don’t stay put and blow everywhere–including the neighbors’ yards. So we must continue to take a few bags of leaves to the dump every year, with a fond farewell, thank you, and goodbye.  🙂

About Mary Strong-Spaid

You can find me any time wandering around in my own mind gathering thoughts.
This entry was posted in Autumn, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Poetry, Trees and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Leaf Litter Lament

  1. Anonymous says:

    As always – a joy to read! So true – for all they give us we should be thankful. Great tale once again!!!! Be blessed. Pat

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post and pictures, and your spiders were another reason for your lament. For in natural setting leaf litter becomes winter habitat for many species, who winter there or lay eggs protected from the harshness of what winter brings. I hope you are well and are also protected for the winter to come.


    • I know! I have added one more photo at the end so you can see. We do save as many leaves as we can (I forgot to mention this). We spread them under the different sections of trees and then clear everything else away.
      No way to keep all of the leaves, because it would get unnaturally deep in those areas. And, as far as I can tell, the oak trees don’t like too much moisture piled up against their trunks. In regards to the spiders–I don’t mind spiders IF they aren’t in my hair OR hanging out on my steering wheel. I am especially frightened by the jumping spiders. They can jump pretty far and their bite is not a happy thing!


  3. katelon says:

    Very sweet, thanks!


  4. kiwiskan says:

    We seldom rake up our leaf litter, and when we do it is just to spread it where it is more needed – a wonderful mulch from nature…


  5. So true. I think you’re right about people’s prejudice against dead leaves.


    • Yes.
      And just like withering leaves, society tends to push those who are elderly and frail out of the way also. Even the commercials on TV tend to feature the young and the beautiful, because visions of old age are not going to convince people to buy more “stuff.” Can’t take the stuff with us when we leave this world, that’s for sure.
      Everywhere in nature, there are constant reminders that life here does not last forever.Perhaps that is why many people don’t “stop and smell the roses” more often. The rose that is so lovely on Monday, is drooping and falling apart by Friday.
      And so it goes….


  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Mary Strong-Spaid.. Beautiful words and photography!.


  7. Judy says:

    I love this post. Leaves have always fascinated with their beauty and their vivid colorful announcement of the change of the seasons. Kind of like ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’, the turning of the season—evidenced via the leaves—recapitulates the life cycle of man too. We have our flush of youth and suppleness and our time to wither and die making way for the next generation. If you think of O’Henry’s ‘The Last Leaf’, there is something very poignant about the tenacity of the last one to drop telling us to hang on too. (even tho his was a painted symbol)

    So for all the poetry and philosophy which leaves lend us, we should definitely treat them better. After all, don’t they give us an opportunity to be outdoors and exercise?

    I do have an experience related to some neighbor not appreciating the trees in my yard many years ago. One particular day I came home from work to find someone had gone through the effort to rake up my leaves and pile them up on my porch up to the doorknob. Never found out who did that, but it made me smile that someone REALLY hated my leaves.

    Talking about the symbolic impermanence of the spring of our days always reminds me of this from Robert Frost “Nothing Gold can Stay”

    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf,
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day
    Nothing gold can stay.

    Certainly as a photographer if we can glory in a crimson fall, then we should be willing to rake a little! Let them remind us of who we are and that life is a gift.


    • Thank you for this wonderful comment!
      I had never read this particular Robert Frost poem before.
      It’s perfect and it’s true—-Nothing gold can stay.
      And I agree, there is something inspiring about the tenacity of the one leaf, in spite of wind and weather, that is still hanging on (I will have to see if I can find an image of O’Henry’s painting online. I have not seen it).
      I have a neighbor who hates leaves too, but I have never had someone pile leaves on my front porch up to the doorknob. That’s a good one! You were given a gift of nature. I think the old saying goes– “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 🙂


      • Judy says:

        Oh, I think I caused confusion. O’Henry wrote the short story, The Last Leaf. One character in the story was very sick and dying. An old man that lived in the same building was a painter who’d never created his masterpiece. The sick girl was going to hang on until the last leaf fell. So one miserable cold rainy night, the old man painted a leaf which appeared to hang from the now leafless limb outside her window. She saw that tenacious leaf and was inspired to live.

        It was the finest hour-his masterpiece- for the old man but he caught pneumonia and died. Later the girl was told, when she asked about the old neighbor, how he had died. She was asked, did she not wonder why the leaf never moved in the wind? Just one of those classic stories that never leaves you -npi 🙂


        • Aaah! It is even better knowing that the painting is actually part of a story about love, inspiration, and hope.
          No wonder it became a classic story that “never leaves you.” Your short synopsis gave me chills.


  8. Swishing sound of dry leaves under the feet is the best music for myself. It is so relaxing and calming. Mostly people don’t like them by the autumn time, but there are a lot of poems and songs about any kind of leaves. People love them. They are lungs of the trees. We have to appreciate what they do for us.


    • Lungs of the trees–WOW–I hadn’t thought of leaves in that way.
      What an interesting connection.
      For the past few months, doctors have been telling me that I really need to get surgery to determine if the nodule on my lower right lung is cancer or not.
      The lung nodule in question apparently grew 5mm in 7 years, which doesn’t seem like that much to me.
      Doctors were considering a “wedge resection” or a “lobectomy” to get rid of the “suspicious” nodule (and part of my lung). Ummmm…WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!! I do not want to cut things up and throw things out unless its absolutely necessary.
      On top of everything else, one of the possible side effects of these diagnostic lung tests—is possible damage to vocal cords/vocal nerves, and or permanent hoarseness. I am a professional singer. Not sure if the doctors realize that I don’t want to lose my voice, just trying to figure out what is OR is not.
      Oh well. Maybe I am going to have to learn to live without knowing, and hope for the best.
      Right now, I guess I do feel like that last leaf hanging tenaciously onto the tree limb–chanting (singing) about how it feels to be in this position. There is so much of who we are and how we view the world around us, hidden in our own writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Tokeloshe says:

    You have a lovely garden. Great photos and wise words.


  10. 1EarthUnited says:

    Thanks for being so mindful of the leaves, they do serve their purpose very well throughout the year, for every living thing. It’s amazing how closely we are all connected in some way or another. Have a blessed holiday season.


  11. cindy knoke says:

    This is brilliant and powerful!


  12. We used to dig a hole, sweep all leaves in that hole and then with time they used to become fertilizers for the trees 🙂

    But there were quite a handful of energetic youngsters in the house plus the garden was small, not too big!

    loved the poems and the feelings expressed.


    • Yes, it’s true.
      Leaves give back to the trees that once gave to them.
      Old leaves, fallen to the ground, become shelter for animals and other little creatures of nature.
      Most people don’t seem to think about that.
      They just want to get rid of the dying leaves, so the yards will look “pretty.”


      • As for me, I love to see them on ground, they look beautiful even when they are dry. Those who think that dry leaves are not pretty they should look hard (or may be you and me both are poets that is why we have pink stinted glasses in our eyes).

        Your works are amazing! You should turn them into ebooks!


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