A loud therapy

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!! It’s that time of year when my tranquility is destroyed almost daily.

I’ve always detested leaf blowers. From the first time I heard that horrible noise, I declared that all leaf blowers should be outlawed and their users thrown in jail.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had a meditative hike, an afternoon nap, or a peaceful kayak paddle ruined by the obnoxious roar of a leaf blower. RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!

When I discovered that Dad had one, for his gravel yard in Arizona, I felt betrayed. How could this outlaw be my father? He was very hard of hearing, so the noise didn’t bother him.

I might have made my peace with leaf blowers if they didn’t seem so pointless. Why use an 80-decibel blower when you can have the soothing rhythms and pleasant exercise of raking leaves – which is just as fast and more controlled, too? How could blowing the leaves somewhere else be a solution, anyhow? Why would someone who calls herself a gardener blow nature’s mulch and fertilizer away from plants?

I am not alone – many communities have banned leaf blowers. In our community, you can’t use them on Sundays.

Here at the rental house, there’s a long driveway, and so the owners left their leaf blower in the garage. I rolled my eyes at it. As if.

You’d think that being the ripe old age of 57 I would know better than to say “Never.” But as recently as yesterday, I looked at that blower and said for the 100th time: I will never use a leaf blower.

Today I was having one of my bad days, when anxiety overtook me like a satanic possession. I cowered on the couch in my pajamas and kept sipping herbal tea, hoping it would pass.

Finally I decided I’d go out and sweep the leaves from the driveway. The exercise and communing with nature on a pleasant fall day was bound to help at least a little.

As I started in with the push broom, I could see that I was going to have a problem. I’d swept the driveway once before, and now its edges were piled high with leaves. The wind had gathered leaves against the retaining wall more than two feet deep.

I thought of the leaf blower, but no – surely the noise would make me more anxious. Probably drive me right over the edge. I kept sweeping.

Then I thought, well, maybe it would be cathartic. Like breaking glass, or burning old paper in a bonfire. Maybe the roar would dispel the anxiety, blast it out of my system.

I got the damn thing out of the garage, unwound the double extension cord and plugged it in. Gritting my teeth, I pulled the switch.


I pointed the blower snout like a fire hose at the nearest pile of leaves. And immediately began to laugh and laugh.

The leaves danced straight up into the air, as though taken by surprise; blew into a huge puffy circle, and then danced their way around and down. It was like watching a flock of hysterical and clumsy chickens.

I aimed at the top of the pile. The leaves flew up and drifted down like huge confetti pieces. My own private ticker tape parade!

I ran around the driveway pointing the leaf blower and making parties. I laughed and laughed.

I was out there for an hour with that thing. It takes awhile to clear big piles, and some of them I pushed back and forth across the driveway on purpose. The masses of leaves looked like waves as I blew them, and I felt as powerful as an ocean god.

Underneath the piles were stockades of acorns, and when I pointed the blower at them, they shot across the driveway like startled round rabbits. That made me laugh, too – there’s something inherently funny about inanimate objects that acquire a sudden life force and don’t know what to do with it.

Afterward I felt so much better that I took a long walk. Smiling.

Who needs Valium when you have a leaf blower?

Today’s penny is a 1991 – the year Santa Monica banned leaf blowers.


5 thoughts on “A loud therapy”

  1. Nice story, Lisa. You practice regularly what I’ve long believed myself. There is a story just about everywhere. All one needs to do is be alert enough to notice it.

      1. Once we get past the urge to just tell big stories, the little stories are so much more important. It really is liberating, don’t you think? I share your essays with family and co-workers regularly. So you really cannot stop.

        1. You know what, I think that I ALWAYS enjoyed the little stories more, even as a reporter. And yes, it is liberating. I also think that little stories are better because “ordinary readers” can relate to them much better. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bigger theme behind the little story, but it sure goes down a lot easier when it’s a bite-sized chunk.

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