19 trees standing smugly in my backyard.

“What?” They say. Smirking at me.

“Shut up,” I say.

“No, you shut up.” Their eyes are angry. Hellbent on a fight. Like a political pundit on Fox News.

The air is crisp. A breeze rattles their limbs. The leaves in the trees are starting to change colors. The next step for these autumnal leaves? A diabolical assault on my backyard. Damned paratroopers.

My rakes are quivering. My back, too. Another fall in Central Pennsylvania. 19,000,000 more leaves to dispose of. Solomon is 7. Samson 6. They are still too young to help out. So this battle falls to me. A simple man who recently turned 41. A poor soul with a forest in his backyard.

I’ve written about yard work in my previous two blogs. Is that all I have to share these days? Musings about the monotony of cleaning up limbs or raking leaves? No, friend. I’m not here to write about yard work. I’m here to mark the changing of the seasons.

It’s September again.


We’re about three weeks into the school year as I’m writing this blog. Solomon is settling into 2nd grade. Samson into 1st. And I’m having another go at higher education. Year number seven with The Pennsylvania State University.

Where does the time go?

September always tires me out. Stepping out of August into the routine of another school year is tough no matter how old you are. It does seem more exhausting at 41 than it did at 31. And, of course, the last two years have been something of a blur. I spent the summer of 2020 learning how to be a virtual teacher. Spent the summer of 2021 preparing to return to a classroom. Against the backdrop of a divisive and divided country. A global pandemic that continues despite all the best talking points. Cases in State College, Pennsylvania have skyrocketed again with the return of the students. Those germy bastards.

Look, I’m vaccinated as all get out. But my young boys aren’t. And I just heard a story from a friend of mine who is a teacher about an elementary student they worked with who died of Covid-19. So it’s great that most kids don’t die from the virus. But some do. And children dying seems bad. So I’d prefer to be as safe as circumstances allow for the moment.

So there’s a lot on my mind as September of 2021 rolls around. A lot on my heart, too. These are heavy times.

“How are we doing so far?” One of my students asked me the other day. I thought about her question for a moment.

“Well, we are still alive,” I said. “And wearing masks sucks. But we’re doing okay, I guess.”

She was asking about our class. Yes, I keep having to remind students to pull their masks up. And social distancing is an impossibility in a little room. But we are fighting the fight. Thinking about reading and writing together. Thinking about teaching and learning together. Against the backdrop of some very strange times.

September of 2021? I’m doing okay, I guess.


Doing okay other than those cursed trees in my backyard. Plotting to shed their leaves like so many stormtroopers. My back bracing to do battle.

It takes about seven or eight rounds to clear the backyard. I’ll spend an afternoon raking. Finish dragging all the leaves to the street for the city to pick up. The trees chuckling quietly to themselves, and shedding their skin once again. A fresh coat of leaves on the grass before I’m even finished with one batch. It’s sick.

But I’ll fight the fight. Despite these circumstances. Struggling against my limitations. Because what else am I going to do?

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