Secular Meditation

A Guide from the Humanist Community at Harvard

Mindfuless Failure with Leaf Blowers

I do try to be mindful, but even though I’ve written a book about it, it can be challenging at times.

In particular, today I’ve had a mindfulness failure due to leaf blowers.

I enjoy raking leaves, and can be mindful of the sights of the fallen leaves themselves, the smell of the leaves and the sounds of raking. But when I went outside today to rake leaves, I was assaulted by the sound of leaf blowers. A team of landscape workers were using at least two gas-powered leaf blowers two houses away from me, and the sound overwhelmed my senses. I could think of nothing else. I could tell they were gas-powered as well, because from time to time, I could smell gasoline.

My mind was reactive. It was hard to think of anything but the leaf blowers. At times the drone would lessen, but then it would start up loudly again. I tried to think kindly toward the sound, but it didn’t work. I was able to summon up some metta toward the landscape workers, because after all, they need to earn a living to support their families. But I’d rather their employers paid them to rake leaves, as I was doing, rather than blowing them with loud machines that interrupt the peace of the neighborhood.

After filling just one bag of leaves, I gave up and went inside. I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities to practice mindfulness of leaf blowers and try to experience them with equanimity.


One Response to Mindfuless Failure with Leaf Blowers

  1. Rick Macchi says:

    There are many of us who sympathize with your concern about the noise from leaf-blowers. There have been actions in several towns, such as Brookline, to regulate the use of leaf-blowers, particularly gas-powered models. The Boston Globe has published a few stories about these proposals, including the differing opinions of landscaping companies and noise-affected residents.

    March 2015:
    (If link no longer works, try Googling, “In the war vs. loud leaf blowers, a strategic retreat” )

    November 2015:
    (similarly,, “Dust up in Brookline over leaf blower law”

    I think one’s view of the use of professional leaf removal services and the resulting noise, is at least partly situational. A home with two out-of-home working adults likely has more money and less time, all else equal, so prefers to pay to have their leaves removed, during weekday daytime hours when they are not home. On the other hand, retirees, stay-at-home parents, and others who work from home, are more affected and thus concerned, about the loud noise from gas-powered leaf-blowers during weekday hours.

    We might ask, “Do the leaves need to be removed?”. Probably yes, for reasons such as the look of a yard, possible health of the grass, to keep large amounts of leaves from blowing in the garage or piling up against a door, to avoid having large clumps of wet slippery leaves on sidewalks, etc.
    But a better question to ask is, how often do the leaves really need to be collected? Maybe using more expensive, time-consuming, quieter, battery-powered leaf-blowers, results in higher leaf collection costs, … and beneficially, makes professional leaf collection an infrequent once- or twice- times-a-season activity?