I still persist in rounding up fallen leaves the old-fashioned way, with a rake, mostly because it’s a soft and hushing kind of activity, much like writing often is for me – as I hope it sometimes is for my students. These last few days I’ve loved the silence of the yard as I’ve swept the rake back and forth, finding a strange kind of serenity with almost every stroke. As the leaves let themselves be brought together in piles, so do my feelings seem to fall into their proper and peaceful places inside me. The noise of stressful thoughts subsides into softness very much like the sounds made by my moving rake. I try to write a paragraph each day, and I often find a similar smoothness in the process of setting words and sentences down in a disciplined fashion. There’s sometimes a sense of almost flawless synchronization in the writing, as if the words can do nothing else but be just where they are on the page. A miserable day can become as soft as piles of leaves once a paragraph’s words are put down. Is it ever the same with my students? Perhaps not often, but I do hope they can occasionally feel the fullness of peace that placing words carefully together can bring. Perhaps, in the privacy of their rooms at home, they can sometimes see their words become as one on the computer screen as easily and softly as leaves assemble on lawns these days.