Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Dragons, hummingbirds and mushrooms on a fall day

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published November 26, 2015

My heavily wooded yard was resembling a jungle, since it had last been tended to months ago when my niece and her husband visited. I could call a lawn service, of course, but there’s a fine young fellow in the neighborhood who does yard work now and again.

Going on the principles of “buy local” and “support small businesses,” I asked him to come on over to pick up some leaves.

In truth, my requesting his help wasn’t just because the yard needed work, but also because this teenage fellow had eagerly shared his dragon sketches with my husband, who had given him a few pointers. And as a big believer in the Communion of Saints, I know there is still a connection between my husband and all the people he loved in this world.

It was a chilly day in early fall with leaves pouring from the trees like colorful raindrops and hummingbirds twittering as they fought for the feeder. The boy showed up wearing gardening gloves (“They’re my dad’s”) as I’d suggested, and I pointed out the rake and brooms on the porch, plus the big brown leaf bags.

I enjoyed glancing outside to see him gathering up the wayward leaves, his rake making a pleasant scraping sound against the sidewalk—and wondered if perhaps he was musing over what type of dragon he would draw next.

A friend and I sat by the front window having a cup of tea and chatting while the boy worked outdoors. Every so often I would step outside to offer a bit of advice, and he would point out what he’d noticed.

“Did you know you have a lot of hummingbirds here?,” he inquired, gesturing toward a winged jewel perched on a blueberry branch. Another time, he marveled over an oddly shaped yellowish blob sprouting from the base of a big tree, which, I explained, was a mushroom that squirrels like to eat.

All these little observations seemed to make working outdoors fun—even, dare I say, educational—and before long he had filled three hefty containers of leaves.

When he asked what else he could do, I pointed out straggly grapevines that needed trimming and clusters of tiny mimosa trees threatening to overtake the yard.

Of course, yard work usually involves thorns and sharp twigs, so it wasn’t that surprising when he announced, “I cut myself,” and then came in the front door with an oozing finger. I hurried off to find hydrogen peroxide and a Band-Aid while my friend doctored the wound, and soon all was well.

When it was time for him to go, I rummaged in my purse until I found some cash to offer him—but he shook his head and said carefully, “This is my” (he paused to find the right word) “present for you.”

Then he blurted out, “And my mother didn’t make me say that either.” His remark had me smiling, and I could imagine my dear Jef also appreciating the boy’s earnestness—and this gesture of kindness coming straight from the heart.

“The Wood Between The Worlds” (oil on canvas) by Jef Murray. You may contact Lorraine at