The fate of falling leaves


It seemed to me that the leaves stayed on the trees longer than usual this year. It also seemed like the beautiful fall colors appeared a little later this year.

I’m sure there are all kinds of scientific explanations for this, but I think falling leaves, whenever they may occur, are the trees’ ways of getting even for whatever indignities they suffer at man’s hands.

All summer long we enjoy the shade that the trees provide for us with the canopy of leaves. In fact we generally take it for granted. So in the fall the trees begin to dump those leaves according to their own plan.

First they turn those cool green leaves into burning bright tones that draw our eyes up in amazement and appreciation. Then, as we watch with rapt attention, they begin to throw those leaves down to the ground. Then they pause and the people who live under the trees rake them up into piles, bag them, and get rid of them.

The trees wait a little bit and then, just when these people begin to relax and enjoy looking at the leaves overhead again, the trees release more leaves. That’s OK. The young in heart enjoy kicking through the rustling leaves, if they walk anywhere.

If it’s very dry, the leaves crumble and raise dust and allergies throughout the town. And as the leaf rakers again rake up the leaves into piles, they sneeze and snort as they inhale the dust. If they live in a city they leave the leaves in the gutter where the parking cars can crumble the leaves even more and raise more dust which causes more sneezing and adds lots of coughing. A progressive city then sends out workers to take the leaves away.

Then the trees drop more leaves. By this time it’s not so charming as it was when it all started. Besides, the leaves are getting a lot sparser on the trees, and they don’t look as beautiful as they did when they first started changing.

The rakers are getting tired of what seems to be a never- ending job. So some of the rakers have turned into mulchers. They ride their tractors that mowed the grass all summer with mowing blades replaced by mulching blades. They believe that the mulched leaves are really good for the grass, and it surely does beat raking.

Other rakers with smaller plots become porch-sitters with a purpose beyond keeping up with whatever is going on in the neighborhood. They begin to plot wind directions. If they are very good at this their raking days are over. If they can avoid raking long enough, a good wind will move their leaves into an unsuspecting neighbor’s yard, and those leaves then become the neighbor’s responsibility.

If, however, that neighbor should be a tad lazy or opposed to leaf raking, those leaves might just blow around the neighborhood until they’re back under the original tree. If so, it’s not so bad because if they blow around that long they’re pretty well mulched before they get back home.

Way back in the good old days when I was a child, we didn’t have mulchers or city workers to remove the leaves. Kids raked them into piles and adults burned them. It was great fun, especially if you had collected some buckeyes to throw into the leaf fire when the adults weren’t looking. The buckeyes would explode and really annoy parents providing great entertainment for the kids.

Fall leaves are still beautiful, and falling leaves are fun too. But raking leaves can become an onerous chore. It’s difficult to believe there are that many millions of leaves up there in those trees all summer.

It occurs to me that the dance of the fall leaves is actually a preparation for winter and the endless falling snow, and the shoveling, and the snowplows shoveling the snow back on the sidewalks so the shovelers can shovel again.

Ah yes, once the leaves are all gone, the beauty of winter descends upon us as we enjoy the first snowfall of the season. After that it’s just like raking leaves all over again, only it’s colder.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate Nov. 16, 2005.

By Kathleen Floyd

Back Around the House II

Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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