Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday's Words for October 29, 2008

We have a walnut tree in front of our house. Because it is alive, every year this tree produces leaves, and then walnuts. In the summer, it provides wonderful shade for our porch from the morning sun. In the fall it produces falling missiles and a ton of leaves on the ground.

This is a small town, terraced as we have two rivers here. I’ve already described my back yard to you—stand at the top of our yard and you are quite literally above the house. We do have a driveway, but it comes into the back yard off a road that is on the same kind of incline as the yard itself. I use the driveway in the summer, and in the fall during the week that the bombardment from the walnut tree is in progress.

Aside from scaring the daylights out of you when they crash onto the roof, these walnuts make an awful mess on the road when they explode under the tires of passing cars. The neighbourhood squirrels do their part in collecting the bounty—and this year with the rain we received there was a bumper crop—but still, you end up with dozens of these fallen ordinance all over our small front yard, the sidewalk and the street.

The walnut tree is the last to get its leaves in the spring and the first to lose them in the fall. They begin to turn yellow and drop to the ground as soon as the walnuts are formed, and always before autumn. This year the first yellow leaves fluttered down during the last week of August. This was very discouraging for an end-of-summer denier like myself.

Our yard needed raking by the second week of September. When we first moved in, we would get out and begin that raking right on schedule. Usually we’d spend a Sunday afternoon in the brisk autumn air raking and carting the leaves to the back, where we had a compost pile. Then we’d come home from work on Monday, prepared to admire our nicely groomed yard, only to see that more leaves had fallen and the entire yard needed to be raked again.

It kind of reminded me of the perpetual nature of housework in the home of three small children.

Just when our tree would finally be naked and all the leaves carted off, the maple trees across the street would begin to moult.

“But it’s not our tree!” came the lament from my kids when I would ask them to help me clean up the new mess. “That’s true,” I would say. “But we all enjoyed the beauty of the tree in the summer as we sat here on our porch. So we pay for that now by raking.”

Teenagers are really good at rolling their eyes, aren’t they?

I have to admit I’m not what you’d call fanatical about maintaining the yard. I might be a little more active if the darn land wasn’t so sloped. But as it is, I’m hard pressed to do what needs to be done each season.

There’s a part of me that really wishes I could follow the lead of one of the utilities in the next town. The Gas Company built a new state of the art headquarters on a piece of land that is on a main thoroughfare. The building itself is quite impressive—all modern grey stone and glass. In the sunlight, the stone seems to sparkle as tiny fragments of quartz catch the light. It’s a large building on a large piece of land. One would expect the landscaping would have been equally impressive.

The only thing that is impressive about the landscaping is, for lack of a better word, their chutzpah. Where one would expect manicured lawns and tasteful gardens there are, instead weeds. Yes, weeds. The place resembles a country field left on its own. Oh, and there is one more thing. Every so many feet along the edge of the parking lot, white signs with black lettering that read: “Please do not pick or dig up the native wild flowers.”

It’s an ingenious ploy that saves thousands of dollars every year, but not a tactic the common citizen might emulate.

In the mean time, the leaves are getting deep out there, and I shamelessly cling to one very faint ray of hope: the forecast calls for snow. White, wet snow that will cover the yard...and hide the leaves.

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