The Finest Season Arrives

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The falling leaves drift by the window

            The autumn leaves of red and gold

 —“The Autumn Leaves,” by Johnny Mercer


Out the large windows that grace my study I can see dozens of dozens of trees — mainly red oak, but also maple and pine, pin oak and sweetgum. Larger windows, also unfettered by panes, dominate the formal living room across the hall from the study. There are no bad views from any window in this house. That was its best selling point. We feel as if are living in the midst of an urban park. I guess that makes me both the park ranger and head groundskeeper. The latter duties were relatively simple in the summer, since there is little grass in this park/yard. Maintenance consisted largely of a bit of trimming and blowing off the massive deck and the driveway.

Autumn is the loveliest season to live behind the Pine Curtain. Summer is a misery to this long-transplanted Yankee from New Hampshire. By October I am pining for crisp mornings, Blue Northers, and the turning of leaves. Of course, leaves that turn also fall — hence the other name for autumn. I headed outside the other day for an early morning walk and realized it was not possible to distinguish where the edge of the driveway ended and the shrubbery under the soft carpet of leaves. It was time to haul out the rake.

Of the dozen or so houses on our cul-de-sac, I clearly am the only one personally in charge of the yard. I make that observation based on the fleet of lawn crews who show up during the week, usually on Wednesday and Thursday. They transform our neighbors’ yards into pristine oases of manicured lawns with impeccable shrubbery, highlighted by what flowers are in season — planted in rows with military precision. The crews work quickly and efficiently, blowers and mowers briefly invading the tranquility of our neighborhood. No worries, since I return the favor, usually on Saturday morning.

My Beautiful Mystery Companion prefers the unkempt, natural look to a yard, so I was under little pressure to trim hedges during the summer. The azaleas look spiky now, but are well-watered and cheerful. We have not lived in this house during spring, so that is a treat awaiting, a yard filled on all sides with azalea blossoms.

Earlier this summer, I received a baleful look from my BMC as I flailed away with the weedwhacker. I explained that it is unwise to allow ivy to grow unfettered up wooden siding, because it allows moisture to invade. Eventually the wood will rot. But it is fine to let it creep up the brick, so she relented as I chopped the ivy back from the wood siding out front. I’m allowing it to climb the brick toward the gutter, where I will have to stop its progress.

I raked the driveway for two-and-a-half hours, using the blower to speed things up a bit, leaving the leaves in the small yard and in the ivy that surrounds the house. I was trying to get the driveway clear so trick-or-treaters could find their way to the house on Halloween. It took 15 leaf bags to accomplish that task on a lovely morning, warm enough to wear a T-shirt but not enough to break a sweat. Raking affords one time for reflection while keeping one’s body engaged in a useful activity. Like most of us who have skated well into middle age, there is plenty upon which to reflect.

There are plenty of leaves left as well. As I look out the study window, the sky is still nearly obscured by a canopy of leaves, turning color, turning loose. The light is changing as well, more vibrant and less hazy. The sun is at a different angle, the temperatures cooler. My senses feel heightened with the heat of summer gone. I feel rejuvenated by the cool air, more hopeful and energetic.

I might not feel so sanguine when I fill that last bag of leaves around Christmas. I am keeping count how many bags I’ll fill before the canopy is clear. I figure it will total somewhere around 130 or so. Drop a line if you would like to make your estimate. Better yet, bring a rake and pitch in if you’re feeling the need for reflection and some exercise. I’ll supply the coffee.

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