December 6, 2012

Autumn Leaves

God knows I'm all for saving the environment, but in doing so, some things have been lost that were truly a special part of the cycle of the seasons. I'm speaking of the autumn ritual of raking leaves into piles or neat rows along curbs and then setting them afire. The sweet smell of smoke, watching it curl lazily upwards through the trees, rekindles ancient memories of times when a fire was sometimes all that stood between life and death. There is a reason we are instinctively drawn to a camp fire.

I miss the aromatic tang in my nostrils, the dull haze from the smoke that blurred the divide between land and sky, the gentle crackling ... a sensory feast of sight, smell, and sound. It saddens me to think that my children and grandchildren will never know the simple pleasure of burning leaves. In today's world, where levels of man-made atmospheric pollutants have reached climate changing levels, even the smallest additional increment of carbon dioxide must be avoided. I get that. But still ...

What's worse, modern man, in his infinite quest to do less with less, has replaced one kind of pollution with another. Raking leaves used to be a Zen-like meditative experience, the repetitive back and forth motion freeing the mind to roam in the subconscious, where all great ideas are born. Then came the leaf blower, a noisy disturber of the peace that turns a ritual into a chore.

I'll be honest with you. Those friggin' leaf blowers drive me crazy. I'm out gathering up my leaves the old-fashioned way, with a hand-operated rake, and there's my neighbor with his electric or gas-operated leaf blower, making an almighty racket as he walks indolently back and forth across his lawn, letting the machine do the work, while I'm out here busting my ass.

On top of using electricity or gas to power the leaf blower, instead of putting the leaves in his flower beds where they will do some good, he, along with all my other neighbors, is putting them on the street, where they will be collected and taken to a landfill by trucks spewing anywhere from a half to a full pound of carbon dioxide into the air for every mile they travel.

Hmm. That gives me an idea. Maybe we should look at bringing back leaf burning as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While we're at it, let's ban those damned leaf blowers, too.

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