Mrs. Dim hates autumn leaves almost as much as I hate the sound of leaf-blowers. She wages a steady campaign upon the leaves, determined to keep their time on her lawn and flowerbeds as short as humanly possible. Sometimes she uses a system that I have seen other people use on their property: She gets the blower out first and blows the leaves off her deck and driveway and out of her flowerbeds (and even off the street in front of her house), and then she uses the mower to gather, shred, and bag the leaves. Her system is efficient, if noisy. And then she has those lovely black bags sitting on the street by her green lawn for several days instead of those ugly leaves that she so hates.
Last Saturday morning I was working at the computer—part preparation for another week of teaching, part free-lance writing—when I heard the sound of her blower. Looking out the window, I saw the mower was out too, ready to go. My concentration was shot, and I had to pick up a few things from the store before the weekend was over, so I figured the time was ideal for me to get out of the house for about an hour. My daughter was doing homework, so I let her know where I was going and jumped into the car and escaped.
An hour later I returned home with my purchases. The neighborhood was quiet. I put my purchases away and sat down again at the computer. Then I heard the sound of Mrs. Dim’s lawnmower. She was at it again! I asked my daughter if Mrs. Dim had taken a break while I was gone. She said, “Well, she didn’t stop the instant you left, but she did take a pretty long break.”
It is hard not to be bitter about this. I’m sure she had her reasons, and they probably had more to do with conserving her energy than with annoying her neighbor. All the same, my brilliant plan to escape her noise was foiled. And the war on leaves continues.
A family bought a house down the street this summer. As they were moving in, they cut down two trees to make room for a storage shed. Since then, they have been removing trees at the rate of about one a month. Along with my abhorrence of the torturous chain-saw noise, my resentment at the murder of healthy trees is intense. When this subdivision was built, the designers preserved as many of the hardwood trees as they could. Every yard has several trees that are obviously older than the houses. These are healthy trees that shade the neighborhood (saving electricity that runs air conditioners in the summer), provide refuge for urban wildlife, and generally make life pleasant. In the autumn they coat the ground with beautiful brown leaves, fun for children to build leaf piles and bury themselves, fun even for adults like me to wade through, enjoying the crisp, crunchy sound and the memories of childhood that it stirs.
I understand that not everyone wants to live near trees. Some people just hate leaves, while others live in fear of a storm toppling a tree onto their house. People like that should buy houses that are not surrounded by trees. Not far away there are subdivisions where the builders cleared all the plants and topsoil off the land, built houses and streets, put down an inch or two of topsoil, and covered it with sod. A family that hates trees should buy a house in one of those subdivisions. It makes me very bitter to have them move into my neighborhood and start removing the trees with noisy chain saws.
Besides, they might give Mrs. Dim some bad ideas.