While the first leaves are yet to hit the asphalt, I know that soon the leaf-blower brigade will come out. It’s inevitable and I am not sure we should just move out, take out a lease on a Balinese villa and possibly avoid murder. If you own a leaf blower, forget getting an invitation to my house. You didn’t take the hint last year, did you? I left a rake on your doorstep, all wrapped in cellophane with a red ribbon. What more does it take, what more could I have done?
Years ago, when things were still quiet and Autumnal habits heralded themselves with the rain of golden leaves and suburbia in deep slumber, with its first wood-fire smoke curling upwards from gentle chimneys, one might just have heard the early wakening of a neighbor with the soothing swish of the broom or a rustling rake. Sometimes, the leaves would give us a reminder of seasons changing when raked together and burnt giving a lovely smoky scent. The scent of autumn.
Not anymore now though, autumns have been taken over by those giant Husqvarna leaf blowers. Noise is now an essential part of gardening, especially in autumn. What makes so many feel that unless something makes noise, it’s not serious? What’s welling up in those previously peaceful suburbanites that make them go out at 6am and start war?
Sure, in the past and during summer, lawns needed mowing and dad did it with the Victa. Victa was our national identity; we came close to saluting it. God save our Victa…But, at least with those early mowers there was a fair chance the motor would just have a bad day, refuse to start and dad would then, after pulling the cord with blind fury 223 times, give it back to the shed next to the FJ Holden. Peace and quiet would remain rock solid.
Now, the spark and ignition have advanced so much that failure of motorized garden equipments are on par with winning the 100 million in the Spanish lottery. One pull and they start relentlessly and without failure.
When the man next door dons his floppy hat and visors, we know we will be in for a hell of a time. He is normally a very peace loving man and solicitor. With the leaf blower strapped around his torso he metamorphoses into a man on a murderous mission. He almost risks being invited to the Taliban. Where does this sudden military move to noisy gardening come from?
Does it go back to childhood, a dysfunctional grandmother with a penchant for taking off her belt, or a sadistic dad swishing a bicycle chain? Why the hatred towards leaves? What makes it so much more incomprehensible is that our neighbor has John Steinbeck’s “Of men and Mice” on his bookshelves. How can one possibly correlate that level of literary appreciation with going out guerilla like with a leaf blower strapped on?
On top of his love of gardening noise he also climbs a ladder and peers inside his guttering. Not only are leaves banned on the ground, they are also not allowed to settle peacefully onto his roof. He would sleep on his roof, given half a chance. His wife looks on anxiously when he travels along the entire guttering of his house. The leaf blower is on full throttle. He hates leaves.
It makes one wonder about the differences of culture. Bali has more trees and leaves than the entire Southern hemisphere put together. You lose a matchstick and next day it has sprouted into a young sapling. Yet, there is not a leaf blower to be seen or heard anywhere. The brush or rice stalk brooms are out and each morning just a gentle sweep of the footpath or entrance and all is clean. The leaves are left to rot and nourish the good earth. Of course, not a zinc alume gutter anywhere either. It’s all left to nature. The rain is allowed to water the plants and trees, instead of being channeled towards the ocean
Mind you here in Australia, the Bunning forces are flat tack promoting noise as much as possible. Driving by at night and on a large well lit board we are put on notice there will be D.I.Y information for ladies each Friday. I shudder at the prospect of what motorized garden utensil will arrive next door. Soon, the gender equality will be not only seen but heard as well. Strong women will join the blower’s male dominated army, wield those leaf blowers and noise will double.
Where did it all go so wrong?