The first of the Manchurian trees are turning to a burnished copper. The possums have done with grunting and mating and Milo’s guard is now less vigilant. He knows all is well! Soon the first of the awesome petrol driven 4 stroke bazooka leaf blowers will hold their first ear splitting cacophonous concert strapped on the back of very large men or stout women wearing earmuffs and awesome rubber boots. Lawn-mowers will get a reprieve and get locked up in the shed again. Those with small yards will use a humble rake. As is the case every year, I’ll keep a close look out for those kind souls who will forego any kind of leaf removal. They are a rare breed, happy to let the leaf spiral undisturbed downwards towards their final journey, free to nourish soil and grasses and give back what was given to them.
What is it that seems to irk so many of us about those autumn leaves? We have watched the arrival of first spring leaf sprouting, getting larger by the day. Spring would give dappled light filtering through into our lounge-room. A cheer that is only equalled by a warm summer and the inevitable reflection on life in Autumn.
Why this hatred towards dying leaves? The council truck comes by with a huge leaf sucking machine going from tree to tree, leaving soil bare and hungry. Green bins are overflowing with leaves crying out for some respect and empathy. Another few weeks and ladders will be resting against upper story guttering. Men and some women will risk lives at worst or broken bones at best, reaching deep into gutters and downpipes, digging out recalcitrant leaves that were hoping to have escaped. It was not to be.
In the past, before the petrol leaf blowers, autumn and resultant obsessive removal of leaves were the domain of those faced with sad retirement and getting older. The suburbs with trees were often also the places of the well heeled with a rich colony of super-annuity retirees. The retired would spent autumnal days, raking leaves in little heaps on the kerb-side and when dry enough they would put a match to it. Burning autumn leaves with the obligatory handshakes of the rich with the good Rev after the Sunday Anglican service gave the whole of Sydney the smell of what I remember so well. It was called the smell of Sunday Afternoon gloom. Now, the burning of leaves is banned and the leaf blower/sucker has taken its place but the gloom is still hanging in there.