I wouldn't even have bothered with the chore, but I felt guilty about the leaves that had strayed off my property and onto my neighbors' lawns on either side of mine. Maple trees make bad neighbors, I decided, so I tried to remedy the ugliness.
The job done, I sat on my front stoop to admire my handiwork. A small yellow butterfly flitted across the grass and landed on a blade, balancing itself with delicate wings. The day was warm, and I wiped my bandana across my face.
With the sweat, I also wiped away my look of satisfaction at a job well done, because my front yard was snowing. It was a blizzard of leaves from our three half-naked maple trees.
The slightest breeze would send a flurry of rusty, jagged maple leaves showering across my yard -- and my neighbors' yards.
I fetched our kitchen timer, determined to count the leaves that fell in a minute's time. Maybe I could calculate how many days it would be before I needed to mulch the leaves again.
I never got to a minute. By the time 30 seconds had passed, at least 72 leaves had left the safety of the branches and invaded the sanctity of my yard -- and those were just the ones I saw. There's no telling how many more leaves I missed from one tree while I was monitoring the others.
If that kept up, the yard would look as though it had never met my mower's blades.
A few days earlier, a neighbor's two young daughters had taped a flier to our mailbox -- "Two Girls, Two Rakes" -- offering their services to clean up leaves in the neighborhood. (At least, I hope it was directed at the entire neighborhood and not just our very messy yard.) I suppose I should put them on retainer until the rest of the leaves are dead and down.
If I haven't said it before, let me say it now: Don't ever plant a maple tree. I didn't set out our trees, but I have reaped the whirlwind of their droppings for years. I just can't seem to keep up with their output.
Maples have their good points. They make excellent shade; their full, colorful plumage in summer shines glorious; and the scientific precision of their winglike seed pods as they flutter to the ground is a sight to see.
Those same leaves and seeds, however, will hitchhike a ride with gravity pretty much the whole year round, making a rake and a mower mandatory.
Autumn's shorter days, reduced light and cooler air cause those maples to drain the nutrients from their leaves into the trees themselves.
Photosynthesis has taken a holiday, and green chlorophyll is overshadowed by shades of red and brown. Leaves once bright and vibrant are being evicted from the tree, too numerous to count.
Believe me, I've tried.