Ruminations on Autumn Clean-up (or not) and Time

I share my little plot with 8 trees large enough that I hope none fall on my house. They make a lot of leaves. If the spirit moves me I will rake them into mounds alongside the hedge or into my raised garden bed where they do their beautiful business of rotting.

My neighbors across the street have no trees and I wonder if they hate me when the wind blows in their direction? We are friends so I doubt it – but I’m sure they feel a tad exasperated by the mess my arbor-love makes on their tree-less property. And I wonder a little if their intention is to torture me every Saturday when the landscaper comes with a blower to blow mostly my tree’s leaves off their perfect lawn. There are not many sounds I hate more than the sound of a gas blower as it goes on and on and on.

My gardening… philosophy? technique? I search for the word that best describes my intentional laissez-faire attitude around autumn clean-up. I believe and there is much proof, that left to itself, nature takes better care of itself than when we meddle. The decomposed leaves enrich my property so it doesn’t make sense to stuff them into bags to be picked up by the noisy trucks emitting additional carbon gases into our atmosphere while they do it.

There is some clean-up I eventually get around to. I twist the thorny vines and weeds into cans to be picked up by those same trucks or smash them into the back of my car to drive them to the brush dump myself. Every year invasive weeds like Japanese knotweed and bittersweet win the battle in at least one corner of my yard. Every spring I have high hopes that this will be the year I’ll keep said corner clear of growth. But as we move into summer and the heat and bugs amp up, I give up, conceding until autumn when I can more easily pull and snip at the recently frost-killed invasive plants.

I think about time and how it makes some things easier. Of course body aches and wrinkles alert me to the challenges time can bring = aging. But mostly I see time as my ally. With time (and effort) things that once were entrenched in my actual and metaphorical ‘patch’ become easier to deal with. A few short months ago, I was daunted by an overwhelming green mass full of thorns and worse — ticks. After a few frosty nights, the thicket shrank to skeletal twists I could tackle.

In the garden on an unseasonably warm day, I brace myself with bent knees, heels dug into the earth, inhaling a deep breath of mint (my advice: grow only in pots!) while yanking on a resistant tangle, I think of old resentments, anger, grief – pulling harder, feeling the strain into my legs until with a snap, release down to my core, my soul. Looking closely at the branches of the fruit trees saved now from being swallowed up by this wild growth, I see the teeniest, tightest little buds. Hope.

 

Autumn Leaves

Fading Chlorophyl leaf

On my recent walks down the street with Tetley, these leaching-chlorophyl leaves have been catching my eye. There’s something poignant about the luminous, x-ray quality to them, certainly an image of fading life. The ribs of the leaf are evocative of skeletons and veins, don’t you think?

Battered leaf And then there’s this one, ravaged by chomping insects, weather, time.  I find them beautiful – for me, they capture the way Summer’s has slipped away this year, slowly blurring like a watercolor into Fall. Recent weeks of high temperatures, crystalline skies, exquisitely drawing out the sweetness of last days.

Summer remains my preferred season and I am sad to see it go. I like the heat, the extra hours of light, the generally slower pace. Of course Autumn brings wonderful gifts. It’s time to start transitioning into warmer garb, closing windows, stiff from being in the open position for months. The crazy chorus of night insects has diminished to only a few, forlornly calling from the dark hedges. Darker earlier these days – and that’s even before our biannual messing around with clocks.

While I’m loathe to put on socks again, or find gloves that match, I’ll welcome fires in the fireplace, the deliciousness of being inside after the exhilaration of a walk in the bracing cold. I’ll appreciate the new views of the sky as the leaves hit the ground, easier to spot my favorite falcons that hunt in the neighborhood.

Red Leaf

On the street where I walk Tetley, at least for now, colors seem to just be leaking, fading away. But in my yard there is a Maple going out in expected glory. In the Camellia plant still perched outside, I find Maple leaves snagged in the branches, flashes of red. There are different exits to the end.