The Weight of Leaves

Fall is exploding here.  The fallout (sorry) is blowing from, raining down from, cascading from our trees.  In Oklahoma, a century ago prairie grasses would have been turning color.  Somewhat. 

This year’s rains and cold have deepened the reds to deep crimson and the maple yellows to an almost iridescent yellow.  The yard is swamped in places, and the pile at the front door is even with the step. 

And the beauty is astounding, but something else niggles at my senses, for I have done battle with the leaf rains from my earliest years.  As a child the smell of burning leaves haunted the neighborhoods for weeks and that smell is almost “fall” all by itself. 

This year, this spring I strolled staring up in my fleece and windbreaker to watch as buds nudged leaflets giving way to air green leaves as the trees that had been holding their breath all winter long drank their first draft of oxygen and sugars.  Blue sky was eradicated with green waves in the winds.

And the rain and leaves and rain were too much for many limbs in the first big blow, and those limbs fell.  Too much weight.  Where limbs did not fall, two trees fell over.  The new weight outstripped the roots’ ability to support the beauty. 

Think of this.  All of the leaves turning colors for us are dispensing water and giving their last sugars before the tree summarily thanks them for their part in life by dropping them to become fertilizer for the roots next year, and hold moisture in the soil next year.  The trees always think of themselves.  Those trillions of cells in the leaves give their summer life up at that point.  I have never heard a tree even burp its gratefulness. 

The tons of leaves that were in the trees a month ago are now pale images of their former selves and weight. 

In the summer, the weight of all of that foliage transpiring made our place some five degrees cooler than Stillwater intown with its concrete, asphalt, short lawns and breeze-stopping fences.  Five degrees cooler.  Beyond décor, they’re our air conditioners in temperature and oxygen. 

The yellows and reds are mere shadows of the gargantuan engines feeding xylem, phloem and bark to put up more tonnages of leaves next year. 

And the beauty of that is so bright today as the blue bleeds through more and more holes where the tonnages have been sloughed off is astounding.  It makes me thankful, just before I go back out to rake, mow, and blow them where I can use them next year, too. 

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