With all of the unseasonably warm days that we’ve been having here in Carlisle, the bare trees on campus, their tangled branches extended nakedly toward the clear blue sky, seemed somehow oddly out of place. It was one of the finally fall-like days that I decided to pay a visit to my sugar maple.
The air was crisp and dry, but not unpleasantly so; in fact, the slight chill in the air came as almost a relief after so many disconcertingly summery days. All of the trees on campus had already cast off their leaves quite some time ago by this point in the semester. The weather finally seemed to match the state of the trees.
I noticed that, despite the lack of leaves on the trees’ branches, there weren’t many leaves scattered along the ground either. I wondered absentmindedly where they had gone. As I sat and watched my tree from the front balcony of Althouse, a white Dickinson truck chugged along the pathways that etch themselves through the academic quad. A crew of groundskeepers emerged from the truck, and loaded their leaf-blowing equipment onto their backs—mystery solved. At first the men with their leaf blowers were quite far away, so that their machinery seemed to emit only a quiet hum. As time passed, I watched students walk to and from class.
Before the sugar maple underwent its autumnal transformation, it had rustled happily in response to the occasional breeze, its leaves waving in the wind. Now, the branches hardly budged in the breeze, and only the very thin branches tips wriggled silently. The groundskeepers were inching their way closer to me and the sugar maple, and the mechanical hum of their leaf blowers grew into a heartier buzz, and then an overwhelming roar.
Watching the leaves being forcibly relocated into neat piles, I realized how odd of a notion leaf-blowing is. Why spend some much time and effort pushing fallen leaves into centralized locations? The wind will only cradle them up and return them to their original location moments later. Why is having leaves on the ground a bad thing? Perhaps my Pennsylvanian childhood gives me a bias, but I have always thought that trudging through a thick carpet of warm oranges, reds, and yellows was just part of the fun of the season. For me, the leaves’ presence on the ground always adds a sense of uplifting festivity to the season—something much needed to combat the gloominess that accompanies the setting of the sun at unreasonably early hours this time of year. Why take the time, burn the fuel, or pay the wages for people to try to cover up nature’s natural décor? I smiled to myself at how ridiculous the leaf-removal ritual suddenly seemed.
Once the groundskeepers had finished, I surveyed their work. To their credit, they had done quite a thorough job; only a few lone survivors, deeply embedded in the grass, had escaped the leaf blowers’ vicious gusts. The sugar maple, as well as all of the trees around it, seemed very solitary without a royal crown of color surrounding its branches, or a ring of fallen leaves around its base. Without their unique shades and hues to distinctly identify them, and without the color to break up the monotony between the trees, all of their brown branches seemed to blend together against the gray sky.