Autumn leaves were meant for today, not tomorrow

It’s fall again. Autumn if you want to wax poetic.
And think about it, for a minute, what would autumn be without leaves? Oaks, maples, aspens, cottonwoods, green ash all blanketing the countryside with colour.
It’s because of autumn leaves that we think nostalgically and longingly of New England, the Ozarks, and the Colorado Rockies in these few months before winter really sets in.
But like so much that is beautiful in life, the exciting autumn colours are transitory. Almost momentary.
I remember years ago trying to preserve their beauty. Taking the most beautiful red maple leaf I could find and pressing it between the pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
It seemed like a good use for a hard-to-read series of books. And then years later, when looking up a certain topic, the dried and beautiful pressed maple leaf would come crumbling out.
Better yet was pressing the beautiful leaf between two sheets of waxed paper with an iron. The leaf was preserved instantly and stayed that way. It could be used as a decoration around autumn-coloured candles on the Sunday table.
But now . . .
Actually, I hate to think what will happen to most autumn leaves this fall of 2000. In the past decades, scientists, politicians, and activists have helped us become increasingly aware of the environment. All of us understand that our planet will survive only if we work together to make it happen.
Recycling is almost a buzzword, and plastics have a bad name. It’s encouraging, actually exciting.
But still, some beautiful autumn day when most of the leaves are gone from the trees, our city streets will be lined with black plastic bags filled with leaves.
The leaves are in the way, we say. They clutter the yard, blow up against hedges, and impose on our neighbours.
Those statements are all true. But think of the alternative.
Environmentalists tell us that leaves in black plastic bags survive in landfills for 500 years. And 500 years is a long time in a world where landfill space is at a premium.
It’s unnatural, somehow, to have those beautiful leaves end up being a burden on our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children.
Actually, it takes many more generations than that to get to 500 years. And if they all put their leaves in the dump with ours, just imagine being alive in the year 2500.
Thinking about this scenario is enough to make us search for alternate ways to deal with our autumn leaves. How about composting or mowing over them several times with the lawn mower? Or perhaps, we could learn to enjoy the natural wonder of leaves decaying under our feet and protecting spring bulbs from the harsh winter weather.
It’s our duty, actually. For autumn leaves in black plastic, like the national debt, is a dubious heritage to give our descendants.

Posted in Uncategorized