Lileks: We love Nature — why not its leaves?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2013 - 4:34 PM

Minneapolis residents get an extra week to gather the leaves for disposal this year, and that means that the season of droning blowers has been extended for another seven days of torture.

You get 10 leaf-blowers going in the neighborhood and it sounds like a herd of bison that got stuck in an electric fence. Everyone hates them. They’re Satan’s hair driers. The sound is pitched exactly at the point you cannot ignore; it’s like a tornado siren with a hangover. Ban them!

No, don’t. Just ban the ear-protectors the operators use. All must suffer.

The extension is due to this year’s belated leaf-dump. The trees held on to their leaves later than usual, until a scouring wind came through and denuded every limb in a matter of hours. It was like those videos where a cow is dropped into a tank of piranhas and they haul out a skeleton. The neighborhood was a tapestry of ochers and umbers when you rose, and you drove home to a graveyard. Welcome to the Long Bleak Expanse! For consolation, there will be pie.

Since you can’t let the leaves sit there like Nature intended, they’re bagged and left on the boulevard like an offering of vanquished captives to the Dark Harvest Gods. The sight makes middle-aged people nostalgic for the smell of burning leaves, having convinced themselves that childhood was characterized by a fortnight of raging bonfires in every yard.

Candle companies can’t reproduce the smell. This time of year the candles are Pumpkin Sugar Spice (cloying, hints of nutmeg) or Cookie Dough (hints of nutmeg, cloying) or all the Pine varieties that smell like you hosed down the walls with liquefied evergreen. “Burning Leaves” they cannot do. Last year I bought a candle named “Leaves,” thinking finally! They cracked the oak-leaf genome!

“Wet dog asleep by the radiator” was more like it.

Surely there’s a place on the edge of town where they could burn leaves for old time’s sake, away from people who are troubled by incinerated particulates. People would pay money. They’d gather in silence, drink in the perfume, then sigh a chorus of appreciation.

Which would probably sound just like a leaf blower.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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