I’m not sure if such a word exists, but if it did, you could call me an autumnophile. I love everything about this season: the flaming trees, the chill that haunts us in the morning, the hint of wood smoke that scents the afternoon breeze, the stars that twinkle like gems in the nighttime sky. A hearty beef stew supplants a light summer salad; red, not white, wine becomes the pour of choice. (Confession: I stick with rosé; sorry, can’t help it.) My shorts and flip-flops are stowed away; sweaters and long pants, socks and shoes are the order of the day now. I didn’t even mind setting the clock back an hour a couple of days ago; now it gets darker earlier, but so what? The fire pit has reemerged from its annual estivation and now we can sit on the porch at 4:30 and watch the sparks drift up into the evening sky.
So what’s wrong with this picture? Just one thing: leaves. All summer long, I’m grateful for the shade the sycamore in front of our house provides, and I always admire our neighbor’s river birch that gracefully hovers over the backyard. But come autumn, if I had an ax, I’d chop them both down. Their leaves rain down in torrents. As soon as they’re raked and bagged and set out by the curb, the wind shifts and the yard is full again. If there’s a more Sisyphean task than raking leaves, you’ll have to prove it to me. Honest to God, I think I’d rather push a stone uphill all day long!
I’ll grant you this: falling leaves may well be central to autumn’s glory, but the endless raking and bagging of the brittle little devils gets under my skin. Literally. I know a lot of people who suffer from leaf-mold allergies, and I’m sure this season must send them running to the desert for relief. Or releaf. Ha! See what I did there?
I’m an optimist by nature so I’m always looking for the bright inner lining of problems. That’s mighty hard when it comes to dealing with deciduous tress, but I think I may have found the answer: child labor. Kids just can’t resist jumping into leaf piles so doesn’t it follow that they should be the ones to build them? I’m even not averse to paying a minimum wage—say a dollar an hour—to little rakers just so they can join the work force, pay their fair share of taxes, and become productive members of society. They’ve been on the dole long enough by the time they’re three. Let’s make kindergarten a worker’s paradise! Who’s with me?
I imagine the Democrats among you will object to my plan because you think it’s unwoke and exploitive. You Republicans will resist because rich kids shouldn’t have to pay taxes. But look at it this way: since it’s getting darker earlier, let’s tire the little monsters out and get them to bed so we can sit on the porch sooner, sipping a glass of red (or rosé) wine, listening to the crackle of dry logs, smelling the aroma of aged cherry, and watching the sparks from the fire pit drift up, up and away like prayers.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.