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Autumn leaves start to fall ... too soon

I know it's only the first day of August, but I'm seeing signs that summer is coming to a close. One sign came the other morning. I had mowed the lawn the afternoon before, and when I took my first cup of coffee to the window of the bedroom, I sa...

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I know it’s only the first day of August, but I’m seeing signs that summer is coming to a close.

One sign came the other morning. I had mowed the lawn the afternoon before, and when I took my first cup of coffee to the window of the bedroom, I saw a dusting of yellow and brown leaves lying on the freshly clipped, deep-green grass. I always like the sight of fallen leaves on new-mown grass, but this time it made me a bit sad. It’s just too early for autumn to be peeking into the neighborhood. I’m still getting used to the pace and feel and sights of summer.

I recognized, to be sure, that some of the leaves were there because the big trees on the west side of our property took some solid hits during a terribly strong June storm.

I sawed and hauled thick, downed limbs for an entire morning after that storm. My junior-sized chainsaw worked overtime to turn the tangled piles of limbs and branches into a relatively compact, six-foot-high stack of debris on the curb. The city crews worked harder and more efficiently than my chainsaw to go from neighborhood to neighborhood, collecting those curb-side piles and hauling them away.

Ever since the storm and the clean-up, a decent breeze causes dead, arrow-shaped leaves and twigs and small branches to drop from the trees. Some of the leaves I saw on my clipped lawn were leftovers from the June storm. As I look into the tops of the big shade trees, I can see that there are many more where those came from.

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Some of the leaves on the lawn the other morning, though, just fell from the trees the way leaves do late in the cycle of the season. The ginkgo baloba tree outside the family-room window, for example, stood unharmed by the June storm. (Some of those trees, I’m told, are 2,000 years old. Ours is reaching its 30s, I think.)

Its wide, fan-shaped leaves used to be prized by students in Mrs. Chandler’s junior high science class when they had to collect samples from as many different kinds of trees as they could find. Our place is about three blocks from the junior high, and with an unusual tree with odd-shaped leaves, it was a science-project magnet. Mrs. Chandler warned her students not to take all our tree’s leaves or it might die. It was just a little thing then, and had about a dozen leaves. It survived.

Thirty or so years later, it’s a tall tree, still slender but with leaves to spare. The sprinkling of its unique, just-turning-yellow leaves on the lawn the past couple of days signals, I’m pretty sure, that the tree is ready to move into full fall mode. It is rushing the change of seasons, in my judgment, but it is also telling me I better kick it up a notch if I’m going to pull from this summer everything it has to offer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love fall. It’s my favorite season of the year – soft colors, slanting but still warm sunlight, cool nights and mild days. The colored leaves and the crisp air make the whole world seem cleaner than at any other time of year for me. I like to crunch the leaves as I walk through the park, and I like to remember the sweetly sharp odor of burning leaves that takes me back to a time when burning raked leaves wasn’t just legal, it was expected. Soon football players will practice down the street and marching bands will fill the morning air with music.

But I haven’t finished with the hot days and bright sunshine and warm water on Lake Oahe. The lake is at its best in August. I don’t know if it’s good for fishing or diving, but if you like to cruise around a vast body of water with no other boats for miles, August afternoons are the best. It’s kind of a Zen thing.

So, yeah, fall is coming. In a month or so, I’ll welcome its arrival.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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