Autumn Leaves

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the fall colors in New York. And listened to the leaf blowers. You’ll find leaves and leaf blowers everywhere. They go hand in hand like yin and yang, left and right, Jekyll and Hyde, the leaf blowers being Mr. Hyde, of course.

Sure, I complain a lot, but that’s what makes me a New Yorker. I wouldn’t be true to myself otherwise. But there’s more to it than that, because this attitude toward leaves and leaf blowers isn’t just about me. It reflects a fundamental law (some would say “flaw”) of the universe. Which (f)law is that?

There’s always something. Rarely in life do you get green lights all the way down Broadway. I don’t know if that’s possible. If it is, it’s about as likely as the proverbial elephant hanging by a daisy off a cliff. Theoretical physics may allow it, but it’s in the ballpark of my winning Mega Millions. And try explaining that to the cop who’s about to write you a ticket. Personally, I think it’s just the postmodern version of angels dancing on the head of a pin.

Autumn leaves are beautiful, especially from maple, elm, and hickory trees. They are so stunning, in fact, that they can make stoic New Yorkers and busloads of gawking tourists stop and take notice. Can you imagine that: something so incredible that it shakes people out of the narrow confines of “Me World”? Autumn leaves just might prove the existence of absolute beauty and truth. Unlike Mega Millions, however, you have to be present to win. That is, you need some degree of awareness or at least the ability to look up from your cellphone to participate.

Divine providence may have to intervene here, since the only way some people will look up from their phones is if they drop them. I saw a guy do that once in a urinal at the airport, but that’s another story.

Leaf blowers also serve a larger purpose. They prove the existence of chaos, entropy, the gradual winding down of the universe like an old rubber band. I’m not sure that we really need proof of that, though. After all, star systems aren’t the only things winding down.

But leaf blowers go beyond natural law by introducing human will. We are causing the degradation intentionally. We have torn the original fabric of the universe by using leaf blowers, which do little more than move piles of leaves from one location to another with grinding, whirring, and explosive noise comparable to a heavy metal concert.

I’ve complained about leaf blowing many times, especially when it starts at 6:00 am. One leaf blower took the time to explain to me that he was doing us all a service, because people can slip on leaves and injure themselves. I conceded his point but then told him that rakes did the job for centuries at a fraction of the cost and noise. He looked at me, pulled his hoodie down over his head, and went back to whirring and blowing. Since then, I have decided not to engage leaf blowers anymore. It’s the same policy of non-engagement I use on the subway. So far, so good.

There are those among us who say that we need leaf blowers, because they help us appreciate autumn leaves even more, which is like saying we need death to appreciate life. I guess there’s wisdom in that. It’s one of the explanations for evil in the world. I’ve always had a problem with that line of reasoning, though. Not only does it seem like a cop-out, but in this case the analogy is wrong. Leaf blowing is not death. It’s torture. It doesn’t do anything but irritate us to the point of desperation. I put it in the same category as backup beeps, which, as we all know, are diabolical.

Autumn leaves help us rest peacefully with nature, aging, and loss, especially in love. Leaf blowers awaken us rudely to the demands of work and ordinary life. And, as usual, are not lawyers responsible? It’s a conspiracy.

Haven’t had enough? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Bottom image, Creative Commons, “Gone With the Wind” (altered) by WCN 24/7 licensed under CC BY 2.0. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance. Happy Armistice Day and the end of World War I.


  1. i lost faith in the nobel prize committee ages ago, but whoever invents quiet leaf blower should win for sure– the nobel prize, and the nobel peace prize.

  2. Robert, what a delicious treat for the eyes of a desert dweller! Wow! I loved seeing those pictures, almost unbelievably colorful.
    The most beautiful season of all; even better than July ‘s fireworks. No leaf blowers in 1958, in the tiny town of Deerfield, Illinois. Memories of those Saturday mornings, walking home from my music lesson with the sounds of my feet crunching the leaves on the sidewalks and the smell of leaves being burned. People were outside, raking the leaves, talking to neighbors.
    I enjoyed taking a walk with you, even with the sounds of the leaf blower:). Enjoy. Susan

    1. I didn’t realize this was you, Susan. Welcome to the club! Thanks for the comments and memories. Yes, people used to talk to one another. You can’t do that with a leaf blower. BTW, I love the desert and its colors. It would make a great post. Be well. Robert

  3. Remember in school making a collage on construction paper with Elmers Glue. Pretty creative stuff, every leaf was different in color, no perfect shape! Its good to have someone nearby that can relate and verify.

    1. Bernard, your post brought me to time before Elmer’s glue…:). I can smell the fragrance and feel the smooth, pudding-like white paste we spread with our fingers to make our autumn works of art. Remember the fragrances of the elementary classroom? I smile when I recall those kitchens, away from home. Thank you.

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