Friday, November 10, 2006

I Wanted to Incinerate November*

There is something Rockwellian about doing yard work in autumn. Just a man, his rake, and the vestiges of spring laid fallen at his feet. Maybe his children are about as well, jumping into piles of fallow-colored leaves that crumble and stick to their wool jackets. And that's mother there on the porch, a bottle of absinth in one hand and a scythe in the other, standing beside her midget manservant who is vigorously whistling the love theme to Titanic.

Oh, wait . . . I said Rockwellian, not David Lynchian. Scratch the liquor and the midget and give mom some cups of hot cider to hold.

Anyway, my point is that I find raking leaves to be a spiritually satisfying experience. It's a nostalgic endeavor that beckons to a simpler time when man was more in touch with nature. And more likely to set fire to it.

I'm old enough to remember when folks used to rake their leaves onto the street curb and then light a match. Maybe this wasn't the safest means to dispose of leaves, but we didn't lose anybody either, at least not in my family.

The flames brought ritual to the autumn season as the smoke venerated the air in preparation for the cold fronts that would descend from the north. There was also something~ transcendent in seeing a maple's worth of leaves reduced to a small pile of ash.

But that idyllic scene only exists in memories or in unincorporated areas of the city. Raking leaves has lost much of its luster now that the matches have been taken away and we're forced to cram all of the damn things into paper sacks. There has to be better way.

Far be it for me to light a fire and curse another's breathing difficulties, but surely a community can remain in harmony and still allow a couple of fall Saturdays for the burning of the leaves. Perhaps we could arrange a sister city agreement with Decatur for alternate weekend burnings. Springfield could ship its asthmatics to the Soybean City on even weekends and Springfield could return the favor on odd weekends. Anyone averse to the smell of burning foliage could leave town at dawn and return at nightfall, once the smoke had cleared.

It occurs to me that this solution might also appease those upset with the smoking ban. Smokers could dine and imbibe in Springfield on odd days and in Decatur on even days. Of course, if this plan were to be implemented the section of I-72 that connects the two cities would have to be renamed the Gary Busey Expressway in honor of all the impaired drivers who would attempt the commute. Perhaps this is not one of my better ideas.

As of this writing, 10 sacks of leaves line the terrace next to my mailbox. The paper bags are already brittle from the weekend's rain. Should the bottom fall out of the sacks as the disposal agent is hoisting them into his truck, there will be left another pile of leaves for me to deal with. If I'm lucky, a wild at heart Elvis acolyte will drive by in a convertible and, in slow motion as Chris Isaak plays on the car radio, he'll flip his lit cigarette into the pile of leaves that will ignite in a flash, as if doused in gasoline. Sometimes, we need to get a little Lynchian with our yard work.

I wrote this mostly satirical post earlier this week. Coincidently, in the SJ-R's special 175th anniversary edition** today, there is an article on how and why the leaf burning ban went into effect in the 1980s. Apparently it was more of a health hazard than I remember. So in the interest of public health any lifting of the leaf burning ban should be restricted to rakers/bloggers of Lithuanian origin. That should keep the smoke to a minimum.

*This title reads catchier if you're familiar with the Teenage Fanclub song, "December."

**This is quite an impressive piece of work that provides a walk through Springfield's past. In addition to all of the great articles and pictures, there is one ad with beautifully-written copy.

~Thanks to Josh Durham for catching this mistake.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Dan, in addition to making me giggle (that first paragraph; love the Lynch references), you made me all nostalgic for Indian Hills and the smell of burning leaves. And that's coming from an asthmatic. I'd much rather have the smoke from burning leaves exacerbate my ass-mar than the roaches and smog of New York City.

I guess my great-great grandfather got some airtime in that edition of the SJ-R. Haven't read it yet, but my dad emailed it to me.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


Thanks for the compliment.

I subscribe to New York magazine and it seems that despite the roaches and smog, you might have a few more cultural opportunities there they you would here.

What's your great-great grandfather's name? I'd like to read about how the Hayeses helped shape our community.

Thanks for commenting,

Anonymous said...

You're right on that count. I've attended lectures, seen Liev Schrieber play Macbeth for free, listened to the Metropolitan Opera for free in Central Park, caught Damien Rice and Fiona Apple also in Central Park, visited MOMA and Ellis Island, seen Ralph Stanley play bluegrass, and while it's not cultural per se, I run in Central Park three times a week.

If only I could get Wilco to play a show here. They don't come here much, for some reason.

Great-great-great grandpa's name was Michael. I guess the J-R details something about Springfieldians who fought in the Civil War; he was one of 'em.

Dave H said...

This sounds pretty simplistic but part of the reason we moved to Rochester was so we could burn our fall leaves.....oh and the school system. Just counting the days until these elitist, property taxing bastards repeal that freedom.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to comment that in my small, Illinois town, we can still burn in the yard. Also, if I rake all of the leaves up into piles along the side of the road, this big truck/vacuum cleaner comes by and sucks them all up. It's pretty awesome.
Oh, and, I didn't say "truck/sweeper" beacuse a sweeper either sweeps items to the side, or upwards. Either way, actually sweeping is taking place. "Vacuum" automatically implies a vacuuming (removal of air pressure) of some sort. I am ranting on this, of course, because of my distaste for the name "sweeper" or "carpet sweeper" when referring to an electric vacuum cleaner. Also, I generally have a distaste for people that use those names.