Sunday, January 10, 2016


Who invented the leafblower?

The bigger question is “Why?” Rakes and brooms have worked wonderfully for centuries. I’ve watched our gardeners round up fallen leaves with their blowers on days when a fresh wind put everything back where it was before the blower went through.

Still another question -- maybe the fundamental question: “Why gather up fallen leaves at all?”  Ain’t nothin’ more biodegradable than nature’s own artifacts. And wouldn’t leaving them on the ground make mulch? Or do I have it confused with humus?

The blower tradeoff is noise for speed, but it seems a bad one. Rakes and brooms would keep more people in jobs, which we don’t have enough of in today’s economy, and they minimize noise, something of which we have too much. Changing back would be a win-win.

I’ve wondered if there may not be another element in the situation. Is the broom considered a woman’s instrument, not to be wielded when machismo is at stake? The blower is sort of like a gun, and the sound is impossible to ignore if you’re in the same county. Everyone knows you’re there, working; it’s a statement.

The irritation is fresh because a lone gardener has just started up a leafblower about 30 feet from my bench. Working against the wind, he’s managed to blow a scattering of leaves on the walkway into a pile on the greenbelt. As best I can tell he’s doing this so the leaves can be picked up and taken away.

All kinds of new questions occur. Where will the leaves be taken? Is it to a better place than where they’re lying now? Why move them at all? They’re not in the way. They’re a byproduct of having trees, and we all like having trees around.       In fact, those same gardeners work hard the rest of the year at keeping our trees healthy. In an odd way, when the leaves are born the gardeners are midwives.   When the leaves change and die, the gardeners, too, change; they become           grim reapers, with leafblowers for scythes.