Here in Salt Lake, trees are a status symbol. A sign that you've made it. When the pioneers first settled here, Brigham Young promised that they would make the desert blossom. This would be a sign of the Zion they were creating, a sign of heaven on earth, a sign of success. And though I am not Mormon, I grew up here, and I believe that in my soul.
Or it could be that I grew up in subdivisons where the trees were never taller than I and in the summer one had to play in the shade of cars.
So, when Kristin and I went to buy a house, we looked for trees. And Lilac bushes. But mostly trees. The house we ended up with has many, many tall, lovely trees. To wit: 2 horse chestnuts, 2 maples, 1 tree that has leaves that look and crunch like cornflakes when they fall, and 1 tree that has big heart-shaped leaves and long seed pods like swords. We also have a giant lilac hedge, an ancient grape vine, a mock-orange, a tree with purple leaves (flowering plum, maybe) a hawthorn (in the neighbor's yard but leans over into ours) and a tree/bush that has yellow flowers and red berries. Along with a blue spruce and hollies and half a dozen unnamed (by me) conifers.
The couple that lived in our house for 50 years before they died and we bought the house almost before their corpses were even respectfully buried designed our yard as a wildlife haven. Too bad we have big, loud, wildlife-chasing dogs and a sneaky, bird-eating cat.
Anyway. We were delighted with our trees. Delighted, that is, until the first fall. That first fall we were literally drowned in leaves. Who knew? Did you know? That when you have lots of trees, and their leaves fall, you need to rake them up or have a disgusting, slimy mess on your hands (full of millions of snails) come spring? We didn't know.
Besides the leaves, we have these spiky depth-charges raining from above. Hard little missils that drop on unsuspecting heads. Pokey land mines that draw blood from unsuspecting stockinged feet (and if you're saying that I shouldn't be running around outside in this kind of weather without shoes on, well, all I can say is you're right, you're right, but I was making a run to the beer fridge in the garage, and besides, the little bastards cling to the animals' fur and make their way into the house to prey upon the innocent), and little poison nuggets (the chestnuts themselves) that the dogs can't resist chewing up and then puking out all over our floors.
But raking is hard work even when we didn't have a child, and now that Julia is here we were having a dickens of a time getting around to raking the yard. There's just always something more fun to do.
Making it worse is the fact that EVERY SINGLE HOUSE not just on our street BUT IN OUR ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD is immaculate. We don't know our neighbors very well, so we told ourselves that they must all be like the ones we watch on the corner who sit every afternoon with their rakes and bags and leaf-blowers to sweep away every evidence of the changing season before said evidence even hits the ground (seriously, these people are always working on their yard, and yet their yard never looks any different). We comforted ourselves that really we were much too busy to rake everything up, that only superhuman machines lived around us, and besides, all the leaves hadn't fallen yet, so why bother?
Then we went for a walk. We saw an old lady out filling bags with leaves. "Wow, that 110 year old is out raking her leaves." "Wow. Huh." "You think we should try to rake?" "Nah, she's probably just really spry. Just bored" Then... a man in a cast and crutches. Seriously, a man in a cast and crutches out raking and bagging leaves.
We had no excuse.
Still, we waited. And our yard got more and more buried. My feet got more and more punctured. We saw snails writing a charter for their new nation in glittery trails on the side of our garage.
Finally, Kristin heard teen-aged boy-voices teasing our dogs and she ran out to catch them. They looked a little worried that she was going to yell at them for making our dogs bark, but instead she offered them jobs. $10 bucks each to rake and bag our leaves.
They had a great time. Goofing off and playing with the dogs. They (sorta) worked all day and filled 32 HUGE bags of leaves. And they didn't even really get to the back yard. So the snails still have a haven. And the neighbors can still feel superior. And the old lady and the man with the broken foot can just go bite themselves.
But at least when I'm running sock-footed for beer I won't have to drink more than I planned in order to drown away the pain of bloody puncture wounds and the smell of dog vomit.