Friday, November 02, 2012

Gathering Leaves In The Fall

One of my Fall traditions is to go hunting for leaves to use in various ways in the classroom. Our outdoor classroom has some nice trees, but they're cedars and lilacs, neither of which produce the exciting colors of the season. I like to have some color around, even if it's just to form into piles for jumping.

Some years I've driven around the city with big, black garbage bags on the seat beside me, scanning what canopy we have in the city for bursts of yellow, red, orange and purple, stopping and scooping up armfuls of the seasonal vegetation. Other times I've taken my bags for walks with the dogs through our city's incredible parks, especially the arboretum, where the variety is spectacular. This year, I made a couple hikes around The Center of the Universe with the kids, setting our pirate and princess play aside to "ooh" and "ahh" as if watching a fireworks display. I'm always inspired by the enthusiasm young children, in a world of toys advertised on TV, for such a simple thing as leaves.

The leaves, especially the maple leaves, have been particularly beautiful this season, mottled with a tie-dye of brilliant hues. Of course, it could be that they always look like this, made the "best ever" simply by virtue of being before my eyes again after a year's wait. But others have commented on it this year as well, which I don't remember from years past: "I've never seen leaves so vibrant." But then the next word out of their mouths, invariably, as been, "It's probably because we had such a long drought this summer." I don't know if there is a connection between the colors and the weather, although it seems like a logical theory.

The weather on our planet it changing and it is largely due to the activities of humans. The severity of storms is increasing, temperature and precipitation records are being broken around the globe, people are dying, ways of life are being destroyed. The US seems to be the only major nation on Earth that is in denial about that because we've allowed ourselves to be propagandized by nihilistic ideologues. Our city recently banned the use of plastic grocery bags and is charging a tax for every paper bag used by customers, simply in the common sense effort to get people in the habit of using re-usable rather than energy consuming disposable bags, yet there are those calling us commies or "freedom haters" for the effort. 

Our city has placed an emphasis on getting people to consider bicycle commuting, working to make it an easier and safer option. Yet there are those, like the man who a couple weeks ago tried to run me off the road, then rolled down his window to say, "I'm sick of you cyclists. Roads are for cars. Next time I see you I'll kill you." I was so shocked I didn't think to get the license plate number before he zoomed off toward the freeway ramp that would take him out of the city on his long daily commute to where he lives some ridiculous distance from where he works.

Our entire presidential election has taken place over the course, really, of a year and a half, punctuated by a "Frankenstorm." Neither candidate, in all those months, has even mentioned climate change, which is a crime given that the US, of all nations, is the single most responsible for the environmental irresponsibility that has brought us to this Fall with bizarrely colored leaves. I'd like to blame the politicians, but damn it, they both made the calculation that we wouldn't vote for them in large enough numbers if they told the truth about ourselves.

I'm not a screaming, radical environmentalists who dreams of an earthly Pandora. I'm just a guy who believes in science and wants clean air to breath, clean water to drink, and a future in which my child and grandchildren can gather leaves in the Fall. 

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