Fall might be my favorite Michigan season. I like the smell of autumn in the air, the cooler temperatures, the changing foliage.
But I miss the aroma of leaves burning.
When I was a kid we used a fan-shaped bamboo tool called a “rake” (you may have seen one in a history museum like Greenfield Village; check out the Fall Flavor Weekends). Anyway, we used this device to clear the lawn of fallen leaves, more or less sweeping them into mounds in the street.
After a suitable period of rolling in the leaves or jumping into piles of them, or just tossing them in the air (to be raked again to a chorus of complaining, of course) we burned the little jewels at the curb. This seasonal chore was one we looked forward to.
Today, in our city in the 313 and in many others across the land, burning leaves is illegal.
Instead, every week from October through November a giant vacuum cleaner rolls down our streets and inhales the piles of leaves that homeowners have blasted to the curb with their hand-held, noisy-as-dickens leaf blowers.
Somehow this system is kinder to the environment, or more efficient, or something. It’s certainly not as romantic.
Instead of that smoldering scent of leaves going up in smoke—the aromatherapy of our youth—Graham and Paige associate fall with the alternating sounds of the annoying high pitch of a leaf blower and the steady hum of a monster sucking machine creeping through the neighborhood.
Of course, modern families could embrace the suggestion of our ever-helpful Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and rally around a New Family Tradition: Composting.
I’m all for composting—we, and some of our best friends do it. But it hardly qualifies as a fun family activity. “Okay, kids, let’s all gather around and watch the leaves decompose. Look, a worm!”
En route to the Allegan Antiques Market I braked when I sniffed that familiar aroma: Someone was burning a pile of leaves in front of their house in Allegan.
I rolled down the window and paused for a moment to inhale. Ahhhhh…..memories…..
You can catch the end-of-the-season Allegan Antiques Market, Sunday, September 25 in Southwest Michigan (not far from Saugatuck). You’ll find great people watching and browsing the goods of 400 dealers, indoors and out, on the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Bring cash.
And on the way to the fairgrounds take time to cruise the side streets and you might catch a whiff of autumn.
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