Sunday, November 7, 2010
Since I moved to Spirit Creek, I have noticed that the trees in this valley are much later to bud in the spring than the trees in Topeka, and these leaves fall several weeks earlier. Whenever I have mentioned this rather remarkable discrepancy - after all, it is less than thirty miles as the crow flies - some people insist it is due to the sheltered lives of city trees, that they are shielded from the ravages of the wind.
I do not agree with that argument. Only tornadoes and extreme straight winds blow leaves off their trees prematurely. Whatever natural mechanism that binds leaves tightly to the trees changes much earlier here then in town. The weather this fall has been relatively windless, but my trees began shedding their leaves far ahead of the city trees, as usual. I think it has more to do with the artificial light in a city than it has to do with wind. There are also many different species of trees in the city. Different trees might lose their leaves at a different rate than the ones growing along Spirit Creek.
It always takes a few days to adjust to bare trees. Their leaves provide almost complete privacy from the road. They hide the view of neighbor's buildings and soften the noise of power tools or hammering, which are thankfully infrequent. The profusion of mature leaves dresses the land in the look of generosity and abundance. Once the leaves are gone, and the prairie plants have diminished, it seems empty and lonely and cold, except for the tall russet covering of big blue stem, Indian grass and the other hardy tall grasses.
I like the late fall and winter on the prairie. No insects, no snakes, no suffering through high heat and humidity, and I have to work pretty hard to get poison ivy. I do not mind the winter months. But like every living thing, I welcome the return of the leaves each spring.