Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Staying Together by Being Apart

Mars and I had spent an hour and a half before lunch de-leafing most of our lawn. Now, after re-energizing my body with a bowl of homemade lentil soup and two apple fritters from the orchard where we had picked apples that morning, I was finishing off the final third. 

 It was sixty-degrees and sunny and I had just decided that any activity that works up a mild sweat on such a day counts as exercise. Now I was mulling over the phrase “crisp Magnolia leaves”, and wondering whether the southern relatives of our Connecticut-based tree experienced the same early autumn fate – while at the same time briskly raking a gaggle of the large tan fronds onto my snow shelf. I suddenly became aware of a shiny black Mercedes Benz in my peripheral vision and looked towards it as its passenger-side power window descended. 

 “Excuse me. This may seem like a stupid question but….” 

A well-dressed fortyish woman was speaking to me. An equally stylish man was in the drive’s seat. I thought for a moment that I was in a Grey Poupon mustard commercial. 

“…but we are from Florida. And I was wondering, does the town pick up all these leaves?” 

By now I was standing next to my two-foot high, thirty-yard wide pile of dead foliage leaning on my rake in my most gardenerly manner. Had Mars been available we could have enacted a northeast suburban LL Bean version of Grant Woods’ “American Gothic” painting. 

“Wethersfield does. Some towns require you to bag them. Others do nothing.” 

“I noticed that the wind blows some of them into other peoples yards,” she said in a tone that sounded like a born-again horticultural missionary preaching to a less-than-sharp, third world subsistence farmer. 

 “Sometimes it does.” I replied. 

 “That seems like an awful lot of work.” – same voice, more disbelief. 

“It is. That’s why we love Connecticut.” 

 I expected her to ask if she could photograph this quaint New England custom and its odd practitioner. But instead they both smiled, her window closed, and they drove away. 

 Further proof of a theory I developed while Mars and I were on vacation in coastal North Carolina - the reason the United States remains as united as it does, is because our geographic size allows people who totally do not belong together to be far enough apart that neither one knows or cares that the other exists.

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