Autumn — Then & Now

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©Jeff Horner

 

Then:

It’s Autumn. The air cools down, especially at night, the cool dry air bringing with it memories of football games, sweatshirts, cold noses and the coming holidays. Blankets are pulled up close in the dark when everyone sleeps. The leaves on the trees turn beautiful colors, and then they fall to the ground.

It’s an annual ritual. Families gather outdoors in long pants and jackets, maybe gloves, each with a rake in hand. Everyone takes a section, and then they begin to rake the leaves into piles. Slow work at first, but eventually progress is made, the lawn is cleared, and the piles are packed into bags or — if you’re lucky! — piled into special chimneys for burning.

Everyone’s cheeks are rosy from the afternoon’s exercise, their posture erect, their muscles flush. They’re ready to head inside and make some dinner! The air is filled with the smell of sweet smoke from fireplaces, of earth uncovered and of grass still green, of leaves and of cool fresh air.

Now:

It’s Autumn. The air cools down, especially at night, the cool dry air bringing with it memories of football games, sweatshirts, cold noses, and the coming holidays. The heat is turned up using an App on a Smartphone, connected by WiFi to the thermostat on the wall three feet away. The leaves on the trees turn beautiful colors, and then they fall to the ground.

It’s an annual ritual. Families gather in front of their individual devices in different rooms of the house. Members of ethnic minorities employed by lawn services tumble out of old trucks, wearing matching logo’ed coats. They strap large gasoline-powered blowing machines to their backs, start them up with a jarring tug, and begin to walk slowly across the strangers’ lawn, shoulders round and sloped, backs stooped, their ears covered with plastic “hearing protection” mandated by years of crossfire litigation. Slowly the leaves are corralled into piles. The sounds of their machines reach for miles — literally for miles — and the mingling of one machine’s whine with another’s does nothing to soften their effect on the entire neighborhood.

The family, inside, oblivious to anything that’s going on outdoors, orders a pizza with cheese in the crust, cheese on the top, and then more crust with sauce as a “side.” To quench their unearned thirst, they drink liquified sugar. The air is filled with the smell of internal combustion engines burning gasoline.

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