A New Englander Who Hates Autumn Leaves

Autumn in New England—what a lovely thought. "The maple wears a gayer scarf, the field a scarlet gown," wrote Emily Dickinson, and I couldn't have said it better myself. New England already knows it's God's country, what with all those cute churches on every village green, but come fall it may really be true. Nothing says America like a cool afternoon spent apple picking, pumpkin carving, and leaf ogling, all finished off with a nice, warm apple-cider doughnut (preferably two). The problem is: I get sick just thinking about it. Why? I grew up in Connecticut, and as far as I'm concerned the leaves of autumn might as well be the 11th plague.

Oh, sure, tourists love them. I once saw a grown man cry over a particularly lovely stand of maple trees, and he was covered in Army tattoos. Tears aren't the telltale sign of a leaf peeper—or "outsider," as we locals like to call them. Outsiders are the ones who throw around phrases such as "nature's majesty" or "breathtaking array," all while walking around with their heads cocked permanently skyward (I've al-ways assumed that the first call they make on Monday morning is to their chiropractor). Sure, all those leaf voyeurs drop millions of dollars on that horrible maple-syrup candy that I've never seen anyone actually eat. But they also clog up the winding country roads, jack up the prices in restaurants, and buy up all the really big pumpkins.

A native New Englander does not gush over leaves. OK, so we don't gush over anything, but leaves—never going to happen. Actually, we try to pretend the leaves are still green, because long after all the peepers have gone home, we have to dispose of all those leaves. Raking leaves is a horrible, Sisyphean chore. I'm quite sure that it's the main reason New Englanders are so grumpy. (I used to think it was because the Patriots were such losers, but that, apparently, wasn't the problem.) The misery of raking cannot be exaggerated. Imagine standing for hours in the sun, dragging a huge metal salad fork back and forth, back and forth. Your vertebrae compress. Your hands break out in blisters. Your feet sweat and swell. Sometimes the rake moves the leaves toward the pile, but more often the leaves clog the rake, requiring you to stop, remove them by hand, and place them on a huge pile of already raked leaves. A huge pile, by the way, that attracts wind, dogs, small children, and fire like nobody's business. It's easier to get a cat into a sack than to keep a pile of leaves together. Seems Mother Nature is determined to protect her precious babies from spending eternity in garbage bags.

And it's not as if the leaves are doing anything miraculous. Get a grip on yourselves, people. Cold weather stops photosynthesis, and the leaves die. All that bright color is a death shroud. We're not Disneyland—far from it. If you want a warm welcome and some kind of apple-picking show, try a different part of the country. We will take your money, but we're miserable hosts (guests don't rake). That's why local farmers walk the other way when you want to buy something. That's why so many of them use "honor bins." In that way they get the money, but they don't have to make small talk—a chore second only to raking. The spread up the street from my parents feeds its apples to the neighbor's pigs—that's how little they care about whether you get a pie to take home as a souvenir. And don't even mention syrup. Just buy the candy and go. All the carbon emissions from your slow-moving cars have overcooked the environment, and now the maple trees are going dry. On the other hand, no maple trees means fewer leaves to rake.