After putting in a couple of hours of carving on
one of my woodblocks this morning, I took a short break and stepped
out onto my balcony to stretch my back and legs a bit. I like to get
outside to do this, because during the carving, my face is held so
close to the wood that my eyes never get a chance to focus on
anything more than a few centimeters away. But once outdoors, of
course they are free to focus far and wide.
As I stood there today, leaning on the railing and
idly watching the world go by, I noticed a man busy with what seemed
to be a most unusual activity. He was raised above the ground in one
of those hydraulic hoists that people working on power lines use, but
he was nowhere near the wires. He was positioned right against the
tree nearest my window, one of the hundreds of ginkgo trees that line
the main roads of Hamura. I stared in some disbelief at what he was
doing. He wore heavy work gloves, reached out to each branch of the
tree, and quickly stripped it of all the leaves. He worked very
rapidly indeed, and a veritable shower of greenery cascaded to the
ground, where another man raked it together and threw it all into the
back of their truck.
It didn't even take him a minute to strip the tree
completely bare, after which he lowered his hoist, helped his friend
clean up the sidewalk, and then drove forward a few meters to the
next tree, where the sequence started over again.
This all seemed completely insane to me, but after
a few moments reflection, I understood why they were doing this. It
is now late October, and although the leaves are all yet green, they
will soon be turning bright yellow, and then falling ... and falling
... and falling. It will take about a month until they are all down,
and during that time, the sidewalks and streets will be constantly
covered with the yellow carpet. If the weather remains good, that is.
If however, it rains a lot during this time, the fallen leaves will
turn into a slippery dirty muck coating the sidewalk. A dangerous
coating that must be labouriously scraped off and hauled away. And of
course, as the trees only release their leaves a few at a time,
keeping the sidewalk safe is a labour-intensive and quite expensive
In past years, we here in this 'mansion' and the
people living in the house next door, have usually been pretty good
about sweeping up our section of the sidewalk, but as most of the
remainder of the street is a commercial zone, nobody feels
particularly responsible for those trees, and the muck stays on the
So the people in City Hall whose job it is to
maintain the streets, have come up with this 'preventive medicine'.
Strip off all the leaves before they fall. Each work crew then has to
cover each street only once, and there is never a mess on the
sidewalk. It is, I am sure, quite efficient and
Except for one thing. What happens to our autumn?
The long rows of gingko trees in bright yellow livery are beautiful!
Kicking through piles of leaves we have raked up is fun! An autumn
without falling leaves? That's no autumn at all. I feel now as though
we've skipped over and gone straight into winter. The sight of those
rows of bare tree limbs stretching forlornly down the long street
I suppose this is just one more example of how
life in our modern cities is becoming ever-more distanced from
'natural' ('with nature') ways of living. What's next? Plastic cherry
blossoms tied to the lamp posts in spring? But of course, we already
have those too, down many of our shopping streets ...
I guess this autumn clean-up is thus inevitable.
Our city is truly a large machine, and must be kept well cleaned and
'oiled', or it will cease to function properly. Later on in the
month, after it is time for the leaves to turn yellow, I will stroll
over to one of our large parks, and enjoy the colours there. But I
wonder. Do you think they might have stripped those trees too? If
they have, I'm going to make some noise!