Sheltered Islander: The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind?

I’ve always enjoyed an Indian Summer when autumn comes on slowly. There is a very tall maple on Manhasset Road. It has three gold leaves on top of its canopy. This tree always seems to be the first to show colors. Having been raised with the belief that trees have feelings, I approached the maple when no cars were in sight and gently tapped on the bark.

“Why are you knocking on my bark? Are you looking for some hidden door you idiot? Do you think the Keebler elves are going to pop out?”

“No. I wanted to ask you if you could drop those three gold leaves. I don’t want the other trees to see them and start Autumn.”

“Sorry, no-can-do. I am the oldest and tallest tree here and it’s my job to send up a flare of leaves to signal the start of Autumn. Then the wind yanks out all our leaves so you fools can rake them into big piles to push each other into.”

“So how would it hurt to start that process a little later this year?”

“Because the line has to be drawn somewhere or it throws everybody’s schedule off. I have to get Autumn going by this time every year because the colors tell the animals to grow thicker coats. Many hibernate through the winter and need time to fatten up. Then there’s the whole mating season for the deer. Don’t even get me started on that!”

“Okay, but we really don’t need the cold weather until December.”

“Tell me about it. Look, you’re a walkie so you don’t get it. We start the year every January naked and freezing. Spring comes and you have no idea how much it itches when buds start popping out all over your skin. We use the March winds to snap off branches so we can scratch ourselves. Then in Summer, we stand here in sweltering heat and provide shade for your species. Some of you carve your initials into us, which is like being tattooed with somebody else’s name. In Autumn we’re expected to fire up, put on a show and throw off our canopy leaves so we can stand here, bare-bark-naked, through another freezing winter. Some of us get cut down and chopped up for firewood. And occasionally, some middle-aged flower child comes up and makes an idiotic request like ‘Could you delay Autumn?”

“It’s not like that. People love trees. Look at Christmas.”

“Right. Isn’t that the time of year when you murder a young evergreen just because he still has his green color, drag him into your house, dress him up like a clown, and after he dries out, you throw him out by the road or chop him up for firewood?”

“Boy, you’re a real charmer. So glad I came to talk to you, a graduate of the Anthony Weiner school of manners.”

“Hey, I remember when your kids were young and I was not impressed with your parenting skills. Where did you learn them, from the Leopold and Loeb daycare program?”

“Fine. You win. Just go ahead and get Autumn going.”

“Don’t take it personally, walkie. I’ve been here over a century, and for half that time I’ve had this nail in my butt.”

“I see it. It’s really rusty. I think I could pull it out. Hold still.”

“Seriously? Ohh, you got it out! That feels great! I’m sorry I’ve been so grumpy.”

“I’m sorry too. I never thought it was tough to be a maple tree.”

“Well, it beats being an elm. They’re always battling diseases, and cedars always get the axe because they smell good, and hickories give it up for barbecue. I shouldn’t complain. All I have to do is stand here.”

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