Leaf fall

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORY! - MAYETTE Q. TABADA

ONE morn­ing, bird­song was not my cus­tom­ary greet­ing. It was the sound of hack­ing and break­ing.

A home­owner in our cul-de-sac hired men to cut down the ma­hogany trees grow­ing out­side the perime­ter wall. Ev­ery sum­mer, we reap the avalanche of leaves shed by the trees.

Own­ers fear for ve­hi­cles parked un­der the quickly bald­ing canopies. Homemak­ers wage a fu­tile war against leaves, wind, and grav­ity. Only a few— kids bik­ing in the pro­longed sun­shine, com­mode-seek­ing cats and dogs and a se­cret ad­mirer of trees— revel in the shed­ding wars.

In­formed that it is il­le­gal to cut with­out a per­mit, the neigh­bor halted the project.

In sum­mer, ma­hogany trees shed off all their old coats and don new emer­ald ones faster than I can wield a broom and sweep their faded majesty into bags for dis­posal. Burn­ing leaves, haz­ardous to peo­ple and en­vi­ron­ment, is also i l l egal .

Not be­ing a cat or a dog, I can­not swim into the pile, play hide­and-seek and then non­cha­lantly walk away af­ter poop­ing in my play­ground. So I sweep and bag and cough and squint— a chore im­mea­sur­ably re­paid by drink­ing with­out stint in the sym­phony na­ture or­ches­trates with trees, sky and birds.

What can match a view of the green of trees, the blue of sky and the rain­bow flashed by birds pass­ing through? The blind­ing white­ness of Lit­tle Egrets, the gold of Orioles, the turquoise and aqua­ma­rine of King­fish­ers. Even the brown of Shrikes shames lan­guage; writer Jonathan Franzen tried to pin down the “nearly in­fi­nite shades of brown” re­duc­ing ev­ery­one, from avian tax­onomists to bird ad­mir­ers, to tongue-tied rapt­ness: “ru­fous, ful­fous, fer­rug­i­nous, bran-col­ored, foxy.”

No one can dress up like a tree; birds know this. While we be­moan trees as street lit­ter or haz­ards, birds have more wis­dom. That comes with the ter­ri­tory; birds are more evolved than hu­mans, be­ing around “150 mil­lion years longer” than us, as Franzen wrote in his Jan­uary 2018 es­say for the “Na­tional Ge­o­graphic.”

The only thing he notes that we can do bet­ter than birds, or trees for that mat­ter, is mas­ter the en­vi­ron­ment. Yet, this is all that m at t er s.

Af­ter­noons of sweep­ing and bag­ging leaves have given me a deep de­sire never to look at an­other pet turd again, as well as two nests. One is shaped like a pin­wheel; the other, an elon­gated box. Ma­hogany leaves are in­tri­cately folded and joined by a pa­per-thin yel­low­ish-white ma­te­rial I am guess­ing is bird saliva.

Ecol­o­gists have noted how birds in the Ital­ian Alps use plas­tic, foil and cig­a­rette butts to make their nests, in­stead of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als. I placed these found nests on the al­tar, pray­ing we will never re­duce birds to weav­ing with our trash.

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