2017-02-17 / Columns

An epic battle with sycamore leaves

On the Trail
Gloria Glasser

There is a mound of damp sycamore leaves the size of a beached whale—Ahab’s mighty mega-size Moby Dick no less— looming on my horizon.

In gangster movies there’s always a “bag man” to pick up or drop stolen loot. In my life I’m the “bag babe,” the little person stuck unfurling a black plastic trash bag twice as tall and wide as I am, then sent up the muddy slope in my rural Agoura backyard to wrestle with Moby the Leaf Monster. My weapon of choice is not a harpoon but a hand rake.

Oh me, oh my, I’m wailing “Them Ol’ Sycamore Sweepin’

Blues” again. For a time, I and my similarly sycamore-burdened neighbors had been in awe of how long the deciduous sycamores were holding on to their leaves this winter, and we were admiring the intense incendiary color of their foliage.

Our wee cul-de-sac looked positively aflame, with towering spires of shocking tawny-gold rising above our homes.

Against the piercingly clear blue winter sky the trees were gorgeous.

Then it rained, and 250,000 leaves were shed simultaneously, mostly at my place, where a trio of mature sycamores lords over the front yard and a like number overhangs the backyard from an adjacent slope. I surrendered three days of my life, working past dark, to corral the far-flung mess. It was a rather obsessive undertaking, predicated on awaking the next morning and not having to look at a shin-deep carpet of rusty leaves obscuring every inch of my property.

Sycamore leaves are coated in some type of nasty grit that produces sneezing fits. But I soldiered on and Day Four dawned with not a stray leaf to be found. On Day Five the Santa Ana winds blasted in and knocked loose another 250,000 leaves.

A coin toss ensued.

“Heads,” I abandon ship and flee to a treeless land.

“Tails,” and I tough it out and stuff enough bags to fill two massive dumpsters.

“Just keep jumping on those piles. That’ll flatten ’em and you can fit more in your trash barrel,” one passer-by advised.

“Yeah, I did that, but the leaves got so compacted and wedged they refused all entreaties to exit the barrels when requested by the trash collection truck,” I replied.

It’s a dubious distinction indeed to be known as my neighborhood’s chief leaf bouncer.

“Oh no, she’s sunk to the depths! Someone fetch her out!” is the occasional cry that rings out when a bounce goes awry, because wet sycamore leaves are as slick as a polished wood floor.

Where is that coin? I need another toss before I’m buried alive.

Right, like I’ll be able to locate a quarter amid 500,000 gloating sycamore leaves.

Glasser is a writer fascinated by all manner of natural phenomena surrounding her home in the Santa Monica Mountains. Reach her at ranchomulholla@gmail.com.

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