Fall leaves fallin’ on this here grass in Detroit and elsewhere. This is my favorite time of year. I favor when leaves fall on brush and bushy lavender and untidy front yards. Classic rock rolling words on my tongue, in the air, in the time of Harvest. This is the time, beside bonfires with friends, or curled with alpaca blankets beside a frosty single pane glass, when my lite saudade and smile are the greatest.
It is joy.
Riding off my $22.00 annual home heating credit, I prepare my mind and body for these chillier months. Inside activities, outside with muddy boots and whip-ups of dead leaves. I remember doing this every year. I remember these preparations. Movements again, again. I also remember the In-City wildlife doing the same, the plants doing the same, the air setting tone for all of us.
Five years ago there were more opossums in my neighborhood. More sidewalk strolling, sans rabies, day-raccoons. Always tons of squirrels. Finding homes in dead bushes and holes, and open basement windows in houses full of human history. The opossums there then hid. One winter there was a mother opossum, with two baby opossums that curled up outside our first floor windows. Leaning on the very same frosty single pane glass. The baby opossums and I would gaze at each other, glassy-eyed. Them, fighting for our abundant warmth. I, in observation and much comfort.
In shroud of night they would scrounge the leaves for larvae and bugs below the window they then sat, and in the leaves spread about everyplace, and in the still present bushes, covered in fallen leaves. They were hungry and had little space. I remember leaving the leaves those years, as I leave the leaves today. Though it was to be the last Fall I ever saw them. Little baby opossums and mother opossum, ousted with the coming of change, with New Detroit, with the coming of ‘chop those ugly bushes down’ and many more ‘must rake the leaves’ actions by people named Prudence.
And, I am sad.
This sadness wallows this time of year. Today. Unlike my lite saudade moments in the past, this deep sadness sits and wallows. Sad for the opossums that never returned. Sadness for the little butterflies and moth larvae, and beetles who all had such high hopes to make new homesteads here in my city, in fallen leaves. To relive the life of their ancestors.
Did you know opossums eat ticks? Yes, like thousands of them. Did you know bats eat mosquitoes? Thousands of them. Did you know the life cycle of many insects, vitally important to our ecosystem, involve fallen leaves? Things like piles of leaves, stumperies, rockeries, properly placed bat houses and rough brush areas all provide refuge.
The spring after the opossums once visited, all our bushes and piles of leaves were swept out. Chip chop chop, now in a landfill. The landscape was left barren and full of cut grass and exposed dirt. And the opossums had left. For this I am sad. For this I begin each spring with indigenous planting and ugly piles.
Though, my wallowing sadness is still here. Sad that Detroit, sad that society in many places deem such scorched earth practices, at the hands of some random named Prudence. But pen on this here page, calling out our collective misguided perspectives on nature and the natural world does not relieve such sadness.
“This a protest. This is also my civic duty”.
For me, relief comes with practice. Relief will come the day I see mother opossum and babies again one Fall. Neil Young’s Harvest turning inside, flatmate chopping wood outside for the next media declared polar vortex.
I’ll be curled up, the opossums with their whiskers and wry curled up too. Just a single pane of glass and frost between us.
Glassy eyed, again.