Updated: Jul 15, 2019
I've got one foot in Spring and one foot in Fall, almost literally. Spring has come to the front yard while the backyard is descending into the last throes of autumn. How is this possible? I have live oaks.
I’ve always loved live oaks. They have such graceful spreading branches that a large well-grown specimen will invariably send me into daydream speculations of treehouses. Growing up, with pecans instead of live oaks in the yard, I referred to those oaks as “treehouse trees”, imagining a forest of live oaks with a treehouse village. No hobbit hole for me! I wanted to live in Lothlorien. Live oaks evoked magic and arboreal living even before I’d read Lord of The Rings.
In the summer of 2000 I finally got my oak trees. Though too crowded to spread to full treehouse splendor and too young to support such a frame, the three oak trees in our small backyard delighted me. Until February of the next year. Then I discovered live oaks’ dirty little secret. Yes, they’re green year ’round, but they do shed their leaves. Every last one of them, all at one time, in February. Suddenly having three good-sized live oaks in the backyard was less “magical” than I’d envisioned.
We were literally wading through leaves calf-deep. They blew into drifts, like snowbanks. We raked and raked and we’re still raking. There isn’t a day when there aren’t dead oak leaves in the yard because it’s just impossible to get rid of them all. In February it’s impossible to keep up. The leaf fall threatens to smother emerging plants, who poke their heads out of the soil saying, “Hey, who turned out the lights!” Leaves fall into mugs of tea. I’m combing them out of my hair hours later. They stick to the dogs’ coats and so migrate into the house, making the floor inside look like the floor outside. They fall like rain—then it does rain and they linger in dense sodden clumps, intact and not rotting. The beds are mulched in leaves which, after a year, start to resemble humus, but by then the next annual deluge has begun again.
If I don’t look up and dream of elves, Robin Hood, or living a life of ease in the trees at this time of year it’s because of the leaves pelting me in the face. Instead I look down at my sodden leafy feet which have vanished from view. I’m dreaming of imaginary live oaks, evergreen with ancient leaves that never fall. In February, that would be the best magic of all.