Sunday 12 April 2015

Leaves here (and there)

I wonder how many individual leaves there are on our robinia frisia? Is this what a million looks like? It feels like a million, every autumn, as I pick them up off the carpet where I've walked them indoors, sweep them off the deck, furgle them out between the boards of the outside table, try to poke them out of the gaps in the decking timber. And that's not to mention the soggy masses lurking in the guttering, waiting to cause overflows when it rains. All this from just one tree!
So I feel for the residents of Chicago and, particularly, the people in charge of keeping the city tidy, because their streets are lined with them. Right through the CBD and into the suburbs, there are robinias - not frisia, but pseudoacacia, known locally as black locust - that lay down, come fall, carpets of orange leaves along the footpaths and roads, and in the corners of flights of steps. Since clearing them up wasn't my concern, I was delighted to see the broad sweeps of colour brightening the suburban streets of Old Town and Lincoln Park. I spent an afternoon there just wandering, trusting to serendipity which has always served me well, and discovered pretty three-storey houses, welcoming bars, a barber offering a 50% special during the Bears game, and unusual shops, one of which sells chocolate guns - even less use than a chocolate teaspoon but at least you have a choice of pistol or Colt 45.
There was also quite a lot of Lincoln. Well, it was Lincoln Park after all, so you'd expect a large statue of the man, but his deathbed was in the nearby museum as well as his death mask and other personal items. He gets everywhere, that man. When I was looking up the tree I started this post with, amongst all the other information I learned that the young Abe spent a lot of time splitting rails and fence posts from black locust logs. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that back home he had to sweep up the leaves too.

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