They aren’t quite dead when they separate from their branches. Their chlorophyll blood will take a few more days to dry up completely. They will fall slowly to the ground, and join the others. Romantic and photogenic as it may seem, this is really the most tragic season in the life of plants; not even Flora, their goddess, can help.
A sidewalk lined with fallen leaves is not, as one may think, a nursing home for elderly leaves to gather and reminisce about the old times, and soften the path for kid’s bikes and old people’s walkers.
Let’s imagine life from the viewpoint of, say, a sycamore leaf. We’ll call it Sy. Fall has started one week ago, and Sy begins to turn yellow, then light orange. A few more days and now it hangs to the tree by a thread. Finally, a vigorous gust of wind sends it airborne. So it flies for a while and, horror of horrors, lands on a pile of dead, decomposing leaves. Sy remains there for three long days. When another gust of wind finally blows Sy away from that ghostly site, it also places it a long distance from its mother, the tree, which in turn feels lonely and exposed, as it becomes a skeleton.
At this moment, when the end is coming, being close to a loving mother would make a big difference. But as the days go by, Sly gets blown farther and farther away from the tree, to the other side of a hill, where it can no longer see its mother’s balding canopy.
This new knowledge should not keep you, reader, from enjoying the beautiful foliage of fall. It just goes to show that tragedy is, sometimes, painted with glorious colors.
Most things are bought for their usefulness, or their beauty.
Sandbags are bought for their weight. Not exactly a flattering motive, and that’s just the beginning of their troubled lives.
Not too long ago, sandy beaches were roads for the free, the antithesis of inhospitable highways plagued with rules and limitations.
Now, the coasts are being looted by greedy merchants who imprison truckloads of sand in bags and sell them like slaves, with the promise that they’ll protect our homes from the destructive power of wind and water.
Sand, wind, and water always lived peacefully together in beaches. It took Man to put one against the other.
They gather in diners and bars to reminisce about the old times, when they belonged in people’s mouths.
Floppy Disk is new to a group that includes old timers like Pulchritude, Icebox, and Xenotransplantation. He feels less lucky than his colleagues; britches, for example, still exist, but now they’re called pants. Dungarees became jeans, and with the new name came prestige and a higher price tag. Floppy Disks? Gone forever, both the word and the object.
Another group is formed by démodé slangs. After a couple of drinks, Bogart likes to tease Chill Pill and Talk-To-The-Hand by bragging that it was coined from a legendary actor’s on-screen chain smoking, and made immortal with the song “Don’t bogart that joint,” from the soundtrack of Easy Rider.
Truth tried to join one of the retired word groups. While claiming that it had been replaced by Alternative Facts, the word was unanimously rejected for still being relevant.
There are groups of girl words like California Widow, You Go Girl!, and Foxy. Skinny and Phat got tired of being made fun of, and left. They now belong to a group where they’re respected for what they mean, not what they sound like.
Once a year, all retired words flock to a convention at Verbatim Stadium in Dublin. There, one will find words as complicated as Omphaloskepsis and Hootenanny, and as ancient as the Victorian Benjo and Chuckaboo.
For sale, anthill recently vacated¹, in a great, flood-free location, with virtually no human interest for future real estate development, government projects, or agriculture². Plenty of parking and winter food storage space underground. Ramps and tunnels in great condition. Never been stepped or driven on. Anteater proof ³. Spacious workers’ quarters and luxurious queen suites. Will trade for bird’s nests, dens, caves, burrows, and spider webs of equal or lesser value. Also suitable for termites 4.
¹ Unless building presents a health hazard, disclosure of reason for abandonment is not required by law, but may be available upon request.
² Limited guaranty, based on notorious human unpredictability.
³ Applies only to pygmy southern anteaters (Tamandua tetradactyla minoris.)
4 Available by Formicidae family members invitation only.
About one billion people on earth have nothing to eat.
That’s because Man can only eat a very small percentage of what nature produces. Rocks, wood, metals, poisonous plants and animals, lava, soil — all out of Man’s menu. Magellan’s crew had to eat leather and sawdust when they ran out of food; nearly all died. To make things worse, whatever Man can eat has to be fresh. Man’s delicate little stomach can only stand soft, and toxin-free foods. Meanwhile, bacteria thrive on decayed fare, termites survive on wood, and vultures feast on rotten flesh.
Would that billion still be hungry if they could stretch their arms and reach for just about anything to give them sustenance? Wouldn’t things like obsolete computer parts, upholstery, fertilizers, old rubber tires, expired credit cards, wall paint, clothing, window treatments, be more useful feeding people rather than landfills?
We’ve all heard about agricultural, pharmaceutical, and food products banned after proven dangerous to human health. And we all know that the greedy companies responsible for these toxic substances don’t just quit making them; instead, they sell them to third world countries with laws and regulations less strict than ours.
This is such a scandal, in the human level, that it’s easy to forget what the chemicals themselves are going through. Individually, they are not evil. But when combined and manipulated by sellout scientists, they become dangerous. As if it weren’t enough being banned in their homeland, they are deported and forced to live in some of the poorest regions of the world.
Put yourself in the shoes of an all-American pesticide arriving in India without any knowledge of Hindi, and not a clue about that country’s culture. Or, imagine an injectable contraceptive, a native of Iowa, landing in the African savanna completely unprepared for the brutal climate of that region.
This is not fiction; it’s happened before, thousands of times, and it keeps happening today. Fungicides sent to Iraq in the middle of a war, fire-retardant materials shipped to the slums of Rio, unarmed and unprotected. Pain killers stranded in islands under military dictatorships.
Lonely and homesick, at least they find a little comfort knowing that they’ll be accepted in these places without any restrictions.
The first stretch is agonizing. The suffering continues as they contract back to their normal size, but now it’s the pain of realizing that they were born elastic.
Some rubber bands, though, never return to their original state. They are stretched around things like stacks of paper, or bunches of chopsticks, and stay that way, sometimes for many years, until old age makes them brittle.
Many rubber bands dream about being solid as bricks, unstretchable by even the strongest hands. Or they may fantasize that they’ve become like their most powerful relatives, the long-lived bungee cords.
On the bright side, the very nature of rubber bands allow them to retaliate when someone stretches them excessively by snapping themselves and, like a whip, inflicting stinging pain on the offending hand.
A woman found a box filled with old piano keys in a dumpster. She took the box to a music store. They told her the keys were real ivory and ebony, which they don’t use anymore to make keyboards.
Next day, the same woman found another box, this time containing piano strings, and took it to the store again. Those, she was informed, were very good quality iron strings, but replaced by carbon strings since 1834.
The woman kept finding different piano parts, in the same dumpster. One day it was a set of pedals. Another day it was a stretcher bar or the top board. It looked like somebody in the neighborhood was dismantling and disposing of a very old piano. She felt a strange sadness about the abandoned pieces, and gave them protection in the basement of her house.
One day, there were no more piano parts in the dumpster. Every piece, from the felt hammers to the beautiful golden frame had been stored in the woman’s basement. She could only imagine how beautiful it must have sounded in its day. She called the music store man and offered him good money to put the piano back together again. He couldn’t: pianos like that one didn’t exist anymore, and neither did the craftsmen who built them.
The woman died a few years later, and her house was sold. The new owners found the piano parts in the basement, and took them to the dumpster, a few pieces each day.
Reality unfolds slowly for coffins. While being built in the carpenter’s workshop, they assume they’ll end up as dinner tables or cabinets. Once their lids are installed, they think, well, perhaps I’ll be a trunk.
When a body is laid inside them, all doubts go away: of course, I’m a bed!
But that’s where the confusion really starts; the coffin is taken to a place with flowers and candles, and people crying and praying as if they’ve lost someone.
Finally, the coffin is buried, maybe so its dweller can relax in the dark until the next morning, but the next morning never comes. At this point, coffins no longer know what they came to this world for, and why they’re covered in dirt after all the effort put into their construction.
For a few lucky ones, roots will show up and connect them with the trees where they came from.