News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

May 31, 2009

The Off Season: Helicopters in the gutters, and other imponderables…

It is raining on this warm spring morning, and although it may sound a bit strange to you, I am comforted by the sound of the water running free in my gutters toward their downspouts. It was just a week or so ago that I cleaned the last of the maple seedlings out of them.

It is among one of my personality’s strange quirks, I suppose, but I can’t stand the sight of gutters filled to their brims with leaves and twigs and maple “helicopters.” I have driven past homes in which the gutters have bowed under the weight of it all; some have even been growing miniature groves of silver maples in the 4-inch-wide compost piles that trail along the edge of their roof’s eaves, and I wonder if the owners are simply waiting for pulp woodcutters to make them an offer.

I have vowed to myself that as long as I can muster the wherewithal to tie my boots, to climb a ladder, and to manage the breath and strength to pull a leaf blower’s starter cord, I’ll keep my gutters clean.

I know it is inexcusably stupid of me, but I have often been spotted on my roof as the first drops of rain from an oncoming storm are spattering around me, as I try to clean my gutters before the deluge sweeps them full.

Maple seedlings are a testament to the inescapable persistence of nature.

We had what seemed to be a near-record crop of the things around our place this spring, and despite the charm of seeing the “whirligigs” fluttering to the ground on breezy May days, their near-hypnotic soothing is soon replaced by the irritation and work they cause.

We sweep them off our deck, off our porches, off the sidewalks; we wonder how they can work their way under our car’s windshield wipers, how one spring we even had them drop down a 11/2-inch pipe to clog our bathroom vent line as if they were equipped with Norden bombsights. I have raked them up by the bushels, have been disgusted by their septic odor while scooping their wet carcasses from around my foundation, and now, we have already begun the summerlong process of pulling their sprouts from our flower pots and garden — anywhere, in fact, that there’s a bit of bare ground, even where there is not.

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