Waiting for my car to be smog checked, I stoop to collect heart-shaped leaves from the sidewalk. I didn’t select this particular auto shop because of its proximity to this tree, but I will come back here because of it. Evergreen pear trees line the streets of my little corner of Los Angeles. Native to Taiwan and not particularly drought tolerant, I don’t want to love them as much as I do.

In winter months, these so-called evergreen trees become briefly deciduous, as if suddenly deciding to change political party, but only for a few days. It’s always a shock to discover their glossy green leaves turned as crimson and gold as any sugar maple in Vermont, seemingly overnight. In the spring, they shower us with tiny white petals that flutter in the breeze like snowflakes. It’s the closest we get to experiencing the full gamut of seasonal changes, and I’m glad for their showy demonstrations. Growing up in the Midwest as I did, I sometimes feel weary of the year-round display of green foliage of Southern California—especially knowing that so much of it is fueled by irrigation of water that we don’t have to spare.

All these disquieting thoughts vanish when I delight in collecting the beet-red leaves that were so recently emerald. I’m transported back to childhood to play in the flower-snow. I’m sure there would be species better suited for the area, and I pray that we all opt for more native and drought-tolerant species when planting in areas growing drier and drier because of climate change.

But for now, I’m letting go the eco-angst. I’m just kid playing in the leaves.

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  © Cheryl Leutjen