Friday, January 15, 2010


Drive down any street in Los Angeles, and you’ll see leaves falling off of trees. Like everywhere else, L.A. has a season called “autumn”, extending from September 21st to December the 20th, but L.A. trees do not restrict themselves to losing their leaves during that season. Here, the leaves fall every day.


Because the trees don’t know what they’re doing.


Because they’re confused.


Because they’re from another place.

L.A.’s trees – not the trees that have needles or palm fronds, which are also not from here, I’m talking about the leafy trees – were transplanted here from places where seasons have actual meaning.

I’m no botanist, but I know that trees in cold places lose their leaves because…you know what? I’m not a hundred per cent sure why trees in cold places lose their leaves. (My guess would involve the trees going to sleep.) All I know – because I saw them do it – is that in places where they have winter, the leaves fall off in a season designated for that purpose.

They do not fall off all year round.

If trees in places where they have winter had computers, and they knew about this blog, (and they could read), those trees would be mystified by their transplanted brethren and sistrens’ inexplicable behavior.

“They lose their leaves all year round? That’s insane!”

“It’s an embarrassment to our species, or whatever. Someone should tell them they’re doing it wrong.”

I can’t explain why L.A. trees act in this curious manner. I just know they do. You step off a Los Angeles curb in May, and your shoes crush crunchy leaves. You come out of a restaurant in January and, if there’s a stiff breeze, dead leaves blow in your face. The leaves also fall in autumn, but that’s because they fall all the time. Why should autumn be an exception? That would just be perverse.

“Hey, leaves, why don’t you fall in autumn?”

(SNOTTILY) “We don’t want to.”

Can you explain it? In places that have winter, the leaves only fall off in the fall, whereas, here, the leaves from the same types of trees fall off all year round? What could possibly have gotten into them? It’s like Trees Gone Wild!

I imagine that when trees lose their leaves in the fall every year, they eventually get used to it. They develop a kind of tree Body Clock, and take the annual leaf molting in stride.

“They fall off in the fall; they come back in the spring. We are not concerned.”

Transplant those trees to Los Angeles, and all bets are off. The relocation jumbles their internal encoding. They may look like the same trees, but inside, their essential “who we are” is seriously altered, leading to disorientation, inexplicable behavior and head-scratching concern.

“My leaves are falling off.”

“Mine went last June.”

“What’s going on? Are we sick?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are we going to go bald? Will we have to wear hats?”

“You know, I have this nagging feeling our leaves are supposed to fall off.”


“I have no idea”

“Does your feeling mention hats?”

“It doesn’t cover headgear.”


“It’s still good here, right?”


Great? Sure. But with transplants, you may not be able to put your finger on it, but things are never quite right.

Then (I’m switching from trees to people, but not entirely), a family crisis takes you back to where you came from, and unexpectedly – like you’re blindsided, but in a good way – you are overwhelmed by a soothing familiarity. Your surroundings relax you. You remember them in your bones. The people remind you of you. Individual differences, but the genetics are unmistakable.

Here, you instinctively know how to act. Absent for some time, you immediately fit in. Naturally. Effortlessly. Though burdened by grief, your spirits are energized. Simply by being there. This is definitely your place.

Can transplants be happy? Absolutely.

But they never feel home.


Anonymous said...

When I'm feeling nauseous
I put on my galoshes
and wade through the morning fog,
'cause it's quite upsetting
when nobody is fretting
so I find me a peasant to flog.

Do you think this has anything to do with the fact that I have a transplanted heart?

emily said...

Tequila makes my leaves fall off...

A. Buck Short said...

Your conclusion is so true.

Valley tree: “I wonder why they call it ‘fall?’”

The reason the leaves fall all year in LA is so that on any given day there will be at least one for a Rodeo Dr. restaurant bus boy to spend 5 min. out front pushing to the curb with a leaf blower, instead of just picking it up. Yes I have witnessed this. It looked like the building maintenance version of operating one of those small radio-controlled robots.

Now here’s the question. Does the sap run all year too? And when you tap one of the trees, does it boil down to Zinfandel?