November 12, 2005

Leaving Iraq: Literally

Every November I am consumed with the outdoors. It’s not that I want to be but when the leaves fall from our trees there is nowhere for them to go but on our lawn. And one of my prime domestic jobs is to make sure they get to the street where the county can vacuum them (Quicktime, 2.2 MB).

I have never been the woodsy type. However, I am forced to contend with nature on this level once each year. And this year we have a particularly unruly crop of dead and moldy leaves. The dry November and strong winds have stirred up leaf dust that blocks the sun, makes me sneeze, and irritates my eyes. I’m surprised the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t teamed up with Homeland Security to issue a Mother Nature Red Alert.

If I must (and my wife tells me I must), why not make the best of it. To make my suburban nature experiences more enticing I often devise creative diversions: attempts to mold nature to my own iconoclastic ways (and to give new meaning to the phrase yard work). You might remember my lawn art (next to leaf blowing mowing our lawn is my least favorite home owning activity). Household boredom creates a black hole that is unstable. It must be met with an equal creative force.

Leave Iraq

Say it with leaves.

This year I thought I would combine my cultural esprit with current events. And hearkening back to my comment from last year’s leaf entry, I decided to spell out something appropriate with leaves in front of our house. More specifically since the entire landscape is one non-stop brown and brittle carpet, I decided to use the leaves as my canvas, clearing them away to reveal a hidden message on the still-green lawn below.

Constructing this piece wasn’t as simple as I had anticipated. First I tried a lawnmower but that created too broad a stroke. I moved from a small rake to an even smaller hoe looking for that perfect typographic tool. Creating a font with leaves is a challenge iconic typographers like Giambattista Bodoni and Eric Gill never had to contend with.

Finally, using a yardstick and my hands I slowly sculpted each letter. A slightly wet bed of leaves would have made this much easier. But not a drop of rain had fallen.

I laugh at the irony. Normally the rain is my enemy. It turns the leaves into cement and makes them impossible to move. However, without it, I had to slowly clear the path for each letter, gently removing a leaf here and there or trimming foliage to make the descender on that Q just perfect. Whenever there was a gust of wind I held my breath hoping the elements would spare my ephemeral work of art for just a bit longer.

Visions of watching Rodin or Michelangelo create their masterpieces danced through my head. Yet I hoped no one was watching me as they traversed our suburban street. Explaining contemporary leaf art to your neighbors isn’t easy.

Inspiration from artistic earthworks like Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty mixed with the impact of the Wicked Witch’s of the West SURRENDER DOROTHY, I felt compelled to leave my mark on the landscape. And, of course, the play on words (Leave/Leaves) couldn’t be ignored.

I don’t expect the same media coverage any of these more famous endeavors garnered. And, in fact, I did this little project on the opposite side of my house from my very Red State neighbor so as not to fan any flames, especially when things are going so poorly for George W these days. Mister Neighbor might be a bit out of sorts.

Free speech. It LEAVES me feeling all tingly inside. No wait. Those are my allergies.

Past Outtacontext Leaf Blowing Stories:

2001: Spores, Spores, and More Spores

2001: Leaving, the movie (Quicktime 2.2 MB)

2002: Turning Over a Few New Leaves: The Backstory

2003: A Man and His Leaves

2004: Leaves: The Great Divide

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That is GREAT!

What a good week - first Arnold gets the big “No,” then we find Bush is at his worst approval rating ever. Finally the majority of Americans see through his lies.

Posted by: Donna on November 12, 2005 11:01 PM

Comments are now closed for this post. But there are a few other entries which might provoke an opinion or two.

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