Autumn. My absolute favorite time of the year! Back in the olden days, before global warming and drought conditions left the southeast such a tinderbox, leaf disposal was a major factor in the atmosphere of our little town. Literally. Every house up and down Broad Street, and all the side streets, had little piles of dried, red, orange, brown, and yellow leaves raked out beside the road. We didn’t have paved sidewalks in those days, just the sweet Georgia dirt, often interrupted by roots of the oak trees that had stood sentinel for decades. Between the dirt sidewalks and the wide lane of the street, the little piles of leaves would sit. Late afternoon would find these little mounds of leaves crackling with unseen flames, simmering with acorns, tiny wisps of smoke drifting upward. We didn't worry so much about air pollution in those days, and it was not uncommon to look down the street and notice a light haze floating about tree-top level. And the smell. Oh my goodness. Few things beckon memories of my childhood so vividly as the smell of burning leaves. It is nearly a lost “art” these days, what with air-quality concerns, drought conditions, watering restrictions, and an aging population now unable to rake the yard themselves. The younger generation hires out lawn maintenance services, or at the least, big riding mowers with mulchers so that there is no longer the need to rake one’s yard. Our parents “let” us rake the leaves, (how very clever of them!) only so that we could run wildly into the pile and scatter them all over again. Just so we left the leaves neatly piled beside my dad’s garden. You see, I enjoyed this leaf-burning ritual only as an observer (or sniffer). My dad was a gardener/greenhouse owner, and wouldn’t let us burn the leaves. He used them for mulch. How boring. I believe, though, this personal deprivation allowed me to enjoy the smells of the season even more. The smell would waft into our open windows in the crisp night air, and I remember many evenings sitting on the porch swing at BJ's or Lisa's house, watching the little curls of smoke and enjoying my favorite end-of-summer tradition. Nowadays, it is the rare treasured moment to walk or drive through a patch of air heavy with the scent of smoldering autumn leaves. By chance when it happens, I am a little girl again, taken back in time by the simple delights of home-grown memories.