Back in the day, stately elm trees lined the streets of my neighborhood. But by the 1970s, Dutch elm disease had claimed them all.
I'll give the city credit for planting new trees in their place... but whoever decided that sweetgums were a suitable replacement should be forced to lie in perpetuity in a bed of the fruit of the sweetgum tree: these horrid little spiny balls.
They clog gutters and storm sewers. They twist the ankles of unsuspecting pedestrians. Every gust of wind in the late fall and winter shakes more of them from the trees' otherwise bare branches. No amount of raking can keep up with them - they're like the scene in Fantasia where the dancing brooms bring more and more buckets of water to frantic sorcerer's apprentice Mickey Mouse. There is no end to them. They make the cold, gray days of winter all the more difficult to endure.
They do force me to pay attention to the moment when I take Mr. James for a walk, or make my way to and from the bus stop. If I don't watch my step, I'm likely to find myself sprawled on the ground amid them.
I guess they are Nature's way of reminding us that, smart and determined as we humans are, we're not really in charge.