A Pocketful of Beechnuts…
This has been a long, cold October with an abundance of rainy, overcast days. Friday afternoon, we finally had sunshine and just a chill in the air, so we decided to go see the new baby at the neighbor’s farm. “Going next door” takes on a whole new meaning on this rugged country lane. After a steep hike of about ½ mile, Haiku, Sijo, Tanka and I arrived. Our hostess, let’s call her Peppermint, approached us with a handful of beechnuts. I can’t remember ever trying beechnuts before and I knew the children had not. Peppermint showed us how to peel back the husk with our thumbnail to get to the sweet little nutmeat inside.
Then it was time to meet the new baby, who has not been given his name yet. “Harvest” is high on the list because he was born early in the month of October and there is already an “Autumn” in the gang. Peppermint pulled opened the gate and we stepped in to meet the newest guy in the llama herd. Cocoa, the friendliest of the llama’s approached us - eager for chunks of apple and a really good scratching on her neck. Her big dark eyes were welcoming and her demeanor, as always, very sweet. The other llama’s held back a bit, but eventually came forward to have their photos taken and to get a better look at the interlopers in their field. The baby hovered near his Mamma, but watched us with very curious, bright eyes until we left the pasture.
Afterward, Peppermint decided to give us a lesson in beechnut gathering. It was a perfect day to sit under the giant beechnut tree, which is probably 80 to 100 years old, and search through the thick mat of fallen leaves to find the triangular nuts hiding below. Our hostess explained that this type of tree was sometimes called an Elephant Tree, and looking at the textured silvery-gray trunk it was easy to see why. As we sat, stuffing our pockets, the day was lively with country sounds. A light breeze flirted with the leaves and a soft rain of beechnuts fell around us.
At last, we headed back down the hill. I had a pocketful of beechnuts. The vista of fields and lakes was incredible as we descended, a perfect picture postcard of autumn splendor. At home, we were greeted by 3 fat round pumpkins sitting on the green bench on our front deck. The children had selected those earlier in the day at a local farm market. We also brought home a big green gourd shaped like an apple, a bag of our favorite Honey Crisp apples and a quart of clear, amber honey from a nearby farm.
On Sunday evening, we carved the pumpkins and scooped out the seeds. Limerick carried the pumpkins to the porch and lit them for a “trial run.” Little Tanka was thrilled to see that his entire pumpkin, with its rather thin shell, glowed with an eerie orange light. I took a quick look at the spooky luminosity of the pumpkins and then headed back indoors to roast pumpkin seeds, drenched in butter and garlic.
And now, the “big day” is here. A wild wind is blowing leaves into the air, limbs are breaking off the old willow up the road, and there is a noisy roaring in the space between the window panes and the screens. As it is most years, the Halloween vibe inside our house is more “bountiful harvest” than ghosts and goblins. Instead of cobwebs, we have gourds and tiny pumpkins, and a gaggle of “good witch” rag dolls sitting on the entertainment center.
Though it is early morning as I write this, I can predict how the evening will unfold. We won’t get children knocking on our door. Instead, we will make a drop-off of little goodie bags for the neighbor children as we head to town for “trick or treating.” After touring several blocks of homes in various states of Halloween adornment, we will take the chill off our cold fingers by a stop at the fire station for hot chocolate and a few moment’s shelter from what will certainly be a very brisk night.
We will head home after that, but will make a final stop at the fire-station that is closer to home. Limerick will gab with his fellow “on-call” fire-fighters while the kids play in the mist generated by an old fog machine. At home, with their costumes askew, our children will exclaim over the candy in their bags, their version of a “bountiful harvest,” while Limerick and I smile at the antics of our children, the greatest harvest of our intertwined lives.
photos by Aisling, October 2006 (birch trees, Cocoa the llama)