Monday, October 13, 2008

Chestnuts, Deer Droppings and Wandering Souls

For us, autumn means, among other things, gathering chestnuts. And gathering chestnuts means dodging deer droppings. Deer love chestnuts. But they are not the only ones. The kids and I will gather chestnuts whenever we get the chance. There are many filled pockets, shirts, skirts, strollers, hats, and whatever else we happen to have on hand to stuff full of chestnuts. Sweet, sweet chestnuts. Most years we hit up neighborhood trees in Marietta when we can find them. But this year we hit the jackpot.

In my hometown, there is the perfect chestnut-gathering spot. At the intersection of State Route 536 and Bear's Run Road lies the Kasserman property. It is my favorite property in my hometown. There are two brick houses that sit near the road, one of which was unfortunately gutted by fire years ago. Near the main house there are mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes, massive holly trees and perennial gardens to die for. Behind the houses are wide, lush fields, several old, weathered barns, rock gardens, mulberry trees, persimmons, and a plethora of chestnut trees. I believe I counted 7.

This past week my dad was on vacation. My dad doesn't "vacation" during his time off from work. He intends to enjoy that time, and for him, leaving home and traveling is not enjoyable, so to speak. What he prefers is to stay home and be surrounded by his loved ones. So my dad's vacation week always involves my children coming to stay for at least part of the week. Max and I even stayed for a few days this time. So there was plenty of time for leisure, and for my family that includes long walks to do things such as gather chestnuts. This year the chestnuts were definitely plentiful, wouldn't you say?

And there are even more where those came from! The trees were still loaded down.
The pickings weren't slim by any means, but there were a few less than one would have imagined looking at the thorny hulls covering the trees and empty on the ground. But it was quite evident who got to the chestnuts first by the large piles of droppings found every other step under the trees. Yes, the deer do love sweet chestnuts.

"EWWW! Gross!!!" Bella exclaims as I snap this photo. "You can't take a picture of deer poop! That's disgusting!" Then she wanders off to explore the expanse of fields on her own. Yes, even as much as I have raised her in nature, she is still a little girl in so many stereotypical ways. I should have mentioned to her that at the age of 2 I had her outside in the late autumn, rummaging through deer poop with a stick to get hold of one of the seeds that the deer were depositing all over my yard. We planted one to see if it would grow. I wanted to know what those deer loved so much. Now, thanks to the fantabulous Julie Zick, I know just what that seed would have turned into, had it grown. We would have had a glorious Paw Paw tree on our hands now. I should have tried more seeds...
Sometimes it doesn't matter if you raise them sorting through deer poop, eventually they will think it is gross. And along with those stereotypical girl genes, there are others that come from the paternal side of her heritage. I am a homebody, yet even as much of a homebody as I am, I do believe my little girl has a wandering spirit like her father. While I am wanting to get out of our in-town house and move to the country, settle down and have a big garden, plant an orchard, get some chickens, my husband is calling me up out of the blue asking what it would take for us to sell all we own and buy an RV to travel the country, only stopping for odd jobs when we need more money. His wanderlust is setting in. And it was after our time at Nan and Pap's that I realized my girl is the same as her Papa. With the hundreds of pictures that I took, I only had a handful of Bella. From our chestnut-gathering walk, I have many photos of Kane, stuffing his pockets and hat.
I have pictures of Max as he spent the time, snuggled in the wrap with his Pap.

But of Bella, I have a single picture of her and her Nan...

before she wandered off on her own to explore.

And the same goes for most everything else that we did that week. My girl has a wandering spirit, and although it breaks my heart, I know that someday it will probably take her farther away from me than I would like, at least geographically. Which makes it even more important to work my hardest now to strengthen the bond between us that won't let the miles get in our way in the future. Then, when she is older, just maybe she will feel a pull in autumn to travel home to me, just to gather chestnuts, dodge deer droppings, and rest her wandering soul.


gardenmama said...

Yes, your Bella girl may wander far from you. But, when the time comes for her to raise her own curious little souls, she will make her way back to her Mama. And, oh, the stories she will have to tell...

Julie Zickefoose said...

Three kids, two adults in an RV? I dunno, Wes. Unless it's 60 feet long, I need a little more elbow room than that... I'll take the house in the country. I share your domestic streak!

Are these Chinese chestnuts? I'm curious. They're not buckeyes, are they? I didn't think you could eat buckeyes. Educate me?

NatureMama said...

These are Chinese chestnuts, Castanea mollissima. Although there is an American chestnut, the nuts are smaller, and the trees have a very upright main trunk, where the Chinese are more sprawling. Buckeyes are not edible, you are right there. The nuts to look very similar, though.

CMCLM said...

Beautiful sentiments Leslie. I love this post!

nina said...

It is interesting to hear you imagine the older lives of your children.

And it appears you're giving them all the right experiences and values that will sustain them--even if they should wander a ways from where you are.

Are those chestnuts edible? (by humans)

NatureMama said...

Thanks, Christine, for posting a comment!

Nina, thank you, also, for stopping by and commenting. I am looking forward to checking out more of your blog myself - we are kindred nature spirits. The chestnuts ARE edible, and quite tasty. You just have to peel off the outer tough shell and munch away. Yum.