Yesterday’s winds, today’s rain, and the smell that has been on the air tells me so. The asters blooming, the store displays burgeoning with mums (I bought two huge ones at Sam’s Club) also tell the undeniable story that summer has past.
I still have tomatoes ripening on the vine, and they should continue to the first frost, which I expect around midway through October. How did the summer get away from me?
Oh yes, all through the hot and humid days which kept me immobile in my house. When the weeds had their way – and due to my health I could do nothing about them. Do weeds laugh? If so, mine were in the throes of hilarity.
But such restrictions do have their bright side, believe it or not. I am learning, once again, to savor the days and their blessings. To be thankful for the gift of a hummingbird sighting, or a morning spent muddling about. The small joys to be had, no matter what the circumstance.
And now it is fall.
In Ohio, these really are the best of days. A cool, crisp edge to the air, and intense skies of celestial blue. A clear, strong blue so unlike summer’s. The bird calls change, with a Blue Jays strident voice above the others.
The menu changes, too, with everything becoming apples, pumpkins, and soups.
There is always a sense of reflection in the autumn, for me. Is it that way for you?
Looking back over the growing season as it now comes to its natural close, brings a little sadness, too. I am one of those people who begins with a burst of enthusiasm, and closings bring more melancholy than satisfaction.
The only antidote for closing is the cycle of seasons, a slow accumulation of progress and the sense of ebb and flow that the larger picture gives. I find comfort and satisfaction in that.
But fall time is a joy. Just that transition where everything balances on the cusp of change -a mad rush to enjoy all the fruits, the warmth, the abundance before winter’s advent during November. Time for walks in the woods, gathering the fallen leaves, a color scheme of oranges, yellows, purples, black.
I love fall, but it is a parting, a closing; so it is always tinged with the edge of a certain awareness of its brevity. It is the season of my life, as well. I sense I must enjoy and savor in this season. Enjoy each clear day, prepare during each cloudy one, and gather comforts in memory and materially for the winter ahead.
But a large lesson of the seasons is to not get ahead of oneself… one season at a time.
A couple weeks ago I was taking a walk in a small park my husband and I like for its proximity and short, manageable trail distance. During a respite on a metal bench at one of the overlooks, a loud “kerplink” signaled falling acorns.
It caught my attention and I looked around for the nuts. They were so tiny, and the oak leaves were different from the usual Red or White oak, or the huge Burr oaks of my county. The leaves were almost dainty in their size and scallops, one had turned a premature yellow. Tufts of green ones, nuts attached, had blown off the trees on this upland ground, cut through with a fast running creek at the bottom of the ravine.
What were they?
The Oak at Indian Run
I have identified it as the Chinquapin Oak. It is also called Yellow Oak or “Yellow Chestnut Oak” as the shape of the leaves are reminiscent of Chestnut leaves.
The description says it is often found on the summit of hills, and this was the location of these.
I brought home some of the fallen leaves and a couple acorns to photograph. The nuts seem unusually small, and I thought of little cups for a fairy garden vignette. The drought of this summer may have contributed to how small they were, but maybe this is normal for the Chinquapin.
It is a “climax species on dry, drought prone soils, especially those of limestone origin“
What Is In a Name?
Latin name of this oak species is ‘Quercus muehlenbergii‘. I like the common name (first known use: 1612) which seems to be derived from Virginia Algonquian chechinquamin, denoting the acorn as an edible nut.
The word ‘chinquapin’ seems to be used in old times for sweet nuts, like Chestnuts, and the acorn of this tree (called by one source, the Shin oak) was supposed to be sweet. If it anything like other acorns, it has to be prepared properly to actually be edible.
This was the rabbithole I went down because I wanted to know what kind of oak this was. Oaks are incredibly important in their ecosystems.