|Original art by (c) Sandra Russell|
by Sandra Russell
It’s Autumn here in Athens County Ohio. At the first chill breeze, many of us become nostalgic, sentimental, and optimistic for change. Even the very young (who may not remember ‘the first day of school’) remember “take your sweater” and the line of buses like a row of marigolds holding onto summer. Maybe the scent of cookies will change the house? We will have soup instead of salad, hot chocolate instead of ice cream pops. We gather closer for warmth in all its meaning; it’s a social time of year that anticipates holiday celebrations to come.
But fall is all about the trees. We look for their colors and wonder at the blankets of purple on the high hills, the dark pines making lines, and at the beauty of a single flaming red one standing alone on a lawn, not mowed any longer. Oh! And fruit trees are dropping pears, and apples. Visits to the orchards and cider houses may be a trip on the weekend? The edible nuts will soon fall as well, hickory, black walnut, and the bushes on the stream might hold hazelnuts? Deer, opossum, raccoons and other wildlife enjoy the acorns from the many oaks in our area. Some of these old giants not noticed in summer; but now strong black limbs against golden fans of leaves, remind us these are the trees of our ancestors. One particular to our area as a namesake for a lake a road and a park is the Burr Oak. Some call it the Mossy Cup Oak due to its shaggy top that engulfs the top half of the acorn. These ironically are said to not grow in S.E. Ohio, but some defy that statement and have endured many winters and summers in urban settings. In fact I visited a pair of them in town just the other day. The nuts will not drop quite yet, but are huge, green, more the size of elongated golf balls rather than the round brown ones commonly known from the many White Oaks surrounding us. We can’t forget another celebrity in town the Buckeye. The glossy inner seed (thought to look like the eye of a deer)…makes a nice material for crafting table decorations or door wreaths, but is poisonous to eat. I was told that the name of a nearby town “Moxahala”, is a native American word that means ‘Elks Eye’, and I wonder if they also meant “Buckeye” as well? I include a watercolor sketch done of a Buckeye leaf and immature acorns. I hope to record a few more trees and some particulars about their uses and beauty such as the Sassafras; whose brewed root bark, makes a wonderful tea…tastes a bit like hot root beer…now I’m feeling like a cup of that in front of a fireplace.