Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Indian Summer?

I want to protest the brevity of this year’s Indian summer.  I have looked forward to Indian summer each fall. When the days become short and chilly, though the leaves are gorgeous, I must fight sadness and the urge to hibernate. Knowing there’ll be that reprieve of warm days before true cold sinks in keeps me hopeful until the holiday excitement takes over.

Some people told me we were having Indian summer in October. Nonsense!  I learned as a Girl Scout that first we needed a frost.  The Farmers’ Almanac says, “The time of occurrence is important: The warm days must follow a spell of cold weather or a good hard frost,” and that it comes after St. Martin’s Day, November 11th.

Most years that frost is a snap of cold one night that kills the late tomato and pepper plants, the begonias and nasturtium, and the delicate herbs like basil.  This year’s frost was colder, harder and longer, wilting even the hardier vegetables like kale, carrot tops and parsley and fusing dead tomato stems in the earth.  
And worse!—this year’s Indian summer lasted merely one glorious day and one day less lovely, but nevertheless warm.

But it would not be fair to protest to Mother Nature. She has every right to give us only a short respite after the first frost. After all, we've taken the carbon out of her earth, sent it into the atmosphere and upset her carefully balanced weather. Until we find a way to appease her, we’ll have to accept what she sends—including today’s dumping of snow, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Favorite Acorn

          On the table in front of me sits a tiny, tan object that fell from an oak tree. It reminds me of pictures of medieval battle helmets worn by the Huns or perhaps the Mongols. An array of triangular bumps protrudes in alternating circles from the top center, forming a diagonal pattern as they descend, to end in a fringe.
          Most acorns lie about the ground sporting their own, made to order caps. But this—cap?—cradles its seed that, when released, is hatless. It became the dull, tan color only as it dried, cracked, and released the acorn. But when first I found it, it was a glorious chartreuse with waving threads hiding its treasure.

          I know there are many different varieties of oak, white, red, black and even live. Long ago, in Girl Scouts, we learned a song with hand moves, “Love Grows Under the White Oak Tree,” and I was told you recognize different oaks by their bark.  The Internet now tells me that the name “oak” can be used for 400 varieties of trees and shrubs, and lists 15 common types.  My acorn belongs to the Bur Oak tree.  This type, with so distinctive an acorn, has become my favorite and is certainly worthy of mapping tree locations.  There’s one in Glenfield Park, Montclair. So hurry over there, if you’d like to capture one of the burs for yourself.