This time of year, my relationship with juglans nigra comes to the fore: as you can plainly see there are two of them, and the scope of the surfeit of black walnuts can be measured by the eleven buckets of them which at this writing I have collected. I anticipate another three.
It is not a positive relationship.
Relationships with trees need not be positive, of course. One narrowly missed Horace — see Book ii.13 — and he suggested that its planter had been a murderer and poisoner. But Martin Buber thought that a relationship with a tree could be helpful and opening, and the less said about Joyce Kilmer the better, but not one of these three specifically mentioned walnut trees. They are not tidy and when they are right next to the homestead their profusion cannot be ignored.
Away from the homestead is something else again: here is one standing in a pasture beneath whose branches the sheep drowse away long summer afternoons.
And in another pasture a walnut, no doubt planted by a squirrel who had already planted a hackberry in the same hole.
And at the bottom of a tilled field, beside a path, another. A good place for the farmer to cool off and stretch out, especially if it is not yet October.
In all this, though, I see that it is my relationship to the tree that I am considering and not the other way round: there’s no hint of apology for all the nuts, of course — we live in a Darwinian world, after all — but I recognize a sense of irony because inevitably just when I’ve straightened up with a full bucket, behind me I hear (*plop*).
And over by the shed, where there’s another multi-trunked tree in the pen where we shelter the rams, we enclose the space with metal panels, as you see, the vertical parts of which stick out above the top horizontal wire.
So: if you’re a walnut tree and you’ve resolved to give it a try, how many practice shots do you take before you drop it right on target?
Maybe Buber did have a walnut tree.